Omid is back in the good times

IF YOU idled away lockdown watching Netflix and eating too much, you’re not alone – but award-winning comic Omid Djalili spent his time a little more constructively.

The Chelsea-born stand-up has Iranian parents and an understanding of Persian. He decided that if COVID-19 restrictions meant he could not tour, he might as well brush up on his second language skills.

“At least I tried,” said Omid, who is bringing his latest tour to Woking and Guildford.

Omid Djalili is touring again, with venues at Woking and Guildford

“I was asked to be a guest on a Persian-language talk show recorded in London and broadcast from the Middle East. I’d been asked to do it for many years and always said no, but then when they approached me again during lockdown I thought ‘why not? And it might be fun to pick up a new skill.’

“I brushed up on my Persian, did it and got myself acquainted with a whole new audience. And then they asked me to guest host an episode.

“The process of delving into my culture in the language of my heritage but with the brain of a stand-up comedian, finding the nuance and turns of phrase in the language, was challenging and exciting. It’s hard enough doing that in English, but to do it in your second language was a thrill.”

The hard work paid off, as Omid has now been offered his own Persian-language talk show on BBC Persia.

“It’s nothing short of extraordinary,” he said. “To have my own show beamed directly into Iran, with a potential global audience of 30 to 40 million is quite a result after doing something essentially just for the hell of it during lockdown.”

Omid, who has acted in films like The Mummy, The World Is Not Enough and Notting Hill as well as performing stand-up on Live at the Apollo and hosting TV shows like Have I Got News For You and ITV’s Winning Combination, can’t wait to head back out on tour.

“One of the first gigs I did when permitted was a socially distanced one in Newcastle,” he said. “It was in a 300-seat venue where only 90 people were allowed in. They all had to wear visors and weren’t allowed to speak to me.

“Halfway through the show I said ‘Look, if you really want to heckle, why don’t you steam up the inside of your visors and write your heckles backwards?’

“I quickly lost control of the gig because they weren’t interested in what I was saying any more, they were only interested in writing words backwards. So it’s a real relief to be back on stage with an audience without restrictions.”

Omid Djalili will be hoping things go a little more smoothly when his Good Times Tour arrives in Woking at the New Victoria Theatre this Wednesday 13 October, followed by G Live, Guildford, on Thursday 18 November.

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