Comedian and actor, Omid Djalili is back out on tour, with his eagerly anticipated show at Halifax Victoria Theatre just around the corner on November 26th. The stand-up dates have been spread out across 2021 and 2022, as Omid balances the serious topics with his trademark humour that has made him one of the UK’s most popular modern comics.
We spoke to Omid about what you can expect from the Good Times Tour. We also discuss cancel culture, quiz show hosting, the current situation in Iran and plenty more. For the audio version you can listen to the podcast format on Spotify and Apple, with extra anecdotes and extended answers, including opinions on Jimmy Carr and lots more on the Iranian protests.
NC: You’re heading to Halifax this month, have you experienced the town before and how are you feeling ahead of the show?
Omid: “It’s is a big old venue in Halifax, I’ve never had more than a couple of hundred people show up in the past, to be honest. But I’m amazed this time around, we’ve already sold over 700 tickets so I’m very pleased. Something must have changed and I’m very excited about performing here.”
NC: I imagine this tour was devised during the pandemic, so can we assume the title is somewhat ironic? What can we expect from the show?
Omid: “It’s totally ironic, only because we didn’t know what was going to happen post Covid. Very few people were coming out immediately after lockdown restrictions eased so we weren’t sure what to expect. It’s a stand-up show and I’ll be showing a few films to remind us of what we went through. At first, there was a real need to recognise what we’d been through as a human race and what the after-effects were going to be. We needed to know what the new normal was and what we could actually joke about. I talk about cancel culture and how we’re all worried about being cancelled. We discuss Iran and often dedicate the performances to the brave women over there, it really is extraodinary what they are doing. It’s a year on from the show in Leeds and so much has changed, so if anyone from that show is attending in Halifax it’ll be interesting for them to see the differences.”
NC: How do you find balancing the serious topics with humour?
Omid: “It’s a tough one. If you looks at programmes like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, that’s where a lot of people get their news in America. They approach serious topics with humour to appeal to a certain audience. We try to make sense of the crazy as comedians. I know a lot of Iranians feel it’s inappropriate to be laughing and joking when people are being killed, but it is something that we are all using our platforms to speak out against and hold that regime to account. I intend to continue working and calling out injustice, so I won’t be cancelling any shows and I encourage Iranians to come along.”
NC: You talk about cancel culture, how do you approach this? Do you find yourself holding back at all?
Omid: “What I try to do is explain myself a bit more. People jump to get upset when they haven’t heard the full story, and on Twitter and Instagram there isn’t enough time for context. But I like to provide a bit more information to help the joke land. A lot of us, myself, Jimmy Carr, Stewart Lee, we came through the alternative comedy circuit where you need to cut your jokes down to get straight to the funny. However, in concert pieces there is more space, and I’ve used that space to provide an extra bit of satire to help with the punchlines.”
NC: Are there any places on the tour that have taken you by surprise?
Omid: “There are certain venues where I’ve been anxious because traditionally I’ve not done very well there, such as Hastings. However, it went very well this time. Certain places where I thought I’d do really well, I’ve maybe not done myself justice. Yorkshire tends to be brilliant, when people have paid money to come out, they want to have a good time no matter what. Middlesbrough was raucous, that took me by surprise. I could have bodysurfed into the crowd even as a 57-year-old overweight man! It was crazy, up north people are brilliant audiences. They get it. When we talk about cancel culture these are the places that I don’t need to explain so much because they just get it.”
NC: In terms of your acting career, can we expect to see you any films or shows in the near future?
Omid: “There’s a film I’m doing where I’m playing a Syrian refugee. However, I’ve got a six month window to lose a lot of weight as I’m currently looking quite well fed, but the role is really exciting. I’ve got another film coming out in February with Priyanka Chopra and Celine Dion, that’s called ‘Love Again’. There are a couple of other things in the pipeline but the main thing I’m focusing on at the minute is actually perfecting comedy in the Persian language. I speak the language but never that well, so I brushed up on it a bit recently. There’s a talk show host who does a show outside of Iran filming from London, and he’s been trying to get me on for a while so I took him up on the offer. We switched roles one night and I hosted, which led to BBC Persian offering me my own show which aired in Iran. The reaction was absolutely incredible. Most comedians go from East to West, but noone had ever gone the other way before. Some of the comments were hilarious – my Persian was compared to Osvaldo Ardiles’s English!”
NC: And you tried your hand at quiz show hosting, how did you find that?
Omid: “I’ve never done quizzes, I’ve never done gameshows, I’ve never done daytime TV, so I was very surprised when this fell on my lap. It was a very complicated game and I didn’t understand it but after the pilot show I managed to get two series, apparently the gallery were laughing their heads off. I did all my own catchphrases and I tell you what, I’ve never enjoyed myself more. It was great, the most fun I’ve ever had, but sadly I won’t be doing it anymore.”
NC: We have to talk about the current situation over in Iran. Do you see an end or resolution anytime soon?
Omid: “Unfortunately not soon. Last time they tried something, the crackdown was so huge they killed 1,500 people and put the leaders under house arrest. This time around, they are threatening to kill 14,000 people, but the people are saying they have reached an end game where they will not stop. This is a conscious organic revolution and we don’t know when this will end. All we can do is call them out and hold the regime to account. Almost daily there is something extraodinary happening, but this doesn’t just impact Iran. If the women create a revolution and regime change it will have a massive impact on the West and globally.”
NC: Iran head to the World Cup very soon, do you think we will see protests there?
Omid: “Yes, and there might even be a reaction from the England team too, we’ll have to see. Nobody blames the players, they are footballers doing their job, but I think they’ll make a statement. On 21st November, that is going to be one of the most politically charged games in the history of the World Cup. Something is going to happen, either the England players will make a gesture or the Iranian players will. I have a feeling they will make some kind of statement together, and it will look bad on the regime. The whole world will hear any protests so it’s going to be huge.”
You can get tickets for Omid’s show at Halifax Victoria Theatre here https://www.victoriatheatre.co.uk/whats-on/omid-djalili-good-times-tour. For the full podcast version of this interview with plenty more on the current situation in Iran, visit Spotify and Apple.
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