Ahead of his appearance at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate Theatre on Thursday (February 5) with his latest tour, Iranalamadingdong, UK comedian Omid Djalili shares his thoughts on ageing, marriage, and what it’s really like to perform onstage.
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.
So you feel very much at home in the stand-up arena?
When I was working on 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 I’ve come to life unless I’ve triggered laughter from a crowd. It’s probably an illness… a comedian’s illness. But I don’t panic like I used to. If a joke misses or backfires I know there’s a hundred more on their way. But it’s strange, I’m getting more serious off stage and savour even more the times when I’m on it. There’s always something in my mind telling me ‘enjoy it while you can, this isn’t going to last much longer.’
Do you feel fired up on stage?
Not really fired up, but sometimes I am genuinely upset when a show is over. I would love to go on all night… in a way I understand Ken Dodd who famously starts at 8pm and sometimes finishes at 2am. My problem is I just don’t have the material. So I usually just take the feeling of loss and disappointment off with me when I say
goodnight and drive home alone in the dark thinking of the good times and how I can say more next time and say it better.
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 forties 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 talk people about this “arse”-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.
Am I right your act has become less overly political these days?
I don’t feel the same pressure to talk about things in the news any more. On Twitter, comics 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).
Are you happy with where your career is?
(pauses) Well… I think in life you have to count your blessings otherwise you’ll never be happy. But I haven’t worked out the reason why I’m overweight yet, and I really shouldn’t be. It’s an issue that takes precedence… so forgive me for not really answering your question.