Shappi Khorsandi is a fixture on the British stand-up comedy circuit and also on television and radio, with a special love for performing at muddy music festivals - but will that experience be of any use when facing up to the delights of jungle life on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here?
Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1973, the 44-year-old and her family were forced to flee the country following the Islamic revolution in 1979, after a satirical poem written by her father Hadi put the family's lives in danger, and they settled in England.
Even after they had put down roots in Ealing in west London, the family still checked under their car for bombs and were once informed by the police that a plot to kill her father had been uncovered.
Although she says she would love to go back, for security reasons Shappi has never returned to Iran since her family fled.
Her experiences growing up as an outsider in 1970s and 80s Britain are told in her memoir A Beginner's Guide To Acting English; she has since gone on to write a novel, and hopes to write more.
In 1995 she completed a degree in drama, theatre and television at the University of Winchester, and this encouraged her to take to the stage as a comedian for the first time in 1997.
Her performing career has taken her all over the world, including to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and has made her a regular face on the live comedy circuit, as well as on television, on shows including Live At The Apollo, QI and Eight out of Ten Cats, as well as radio programmes including Loose Ends, Just A Minute and her own Radio 4 series, Shappi Talk.
She has an eight-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, is a Labour supporter and, having been raised without any religion, is currently president of the British Humanist Society.
When asked what her biggest fears about jungle life were, Shappi said heights - and not being able to get a decent cup of tea for weeks.
Who is Shappi?
Date of birth: 8th June 1973
Phobias: Heights and I am dreading not being able to drink a cup of tea.
Missing any special occasion: I was due to start writing a novel but this is the perfect excuse not to!
Biggest misconception you want to dispel in the Jungle: I worry people think I am too serious but I’m really not.
Role in the camp: Shoulder to cry on, the Mum and someone to inject fun.
Miss most: My family, cats, tea and music.
Dream camper: Mel and Sue would be a real laugh and I’d love to chat to Emma Thompson in the jungle.
Relationship status: Single.
In her own words:
Stand-up comedian Shappi Khorsandi has spent the last few months being a vegan in preparation to survive on the Jungle’s basic food rations.
But the bubbly 44-year-old insists it’s only a temporary measure as she prepares to take on a challenge that is ‘way out of my comfort zone’.
The comedian, who has appeared on shows like Just a Minute, Have I Got News For You and QI, also reveals she’s been drinking cups of tea by the gallon as part of getting ready to go on I’m A Celebrity because she wants to be able to create a ’beautiful memory’ of her favourite drink.
“I don’t know how I am going to cope without tea,” she says, laughing as she does. “I drink it all day. Tea is my life. I am okay with food and I’ve actually become a vegan over the last few months as I thought that would help me eat really simply in the Jungle.”
“But I definitely didn’t wean myself off tea in the run-up. In fact it was the exact opposite. I drank stacks so I could build up a beautiful memory of drowning in tea before I went in. I had it so much because I wanted to have that memory to fantasise about.”
Shappi reveals watching her friend, Joel Dommett, who was runner-up in last year’s series, spurred her on to accept the challenge.
“I just felt that it was a good time for me to do something like this,” she says. “It’s something a bit challenging and really out of my comfort zone. I didn’t talk to Joel about it beforehand as it’s been a big secret but I am feeling both excited and terrified about the prospect.”
She says she hopes to do both her children proud during the trials. “When it comes to the trials, it will be my son and daughter who I will be wanting to impress and not let them down because I was too scared,” she admits.
“I’d like to think I am gutsy. You can’t let people down. I am a single mum and I’ve always had to do my best and get through everything. You haven’t got time to sit down and have a whinge.”
Her children, she adds, are understandably two of the people she is going to miss the most.
“It’s going to be the longest time I’ve been apart from my children and that is frightening but I hope other people will be kind when you are having your wobble” she says.
“I am also going to miss my Mum and Dad as they live near me and I see them all the time. And I am going to miss my cats and music. You take it for granted and I think that is going to be tough.” The 44-year-old, whose stand-up routines are famous for being deadpan and observational, also thinks it will be a nice opportunity to show people the real her. “I worry people think I am quite serious,” she reveals. “Honestly, when it comes to people who I am having an adventure with, I don’t give a monkeys. I am really tolerant and 100 per cent it’s going to be nice for people to get to know me. I am also really looking forward to not having to learn any lines and worry about the comedy structure.”
Currently single, she laughs when asked if she hopes to find love under the Jungle stars. “I am really happily single,” declares the comedian. “But never say no to a bit of love.”
As for whether she hopes going in the Jungle will cure her fear of heights, she says it’s a resounding no.
“I don’t think I should be cured,” she adds. “I never want to be cured by jumping through the air.”
“How will I cope with the boredom? I actually think that if there are other people to have a laugh and play games with, I don’t actually know how bored I will be. I can’t remember the last time I was bored.”
Does she envisage being crowned Queen of the Jungle?
“It would be amazing to win this,” she replies. “The only thing I have won before is the egg and spoon race in 1981. But when I am in there, I don’t want to see other people as competitors. That would take the fun away. It is not what I am about and why I am in there.”