Omid Djalili talks to James Rampton about getting older, being a celebrity and being less political in his act, prior to his gig at the Beck Theatre .
Is stand-up your first love?
I’ve done so many different things but stand-up, when it goes well – it often doesn’t – is definitely what I love the most. There’s something very satisfying about a really good gig. I’m not often happy with my work as an actor. I’m always 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 damaged… in my case it helps, in fact.
So you feel very much at home in the stand-up arena?
When I was making Moonfleet last summer, Ray Winstone told me, ‘I don’t feel I come alive on set until I’ve done a fight scene and thrown my first right hook’. Similarly I don’t really feel alive unless I’m making people laugh. It’s probably an illness. A comedian’s illness. Live performance is a two-way thing, audience and performer egging each other on. If a joke misses or backfires I know there’s about a 150 more on their way so I don’t panic like I used to.
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 new-found wisdom with physical prowess.
What else will you be discussing?
I’ll be talking about relationships because I think I’ve come to understand the secret to them now. I know that from the moment a woman marries a man, she has to learn to forgive him. And that’s 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. 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… there is a period when you become an arse. It happens to everyone. You start believing your own hype and become foolish.
So how did you snap out of it?
I’m not sure I have.
Do your recent visits to the US also inform the act?
Yes. I love America. It’s very hard trying to obtain a visa to work in the US. My work visa was delayed so badly I nearly missed my flight. But maybe mentioning Pablo Escobar and Osama Bin Laden would provide my references didn’t help.
Am I right your act has become less overtly political these days?
I don’t feel the same pressure to talk about things in the news any more. On Twitter, people feel they constantly have to comment on things that are trending and put their oar in. But nowadays if everyone is talking about fracking I’ll just talk about Peters and Lee (1970’s singing duo).
Is there such a thing as an archetypal comedian’s mentality?
Erm… not really. Most comedians I know have a filter missing. They usually ‘go for the gag’, even if it’s at the expense of total social humiliation. They know this because even though the lack of filter ends in a detrimental way to their health or social standing it’ll be great story they can tell later.
Omid Djalili is at the Beck Theatre, Grange Road, Hayes, April 30. Details: 020 8561 8371, becktheatre.org.uk