Omid Djalili on gags which make you think, the Arab Spring and shooting cats from his backside (From News Shopper)
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Omid Djalili hits the road again, performing at the Greenwich Comedy Festival
Back on tour and as quick-witted as ever, deep-thinking comic Omid Djalili talks to James Rampton about hitting the road again, getting creative with his stand-up routine and why an uprising in Dubai is timed for happy hour.
OMID Djalili is one of Britain’s finest stand-ups. He is a rare comedian capable of provoking huge laughter and profound thought at the same time. And yet he has not toured for three and a half years.
But all that is now about to change. He is hitting the road with a new show Tour of Duty and performing at the Greenwich Comedy Festival on September 6.
Omid, who has won a handful of prestigious awards for his comedy, as well as being a Perrier Nominee, is a dazzling live act, fizzing with energy, fantastic character comedy, killer lines, razor-sharp wit and expertly-crafted cultural observations. All in all, he is an electrifying performer.
So what gave this brilliant British-Iranian comic the urge to hit the road once again?
“Last Christmas, I did a corporate gig, which can be notoriously difficult and I was so nervous I couldn’t go on,” recollects the comic.
"I hadn't done a gig in about a year. The event organisers were getting nervous I wouldn't go on so they cited all kinds of legality at me if I failed to perform.
"As I took to the stage my mind was telling me, 'You’re going to die. You’re just a fat, needy man pleading for attention. You have no integrity and the act has no artistic merit. That's why I'm here, for the money, not because I care or they care. They don't even like me’.
“I went out with that devil on my shoulder, and on the other shoulder was another one going 'listen to the devil on the other shoulder, he's right'.
"Then the opening joke got more laughs than I'd expected. I started thinking 'they're laughing because you're famous, not because you're funny'. It was at that moment I thought, 'Wow. They're laughing and I'm not even funny. I'm going on tour.'"
As always, Omid, a deep thinker about comedy, has worked hard on the structure of the show. According to the comedian, “It’s based on an Eleanor Roosevelt quote about the different levels of thinking.
"She said, ‘Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events and small minds only talk about other people’.
“In stand-up, you do all those things - you talk about other people, you make sense of events and you elevate lofty ideas.
"Once you have set up the concept great minds think about ideas, then you can say things like, ‘Doesn’t Ed Milliband look like Wallace from Wallace and Grommit?’”
The comedian has equally wise things to say about the Middle East. In the wake of the seismic changes which have gripped the region during the so-called Arab Spring, Omid says, “There’s an awful lot to talk about.
“After 9/11, I was saying, ‘Hold your horses. Not everyone in the Middle East is a terrorist. Leave Sikh people alone. They’re being attacked just because they wear turbans. They’ve got nothing to do with it’. I was trying to find sanity in the madness.”
“There are so many different levels to what is happening in the Middle East now.
With profound transformation in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria and Libya, the people of Dubai have a very British attitude to revolution - marching on the streets chanting, 'What do we want? Democracy. When do we want it? After Happy Hour.”
Omid also emphasises the significance of social networking sites in the current Middle Eastern turmoil.
“People are taking charge – governments can’t get away with it anymore. In fact no-one can get away with anything," he muses.
You certainly can't get away with genocide in the age of Twitter - or at least I hope not. Alex Reid was trending the other day so you can never be too sure".
Making an audience think is one thing, but the Iranian comedian feels the natural showman in him feels duty bound to send his audiences home with a warm glow.
“I think it's always important to ask yourself 'what should the audience feel at the end?'" he explains
"That's the showbiz in me talking.
"When I first saw stand up comedy, watching a bloke in jeans and a T-shirt at the Comedy Store standing at the mic and talking I used to think, 'Oh for God's sake do something. Dance, move around a little, change the lighting, use music, do a few accents, change the pace, sing, wear a dress.'
"There was nothing wrong with stand-up and it's a noble art form but I noticed every time I watched stand-up my sense of art and creativity was always outraged.
"That's why I want people to come away with the feeling that yes, we’re all struggling, individually, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually, physically, as a society, culturally, globally. I've run out of 'ally's'. But we're struggling together. And that's a good thing.
"So why not dance or do something crazy at the end? I suppose it's just following traditions like a ceilidh or shows in the middle east which always end in a song or dance, but leave the audience with something, anything.
"I'd shoot a cat out of my backside every night if I could make it work in the budget".
Omid Djalili will perform at Greenwich Comedy Festival on September 6. For tickets and the full line-up of acts, visit greenwichcomedyfestival.co.uk