Comedian and writer Shaparak Khorsandi, 48, rose to national prominence with her sellout Edinburgh show, Asylum Speaker, in 2006. Since then she has appeared on television and radio shows, including Have I Got News for You, QI, Live at the Apollo and Just a Minute.
Khorsandi is the author of the bestselling childhood memoir A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English and two novels. She lives in west London with her two children.
Do you come from a wealthy background?
My father, Hadi Khorsandi, was a highly paid young journalist, writer and poet. He worked for the two main dailies in Iran, where I was born, and wrote the most read column. Then, in 1976, when I was three and a half, we came to the UK for what was intended to be a year-long visit. We lived in Kensington and my mum would buy all her veg at her corner shop, Harrods.
We were fine financially, but then the Islamic revolution happened. My dad, who had gone back to Iran in 1979, leaving us in London, had become increasingly critical of Ayatollah Khomeini and started receiving death threats. Eventually he had to be smuggled out of the country. My parents went from having money to having every single penny and their property seized, leaving them with nothing.
How did your parents adapt to their new life?
They had a tough time. A poet in exile doesn’t make a lot of money. My dad published his own magazine in Farsi and had subscribers all over the world, but it was incredibly low-budget. By this point we’d moved to a rented flat in a tumbling-down Victorian house in Ealing, west London.
My parents made a huge effort to shield us kids from the poverty, so not having money wasn’t something we were aware of, particularly as my dad had status and kudos. Also, it sounds clichéd, but our home was full of love.