Comic stand-up and screen star Omid Djalili chats to Your Weekend about the dangers of believing your own hype
IS STAND-UP YOUR FIRST LOVE?
I’ve done lots of different things and enjoyed them, but stand-up, when it goes well – it often doesn’t – is definitely a love. There’s something deeply satisfying about a good gig. I’m not often happy with myself as an actor. I get upset when I see myself acting on screen, mostly because of the way I look. But as a stand-up, it’s always a bonus if you look heavy or awkward or damaged – in my case, it helps in fact.
IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE AUDIENCE IMPORTANT?
Most comedians are sensitive to audience reaction. Generally speaking, comics like people. Stand-up is basically one person talking to many people. It’s a bizarre dynamic: public speaking has been with us for thousands of years. I remember even feeling a panic when I was younger that I should get up and speak because I’d have to one day, so best start young. If you’re not too nervous about speaking and saying what’s on your mind in a one on one, then that openness is what you need on stage. It’s important not to be too hung up about what people think of you. Finding a comedy voice can take years, though.
WHAT THEMES WILL YOU BE ADDRESSING IN THE NEW SHOW?
Growing older. We all struggle with it. As Dave Allen once said: “I enjoy getting older. I have to because there’s no choice.” When you hit your 40s, you understand life better, but at the same time your body is more prone to fail. So you have to find a way of joining your received wisdom with physical prowess. A lot of men who hit 40 try to do things that make them feel more alive because they want to prove themselves. That’s why I did Splash! I wanted to do something out of the box, stretch my courage and prove I was still a young man at heart, even though my bits were dropping off.
WHAT ELSE WILL YOU BE DISCUSSING?
Relationships. I think I’ve maybe come to understand the secret to them now. I know when a woman gets married, she has to learn to forgive her man from day one, because men are idiots. Before they become conscious human beings, that is. They can take years doing the wrong thing before they learn to adjust their behaviour. So women need patience and forgiveness, and a voice to articulate what the man is doing that is wrong in a way a man can hear. Otherwise it’s over.
YOU ALSO ADDRESS THE SUBJECT OF CELEBRITY IN THIS SHOW
Yes, I talk about the fact that when you become a celebrity – or in fact in any line of work where you feel you are important somehow in a worldly sense because people around you are telling you so – there is a period when you become an arse. It happens to everyone. You start believing your own hype and behave foolishly. A more eloquent way would be to describe it as becoming “a plaything of the ignorant”. Not many people talk about this phase, but I’m happy to. I became an arse. I’ll go there. And it’s bad.
SO HOW DID YOU SNAP OUT OF IT?
I’m not sure I have. It’s up for debate.
Omid Djalili will perform his Iranalamadingdong tour at the Music Hall, Aberdeen, this Saturday, January 24, at 8pm. Tickets are available from www.aberdeenperformingarts.com or by calling 01224 641122.