(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) OMID DJALILI IS funny. End of discussion. There's no other way to describe or explain his style of comedy or his sense of humour other than incredibly, hilariously, funny. This, believe it or not, is refreshing.
As of late (and I'm sure you've noticed) comedy has taken an extremely pivotal and serious turn in how it functions and its general purpose in the world. Comedy has found itself as the only vehicle of relaying harsh political and social truths in regards to so much of the insanity that's happening in the world.
Today all late night shows and their hosts have a political edge and tone, comedians are getting into "trouble" left right and centre for not being political enough, being too political or having to apologise over and over again, bowing down to extreme online abuse for jokes that are deemed offensive.
To a degree we can understand why a large part about being a comedian isn't only about being funny. It's also about telling the truth. However we can't help but wonder why comedy has become so serious and what that says about all of us. Can we only laugh if we are being enlightened? Is comedy only funny if it's also educational, groundbreaking? Why can't we just laugh? Well with Omid you can do just that.
Even when we followed the trends of what we thought comedians want to talk about (you know serious stuff), we found ourselves laughing at his answers and ourselves.
The stand-up and acclaimed actor has an impressive body of work, from Hollywood movies and television to live productions at the West End. He's starred in amazing films such as the Golden Globe and Oscar nominated Shaun the Sheep Movie, Mr Nice, Gladiator, The Mummy and The Infidel. In 2016 Omid was filming for Disney's new live-action production of The Nutcracker, in his role as Cavalier.
In August 2016, Omid produced an Edinburgh Fringe show called Iraq Out & Loud, which saw almost 1500 comedians and members of the public read the entirety of the Chilcot Report for 24 hours a day, over 12 days. This memorable production was awarded the prestigious Panel Prize at Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and later TV Bomb's Zeitgeist Award.
Anyway, enjoy our chat with our favourite comedian Omid Djalili.
You've performed here before, what are your thoughts on Dubai as a city and the people?
I like the clothes - the long white flowing robes. I think they should make roller skating compulsory in Dubai. Or motorised skateboards. Then it would look like everyone was gliding. With the added visual bonus of their robes flapping behind them.
Your comedy touches upon some very sensitive issues like race and politics. Why and how do you think comedy is an important tool to discuss these otherwise taboo issues?
If you have two groups of people who disagree with each other and you can make them both laugh at the same thing then you've found some common ground. And that's a good thing right? Humour is often a glue that can heal in situations of conflict resolution.
There have been so many instances lately, especially in the States, where comedians have "gone too far" and have faced massive backlash, putting their careers in jeopardy. When do you know where to draw the line as a comedian? Is there room for error?
The main point in life is whatever you do, never be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes obviously but don't be held back by fear. I don't know about that whole Kathy Griffin thing holding up a severed head of the US President for a photo shoot. To be fair I think a lot of people were upset when they found out it was a fake.
Do you think that it's still a tough place for comedians or performers of Middle Eastern backgrounds "to make it" as performers or comedians given the current social and political climate?
If you're performing for pink people, no. Pink people are already oddly deluded. For a start they call themselves "white". One thing I've noticed about pink people: the main problem they have with racism is they don't want to be accused of it. They have no problem practising it, or building entire societies based on it. They just don't like being accused of it. It's performing for Middle Easterners, that's the problem. They're always the ones who interrupt and say "habibi why you don't speak about relationships? Help me Omid. I need girlfriend. I'm so alone. Please, please, please help me."
Would you say it's easier or harder to become a successful comedian or actor these days than when you first started out? Do you think social media helps or is it actually an obstacle or changing the whole "comedy game"?
My advice to anyone reading this who hopes to make a career out of stand-up comedy is to forget it. And social media has made things even worse. Everybody has always been a critic, but now, thanks to social media, all those critics now have a platform. Seriously, don't even attempt stand-up. Go for something easier like street-entertainer. Become one of those human statues. You don't even have to move.
You've performed here and in so many other countries. Do you feel that comedy is a universal thing? Or do you feel that you have to change what you say depending on where you are?
The last time I went to do gigs on different planets the one thing I learned was that, though comedy is universal, oxygen is not.
Do you think you're funny?
It doesn't really matter what I think. It's much more important for people who come to your show to think you're funny. Can you imagine a gig where the audience sits in silence watching a man on stage who's laughing hysterically at the things he's saying himself?
What's your idea of happiness?
Watching women in hijabs at Ski Dubai flying down the slopes like Olympic skiers.
What was the last good movie you saw?
All Eyez On Me the Tupac Shakur biopic. They have even dramatised the moment 2PAC lays down his rap on California Love with Dr. Dre and everyone in sound booth reacting like "oooh my God rap just got serous!" Thrilling.
How did you celebrate your last birthday?
I forced two of my closest friends to fight to the death for my entertainment.
What quality do you cherish in a friend?
Relentless violent bloodlust.
Sweet or savoury?
Are we still taking about friends?
Coffee or tea?
I'm confused now.
Burger or pizza?
Are you hitting on me?
What's something that people might find surprising about you?
I speak Slovak. Rozumiem vsetko (I understand everything). I lived in the former Czechoslovakia from 1990-1995 doing experimental theatre. I think that explains a lot about me.
Who are some comedians that influenced you growing up? And who are some contemporary comedians that you are a fan of?
When I was five years old my parents took me to an Italian circus and a clown sneezed in my face and I was very ill for a week afterwards. So, yes, I think he influenza-ed me. Come on!