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‘At the Edinburgh festival there’s always insanity. You have to stay open to it”: Life according to… Omid Djalili

Omid Djalili
Omid Djalili

Comedian Omid Djalili on good times, staying open to insanity, and cream buns for tea

Why is your show called Good Times?

I’m hedging my bets with that one. The idea was that I’m bringing the good times back after the dark times of Covid. But at the same time if Covid was still going on and I ended up playing to quarter full houses, which is what happened for some of the gigs, then the title would be ironic.

Wherever I went, the good times genuinely were good times, or hugely ironic, to cover the absolute crushing sadness of having just 100 people in a 1,000-seat venue.

You tried Zoom gigs during lockdown, how did they go for you?

It was a disaster, you’d come to the punchline then you’d hear: “Martin, can you let the cat in?” from an audience member whose mic was on. At the end I always took my laptop into the toilet and say: “I’d like to finish with the sound of my career”, then I’d press flush. I haven’t found a better ending to a show yet.

Your wife is Scottish. Are you looking forward to visiting Edinburgh?

The reason I’m coming to Scotland is the fact the family are all in Burntisland at the moment. So I’m looking forward to travelling backwards and forwards to Edinburgh. I’m also looking forward to the Festival because there’s always insanity. You have to stay open to it, to go along with it when it happens.

How important is the Fringe Festival for a stand-up?

You get to watch other acts, so you can see what people are doing. It’s a great way of staying up to date with what’s actually being talked about. It’s a good way of checking to see if your thoughts are original. And secondly, they are a tougher audience. Because, whatever you say about them, the people who actually choose to come see you, from the plethora of all the shows, are pretty comedy savvy. If you can conquer that audience then you’ve conquered everything, really.

You’ve carved out a bit of a niche for yourself in movies. Do you think you’re typecast?

You can’t help the way you look, so I adapted. They say it’s not the animals who are the fittest who survive in the jungle, it’s the animals who learn to adapt, so I was just adapting. But now that they trust me, I usually get roles which haven’t been written, they have a role, but they don’t know what to do with it. And then a casting director says: “Oh, get that Omid Djalili.” Because all the films I’ve done, like The Mummy or Gladiator or Casanova or Spy Game, they were key roles but they never knew how to write for them.

What’s more difficult, comedy or serious acting?

I’ve done a few good serious acting roles, and I’ve got one coming up next year which is amazing, it’s got a brilliant director but I can’t talk about it. When you look at all these great serious actors, a lot of them started off in comedy, like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino who were really fun guys who started off doing comedy, then they fell into drama. Now they’re doing comedies because that’s what they want to do. I met Robert De Niro and he said all he wants to do is comedies now, because it’s the most difficult thing to pull off. He said: “You can be dark, you can be serious, there are some people are very good at that. But to be funny, to genuinely get someone to laugh out loud? That’s gold dust.”

Have you been asked to lose weight for a role?

I need to lose weight for this terrific serious role, which is great because I was asked to put on weight for The Mummy 24 years ago and I’ve still not lost it. Honestly, they had a man who would come to the gym and make sure I didn’t do any cardio. He’d stand over me and make sure I ate cream buns. At dinner he would urge me to have another cream bun.


Omid Djalili: The Good Times Tour at The Stand from August 4-20. Visit edfringe.com or thestand.co.uk for tickets