Omid Djalili’s Tour of Duty brings him back to Halifax

Omid Djalili
Omid Djalili
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IT’s Omid Djalili’s birthday and he’s about to indulge in some of his favourite things.

The first, of course, is to test the water with a ripple of humour.

“My agent is issuing a statement that I am 26 today,” says the west Londoner, born in the capital to Iranian parents 46 years ago.

Then it’s off to Caffè Nero “for a lovely coffee with my lovely wife” - actress and playwright Annabel Knight, who has bought him a Ralph Lauren shirt - followed by a personal training session, a swim and a restaurant meal. Birthdays are not a big thing in an Iranian household, he says, so he was never really able to celebrate his as a child.

But now he’s a father of three, happily married, with a burgeoning career woven from various threads - and raring to go on his latest stand-up comedy tour, which brings him to Halifax.

The multi-award-winning comedian’s new show Omid Djalili: Tour of Duty kicks off after a short series of warm-up events in the south of England.

Luckily for Omid, the tour has been meticulously planned so that he doesn’t have to zig-zag all over the country. From Burnley Mechanics on Friday, October 21, he travels to Halifax the following evening; then it’s on to Wakefield on the Sunday and Leeds City Varieties on the Monday before a trip to Buxton, Derbyshire and a hop over to Bolton.

Then it’s down south again - Worthing, Hastings, Woking, Southend.

“Before, when I did tours, it was one of those things that people didn’t know who you were, so you could be in Carlisle one night, Plymouth the next,” he says. Now, clever planning and receptive theatre bosses allow his tour manager to join up the dots without Omid going dotty.

Tour of Duty will focus on some of the world events that have been at the forefront of many people’s minds this year - including the Arab Spring and the killing by US forces of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The name of his tour pays tribute to valiant British troops while placing him, too, in a peace-keeping role, he says.

“It’s all about peace,” says Omid. “It’s all about mankind moving towards inevitable peace. I don’t believe mankind is mature if it is in turbulent adolescence.

“I think humour makes us different to animals. Animals wag their tails, so laughter must be a gauge of spiritual growth.

“I don’t think humour is the answer - but if you have an event, such as a relationship breakdown, and can laugh about it afterwards, you have moved on. It’s a sign that you have matured.”

Omid last came to Halifax in January 2007 and loved the warmth of the venue and the audience. “Some places, including Halifax, have a good response to comedy,” he says. “I have spoken to a couple of comics who’ve said Halifax is great and the people have a good sense of humour.”

But Omid isn’t just a stand-up comedian. He’s a writer, TV producer, actor - he took over from Rowan Atkinson as Fagin in a West End production of Oliver! in 2009, for which he won rave reviews - and has starred in his own BBC One TV series, The Omid Djalili Show.

Having grown up against a backdrop of TV comedies such as Dad’s Army, he’s not afraid to poke fun at such iconic series.

His sketch Jihad’s Army mimics the classic BBC One episode when a German officer wants to jot down young Private Pike’s name for taking the rise out of Hitler. “Don’t tell him, Pike!” exclaims the bumptious Captain Mainwaring.

In Omid’s version, a US commander wants to take the name of a young Iraqi soldier as the two factions clash over the War on Terror.

“Don’t tell him, Farouk bin Said...” says the Iraqi commander, reeling off a lengthy list of names the US officer can’t keep up with. “Does he have a nickname?” the American finally asks in exasperation.

Says Omid: “People don’t realise how influential Britain is. Lots of sitcoms get transported. The BBC let me do Jihad’s Army - but they wouldn’t let me do Are You Being Severed!” His TV series includes a skit on Sex and the City - Sheiks and the City - and he starred alongside internationally renowned talent in the movie Sex and the City 2. Other movie credits include Gladiator, The Mummy and Alien Autopsy.

Last year he starred in David Baddiel-scripted movie The Infidel and many people will recognise him as the character who urges shoppers to barter and knock down their insurance costs in a TV advertisement for a price comparison website.

Not content with that, he has released highly acclaimed DVDs No Agenda and Live in London.

So now it’s time to stand up for a few months’ worth of touring the country. Omid’s material explores the diversity of modern Britain and his razor-sharp wit, boundless energy and expertly crafted cultural observations have already made him a firm favourite with audiences at home and in foreign fields. Not bad for a chap who’s just turned 26.

l Omid Djalili’s Tour of Duty reaches the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, on Saturday, October 22 (8pm). Tickets (£19) are available from the box office: 01422 351158 or visit the website www.victoriatheatre.co.uk