By Kieran Turner
Another big night for Ipswich's Regent Theatre, which is becoming a focal point for comedy. Recent and upcoming tours include faces such as Frankie Boyle, Russell Brand and Alan Carr. On 3 March 2008, it was the turn of Omid Djalili.
He's famous for his BBC One show, has fronted Have I Got News For You, appeared in some Hollywood films (including The Mummy) and is probably best known for being the UK's foremost (only?) Iranian stand-up.
This led to some neat bits of comedy, giving the audience (whose knowledge of Iran is probably limited to vague awareness of the Ayatollah and the "Axis of Evil") a witty insight into everyday customs of a foreign culture. For example, "my parents named me Omid, which means hope. Unfortunately, Djalili means less". At moments like these, he seemed like Iran's version of Peter Kay. Well, maybe.
Unfortunately, Djalili's got a long way to go before he reaches the level of the sometimes jaw-achingly funny Bolton comic. And some of the jokes left this reviewer feeling slightly uncomfortable.
While he was able to tackle some weighty topics, such as racism and the Israel/Palestine conflict, there were a number of occasions when it seemed like he went too far and said some almost racist things, seemingly because he's a member of an ethnic minority.
This grumble aside, the Regent was almost a sell-out with very few empty seats. The audience seemed to lap up his act, from the pithy observations on football, traffic wardens and race, to almost slapstick dancing.
But I was left somewhat underwhelmed by the whole experience, and perhaps so too were the audience. A very brief encore, and the audience were up out of their chairs and leaving by the time the house lights were up, as if they had just sat through a bad film.
But Djalili's tours sell out, his DVD was flying off the makeshift counter and his BBC One show must have been a success to draw all these people out on a cold winter night in March.
However, sitting in the pub afterwards, my guest and I were unable to answer a few key questions about the performance. Does the success of an Iranian comic reflect the growing multiculturalism of the UK? Did the performance give an insight into different cultures, or did the whole exercise just reinforce common stereotypes?
And most importantly of all, was Omid Djalili funny? And unfortunately, a day later, I'm still not sure of the answers to any of these questions..
last updated: 05/03/2008 at 10:23
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