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 about to change. Omid is hitting the road with a new show, ‘Tour of Duty’, which calls at Buxton Opera House on Tuesday October 25, at 7.30pm.
Omid, who has won Time Out, South Bank Show and Emma Awards for his comedy as well as being a Perrier Nominee, promises to wow audiences up and down the land. He is a dazzling live act, fizzing with energy, fantastic character comedy, killer lines, razor-sharp wit and expertly-crafted cultural observations.
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.
“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 coz 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’”.
Omid has not been idle in the interim – he has made two highly successful seasons of his own comedy show for BBC1, as well as starring as Fagin in the West End production of Oliver!, a US sitcom for NBC The Paul Reiser Show, Howard Marks’ film, Mr Nice, and David Baddiel’s movie, The Infidel.
I ask him to explain the title of the new live show: “I put out a not-so-serious message on Twitter about what to call the show and I got about 200 responses, many of them very clever. I particularly liked ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being Omid Djalili’.
“It hadn’t jumped out at me straight away but I saw the very first response back was ‘Tour of Duty’ and I liked it.
“Reminded me of peacekeeping forces and the fact someone once said I was a bridge between East and West and I thought ‘yes, I’m a bridge, and it’s about time I started charging a toll. £1 for cars, £2 for lorries and £17 for Smart cars. See how smart they feel now’”.
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 that great minds think about ideas, then you can say things like, ‘Doesn’t Ed Milliband look like Wallace from Wallace and Grommit?’”
l Tickets for Omid Djalili - Tour of Duty, priced £19, are available from the Buxton Opera House box office on 0845 127 2190 or visit www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk.