Omid Djalili: Tour of Duty, Corn Exchange, Cambridge
Jason Alexander, who played nervous ball of angst George Kostanza in Seinfeld, recently met Israel's president Shimon Peres to discuss the Middle East. The Israeli press inevitably asked the actor and campaigner if humour had a role to play the peace process, Alexander replied in the negative "because someone is always going to be offended".
While punchlines or whole routines can be more effective than the pithiest of soundbites, or most moving of speeches, there are limits to comedy (the elasticity of which depends on the individual comedian of course) as a medium for a message and this was something that another cuddly comedy performer, Omid Djalili, found to his cost tonight while attempting to broker a similar kind of understanding between races.
As an Anglo-Iranian, the comic and actor has always projected himself as a kind of ambassador for multi-ethnicity, though without ever developing ideas sufficiently that they would get in the way of a funny voice or some gratuitous payoffs. He illustrates this tonight when he suggests that the best way to dispel racism "is to talk back at people in their accent". This is merely a cue for Djalili to flex his impersonation of Nigerians; moreover, while he claims it was well received, the advice accidentally sounds like a premise for playground racism.
In another routine, the portly performer explains that his ethnic mix means that his responses to Lady Gaga and Prince Charles are double-edged. He employs a rather obvious stereotype where his Iranian side is hard-line and fundamentalist. Although he maintains that he wants to keep some distance between himself and easy categorisations, it's clear the 46-year-old still relies on some rather obvious shorthand.
Despite the frustrations with his act, it is hard not to be reasonably disposed to this warm and charming figure and even forgive the name-dropping of films he has been in. This is more easily done given that his credits include Sex and the City 2, a film he basically apologises for, pleading that "you don't always get to see the scripts beforehand".
It transpires that, during the filming of the TV spin-off, Sex and the City creator Michael Patrick King accuses Djalili of "telegraphing the funny". It's not an unfair criticism, but it is one that Djalili obsesses about and then ripostes well with a parody of Carrie Bradshaw's column titles: "By flagging up my comedy does my comedy flag?"
Touring to 25 February (www.omiddjalili.com)
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: Search for plane carrying 162 passengers from Indonesia to Singapore suspended overnight
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk