Review – Omid Djalili, The Good Times Tour, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 23rd April 2022

Omid Djalili Good TimesIt’s always a delight to be back at the Royal and Derngate, this time for a top quality night of comedy starring one of my favourite comedians, Omid Djalili. We’ve seen him do stand-up twice before, and he’s always cracking good value; although he’s probably never had a finer moment on stage than his Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof – but that’s another story.

Boothby GraffoeBut first, support act Boothby Graffoe. I knew we had seen Mr Graffoe before but couldn’t remember when – and a quick check back revealed that it was when he supported Omid Djalili on his Iranalamadingdong tour in 2015. The two obviously work well together! Mr G has a very laid back style and a misleadingly unassuming stage persona. You’d think that in his youth he would have been ferociously hippy-like. He uses his musical props in more inventively than just as instruments; and his act his based on comedy songs that reveal some of the darker aspects of human nature. I say songs – really, for the most part, they’re musical fragments, but they do the job. Clearly no friend of Boris Johnson, so that’s fine by me. And his lullaby is like no other; it has to be seen to be believed. All new material, and some killer punchlines; we won’t be joining him in the hotel later.

Omid DjaliliOn to Mr Djalili, who’s still larger than life and a bundle of energy, and supremely likeable on stage. We’ve all learned a lot over the past six or so years, and you can see it in Mr D’s delivery. Indeed, the show is a celebration of the fact that we all survived, we’re all here and we’re all out for a good time (hence the title of the show). He was never a cruel comic – far from it – but today he seems warmer and mellower; everything he says comes from a kind place. Much of his always excellent material comes from the association between accents and offence; a difficult line to tread because Mr D is great at accents and impersonations, and he opens up a whole new line of satire with his vocal impressions of one famous person in the guise of another – I’ll say no more.

Omid Djalili 2Technically, the show has an impressive structure involving clever interactions with a multimedia screen, and there’s a beautiful callback with an audience member in the front row, whose name and place of residence had been earlier identified by Mr Graffoe. I always knew comedians talk to each other in the interval! There’s a genuinely moving but also hilarious homage to the late Sean Lock; and an investigation into the wit and wisdom of West Ham United football fans. When he asked if there were any Happy Hammers in the audience, I should have confessed that they are indeed my team, but I chickened out. My bad.

Omid DjaliliMr D still packs the show with his recognisable trademarks: the ghastly but riveting Middle Eastern dad-dancing, irresistible stories that play on racial stereotypes, throwaway gags that take the mickey out of himself and us. And, on a personal note, I loved the fact that one of his jokes involved Stewart Lee getting a two-star review for his show, because that’s exactly what I gave him! Omid Djalili continues to take his Good Times Show on tour around the country (and Austria?!) throughout the rest of the year and indeed has a couple of weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Hugely funny and highly recommended!

Review – Omid Djalili, Iranalamadingdong, Derngate, Northampton, 5th February 2015

IranalamadingdongThis was the second time we’d seen Omid Djalili do stand-up. The first was about ten years ago at the Oxford Playhouse, where I remember his material played a lot on the Western World’s insecurities with people from the Middle East and he nicely juxtaposed terrorists with delightfully middle-class north London types. Since then, sadly, terrorism hasn’t exactly gone away; and it no longer plays a central theme in his comedy. He does however still surprise and undermine our preconceptions with his ability to blend Western and Iranian characteristics in one big melting pot and come up with some revealing observations that challenge our suppositions with one huge belly laugh. The tone is set from the start when his introductory music to the stage is his beguiling vocal performance of the Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men only to realise that he enters the stage to the lyrics Iranian Men.

Boothby GraffoeBut I’m getting ahead of myself. We were unable to pre-order an interval Merlot because the first half would only last twenty five minutes or so. That can only mean one thing – a warm up act. And what a top quality warm up it would be in the company of Boothby Graffoe, darling of Radio 4 comedy shows, joke writer extraordinaire, and the only comedian to be named after a Lincolnshire village. He has a very welcoming and unthreatening style, appearing to take his material at a relatively gentle pace, coming across as thoughtful, and enjoyably self-deprecating where it comes to his musical prowess. The mouth organ is used only as a deterrent.

During the course of his short stay with us, he provides his own insight into the mind and working practices of TV medium Derek Acorah, during which he can also find out some interesting snippets about audience members should he be so inclined, delightfully revealing how the whole psychic stage thing is utter nonsense and tosh. He also has a rather anarchic sequence where he becomes a German mother talking to her French child; looking back on it I still can’t quite work out what all that was about but it was amusing anyway. Mr Graffoe is a very entertaining man – not a lot in the way of uncontrollable guffaws but a very wry and intelligent approach that makes you appreciate a lot of subtle humour.

Omid DjaliliFrom Boothby Graffoe’s quiet and slightly reserved approach, you can’t get much more of a contrast than Omid Djalili’s loud, uninhibited, joyous persona. Here’s a man who celebrates a corny joke by bursting into a mock belly-dance, limbs cavorting in a parody of I Dream of Jeannie, floppy microphone simulating an unrestricted penis rising and falling with the Aladdin rhythms. For a big chap, he’s quite a physical comic, with many a ridiculous sequence of movement that results in his breaking into a not insubstantial sweat. You’d think that he doesn’t really care what he looks like, but actually he’s turned out quite dapper in a smart suit – he really could be the legendary embarrassing dad dancing at a wedding. Above all, he comes across as someone who’s really comfortable as he is. There’s not an ounce of that comedy neurosis that characterises so many other comedians. He is what he is, and you take it or leave it.

Among his very enjoyable observations and sequences, he explains how a happy marriage can always be attained providing you accept that your wife always knows best; why he really enjoys visiting America; why he loathes being called a “Paki” (his word, not mine, I hasten to add); and the informal way in which an Iranian father will sit around the house, even if his new daughter in law is about to visit. It’s all insightful, clever, meaningful and thoroughly revealing; plus it has the benefit of being extremely funny.

Omid Djalili 2His routine ended with a Question and Answer session, the questions having been written on pieces of paper by members of the audience during the interval and then placed into a cardboard box for Mr Djalili’s subsequent consideration. Ever since Mrs Chrisparkle’s brother had been selected by the late Frankie Howard as a plant in the audience to ask one of a number of specially pre-rehearsed questions – his was “Do you ever ad-lib?” – I’ve been suspicious of Q&As with comics. I’m sure that a number of the questions Mr Djalili considered and replied were genuine inquiries from our audience; but I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful were fully scripted either. Does it matter? Probably not.

A very enjoyable night’s comedy from a comic who performs with splendid pace, a love of language and a sense of the ridiculous. Definitely worth catching as he tours the country!