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Omid Djalili’s energetic, silly and often provocative stand-up has seen him become one of the biggest names on the UK comedy circuit.
His latest show, The Good Times, is currently touring the country, stopping off at numerous Midlands venues along the way. We recently caught up with the award-winning British-Iranian actor/comedian to find out more...
Tell us about The Good Times?
The Good Times tour is about the reinvention, the rebirth and the recalibration of my stand-up comedy for the new normal. Hopefully it’ll be a joyous explosion of comedy that splatters an excited audience like Jackson Pollock when he’s had too much to drink.
And what’s been good for you in the past 16 months?
Everything is good when you walk with Jesus.
For somebody who’s never seen you ‘live on stage’ before, how would you describe your act?
Exquisitely crafted satire you can eat in-between meals without ruining your appetite.
How do you develop a stand-up show?
Stand-up comedians are an ancient and deeply secretive society. Asking me to divulge its secrets is like asking the government where the £37billion for track & trace went. Or how an App can cost that much? I downloaded Angry Birds the other day - it was free.
You often joke about the ‘culture of comedy’ and the difference you find in audience reactions as you tour your shows... what would you say about those subjects in terms of Midlanders?
Midlanders? What a Netflix sci-fi show that was, starring Berm Ingham & Dudley Studley. Not something I expected to like. But I loved it.
Is there anyone who has consistently influenced your material?
I’m currently being influenced by world events and comment on them. Over the years, I’ve been breaking away from the Middle Eastern pigeonhole that you people (journalists) have unfairly put me in. I’m a citizen of the world, and I will not be defined by cultural stereotypes. I have a specific viewpoint which many call ‘Djalili-esque’, and I think my material reflects that now. Would you like a carpet? Visit my website. I also sell fried chicken, mayonnaise, motorcycle insurance and viagra, very fine price.
Who made you laugh most growing up?
My father. Before visiting the Bahá’í world centre in Haifa when I was 18, my dad told me that if I met an important person called Mr Furutan, just to say my name was Omid and not mention that I was a Djalili. Apparently Mr Furutan was his Sunday school teacher in Iran in the 1940s. I met Mr Furutan. He asked me my name. I said my name was Omid. He did a double-take and looked at me very carefully and said, “Djalili?” I said yes. He said, “are you Ahmad’s son?” I said yes. He said, “are you naughty like your dad?” I said yes. He laughed and gave me a little slap. “Good. Keep it up. He’s hilarious.”
Away from stand-up, you have an impressive acting CV, having worked with some major Hollywood names. Who’s been the most fun to work with and why?
Of all the great actors I’ve played alongside I would say Russell Crowe was the least litigious. Johnny Depp’s lawyers are less aggressive than Brad Pitt’s, and with Robert Redford I didn’t stand a chance after I called his film, The Legend Of Bagger Vance, the most boring film of all time. I’m not legally allowed to mention Mike Myers, but on the upside, Sarah Jessica Parker has now revoked the restraining order she placed on me in 2010 after the lavish compliments I made about her choice of Manolo Blahniks at the Cannes Film Festival.
What’s the funniest joke you’ve heard another comedian tell that you wish had been yours?
Colin Quinn’s observation in his Netflix special on the fact that in America the political system is still only the Democrats and the Republicans: “America. Two parties. Still. All these years later. Still two parties. There’s 350 million people and there’s still two parties. There are 15 genders, but still two parties.”
You’ve previously said that you like to find something to make you happy before you fall asleep. Along those lines, what do you think are the key ingredients to living a happy life?
Good food. A happy family and a problem-solving mindset.
Best heckle you’ve ever received?
“No one likes you. You should’ve known that from school.”
Worst moment on stage?
I’m hoping it’s yet to come. The sooner the better. Then I’ll have an answer to this question. When it happens, I’ll get back to you.
Favourite place to perform?
Slightly to the left of the centre of the stage.
Which fellow comedian would you pay to see?
None of them. They’re all bloody awful. Except Boothby Graffoe. It's not even a question of would I pay to see him. He's my support act, so I actually do pay to see him. Every night. And I pay way more for the privilege than the audience.
Omid Djalili visits The Place, Telford, Wed 22 September; Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, Fri 22 October; Palace Theatre, Redditch, Fri 11 November; The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury, Thurs 2 December; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Sat 22 January; Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Thurs 17 February; Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Sat 21 May
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