Why Omid Djalili is the king of com­edy

He is one of the fun­ni­est peo­ple on the planet, and we bet you feel the same when you go through our chat with the Bri­tish stand-up co­me­dian ahead of his Dubai show tonight

Khaleej Times - City Times - - FRONT PAGE - MAÁN JALAL maan@khalee­j­times.com

OMID DJALILI IS funny. End of dis­cus­sion. There’s no other way to de­scribe or ex­plain his style of com­edy or his sense of hu­mour other than in­cred­i­bly, hi­lar­i­ously, funny. This, be­lieve it or not, is re­fresh­ing.

As of late (and I’m sure you’ve no­ticed) com­edy has taken an ex­tremely piv­otal and se­ri­ous turn in how it func­tions and its gen­eral pur­pose in the world. Com­edy has found it­self as the only ve­hi­cle of re­lay­ing harsh po­lit­i­cal and so­cial truths in re­gards to so much of the in­san­ity that’s hap­pen­ing in the world.

To­day all late night shows and their hosts have a po­lit­i­cal edge and tone, co­me­di­ans are get­ting into “trou­ble” left right and cen­tre for not be­ing po­lit­i­cal enough, be­ing too po­lit­i­cal or hav­ing to apol­o­gise over and over again, bow­ing down to ex­treme on­line abuse for jokes that are deemed of­fen­sive.

To a de­gree we can un­der­stand why a large part about be­ing a co­me­dian isn’t only about be­ing funny. It’s also about telling the truth. How­ever we can’t help but won­der why com­edy has be­come so se­ri­ous and what that says about all of us. Can we only laugh if we are be­ing en­light­ened? Is com­edy only funny if it’s also ed­u­ca­tional, ground­break­ing? Why can’t we just laugh? Well with Omid you can do just that.

Even when we fol­lowed the trends of what we thought co­me­di­ans want to talk about (you know se­ri­ous stuff ), we found our­selves laugh­ing at his an­swers and our­selves.

The stand-up and ac­claimed ac­tor has an im­pres­sive body of work, from Hol­ly­wood movies and tele­vi­sion to live pro­duc­tions at the West End. He’s starred in amaz­ing films such as the Golden Globe and Os­car nom­i­nated Shaun the Sheep Movie, Mr Nice, Gla­di­a­tor, The Mummy and The In­fi­del. In 2016 Omid was film­ing for Dis­ney’s new live-ac­tion pro­duc­tion of The Nutcracker, in his role as Cav­a­lier.

In Au­gust 2016, Omid pro­duced an Ed­in­burgh Fringe show called Iraq Out & Loud, which saw al­most 1500 co­me­di­ans and mem­bers of the pub­lic read the en­tirety of the Chilcot Re­port for 24 hours a day, over 12 days. This mem­o­rable pro­duc­tion was awarded the pres­ti­gious Panel Prize at Ed­in­burgh Com­edy Awards, and later TV Bomb’s Zeit­geist Award.

Any­way, en­joy our chat with our favourite co­me­dian Omid Djalili.

You’ve per­formed here be­fore, what are your thoughts on Dubai as a city and the peo­ple? I like the clothes - the long white flow­ing robes. I think they should make roller skat­ing com­pul­sory in Dubai. Or mo­torised skate­boards. Then it would look like ev­ery­one was glid­ing. With the added vis­ual bonus of their robes flap­ping be­hind them. Your com­edy touches upon some very sen­si­tive is­sues like race and pol­i­tics. Why and how do you think com­edy is an im­por­tant tool to dis­cuss these oth­er­wise taboo is­sues? If you have two groups of peo­ple who dis­agree with each other and you can make them both laugh at the same thing then you’ve found some com­mon ground. And that’s a good thing right? Hu­mour is of­ten a glue that can heal in sit­u­a­tions of con­flict res­o­lu­tion.

There have been so many in­stances lately, es­pe­cially in the States, where co­me­di­ans

have “gone too far” and have faced mas­sive back­lash, putting their ca­reers in jeop­ardy. When do you know where to draw the line as a co­me­dian? Is there room for er­ror? The main point in life is what­ever you do, never be afraid to make mis­takes. Learn from those mis­takes ob­vi­ously but don’t be held back by fear. I don’t know about that whole Kathy Grif­fin thing hold­ing up a sev­ered head of the US Pres­i­dent for a photo shoot. To be fair I think a lot of peo­ple were up­set when they found out it was a fake.

Do you think that it’s still a tough place for co­me­di­ans or per­form­ers of Mid­dle East­ern back­grounds “to make it” as per­form­ers or co­me­di­ans given the cur­rent so­cial and po­lit­i­cal cli­mate? If you’re per­form­ing for pink peo­ple, no. Pink peo­ple are al­ready oddly de­luded. For a start they call them­selves “white”. One thing I’ve no­ticed about pink peo­ple: the main prob­lem they have with racism is they don’t want to be ac­cused of it. They have no prob­lem prac­tis­ing it, or build­ing en­tire so­ci­eties based on it. They just don’t like be­ing ac­cused of it. It’s per­form­ing for Mid­dle Eastern­ers, that’s the prob­lem. They’re al­ways the ones who in­ter­rupt and say “habibi why you don’t speak about re­la­tion­ships? Help me Omid. I need girl­friend. I’m so alone. Please, please, please help me.”

Would you say it’s eas­ier or harder to be­come a suc­cess­ful co­me­dian or ac­tor these days than when you first started out? Do you think so­cial me­dia helps or is it ac­tu­ally an ob­sta­cle or chang­ing the whole “com­edy game”? My ad­vice to any­one read­ing this who hopes to make a ca­reer out of stand-up com­edy is to for­get it. And so­cial me­dia has made things even worse. Ev­ery­body has al­ways been a critic, but now, thanks to so­cial me­dia, all those crit­ics now have a plat­form. Se­ri­ously, don’t even at­tempt standup. Go for some­thing eas­ier like street-en­ter­tainer. Be­come one of those hu­man stat­ues. You don’t even have to move.

You’ve per­formed here and in so many other coun­tries. Do you feel that com­edy is a uni­ver­sal thing? Or do you feel that you have to change what you say de­pend­ing on where you are? The last time I went to do gigs on dif­fer­ent plan­ets the one thing I learned was that, though com­edy is uni­ver­sal, oxy­gen is not.

Do you think you’re funny? It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter what I think. It’s much more im­por­tant for peo­ple who come to your show to think you’re funny. Can you imag­ine a gig where the au­di­ence sits in si­lence watch­ing a man on stage who’s laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cally at the things he’s say­ing him­self?

Hu­mour is of­ten a glue that can heal in sit­u­a­tions of con­flict res­o­lu­tion.” Omid Djalili

Omid Djalili and Cuba Good­ing Jnr dur­ing the film­ing of The Gra­ham Nor­ton show at the Lon­don Stu­dios in Lon­don.

You can catch Omid Djalili tonight in two shows at Mu­sic Hall – 6pm and 9pm. Tick­ets are avail­able on: www. plat­inum­list.net

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