Ref NoBSUCA/OD/1/29
CollectionOliver Double Collection
TitleOmid Djalili interviewed by Oliver Double
Name of creatorDouble, Oliver, 1965-
Duration39 min. 53 sec.
Extent1 sound disc (MiniDisc) (80min)
1 audio file Broadcast WAVE Format (BWF)
DescriptionOmid Djalili interviewed by Oliver Double by telephone, 28th June 2004 This interview was conducted by Double for his book 'Getting the Joke: The Inner Workings of Stand-Up Comedy' (2005)

Summary: [00:04] Phone call begins [00:08] Oliver Double asks Omid Djalili [OD] how he got into stand-up and how long has he been doing it. [00:16] OD has been doing stand-up since 1995, and fell into it by accident, had been doing theatre [00:57] his wife took him to the Comedy Store in 1994. [01:04] OD’s wife went to Kent University with Alan Davies.
[01:52] Lee Hurst was the MC, OD thought he was the owner of the club. [02:06] OD saw him on They Think It’s All Over on TV a year later. [02:19] First act were the Tracey Brothers, [02:32] Mark Maier [02:40] last act was Martin Coyote. [03:00] Opening act was impressionist with big nose whose name escapes OD.
[03:30] OD went to the Edinburgh Festival with a show called “I’m a Short Fat Kebab Shop Owner’s Son”, a compilation of all the bits he’d done at weddings etc. [06:01] he got a response from the Bearcat Club. [06:33] Gordon Southern confided in OD three years later that Harry Hill checked him out. [07:27] review in The Independent said OD was caught between Ayatollah Khomeni and Dickie Davies.
[08:05] Ivor Dembina took OD under his wing, and they did a show called “The Arab and The Jew” despite OD being Iranian not an Arab. [08:42] they found it was working as a double-act so they took it to Edinburgh Festival in 1996. [09:33] OD says Ivor Dembina taught him how to write jokes. [11:00] in late 1996-early 1997, OD was invited to go see the Adelaide Company Festival
[11:17] Oliver Double asks about the process of performing and whether OD has any superstitions like a lucky item of clothing or a ritual before he goes on stage. [11:51] OD says he studies his set list and drinks lots of water.
[12:34] Oliver Double asks how OD generates material. [12:57] OD watched Goodness Gracious Me on TV, and tried to write a sketch for them, and came up with an idea about an Indian bingo caller. [14:35] OD tried it on stage, and it got such a big laugh that he kept it for himself. [14:43] OD’s point is that things inspire him, he writes it out, and then performs it.
[15:01] OD says most of his material is inspired by bad theatre, and asks what he would do better in the theatre space, tangentially from the play he’s watching. [16:25] Oliver Double confesses that he does a similar thing.
[16:44] Oliver Double asks if OD’s material is precisely worded. [17:15] After September 11, he wrote material about the world leaders, and thought what he could say about Tony Blair. [17:36] OD picked up on Blair mentioning his Scottish roots and knew he wanted to turn him into a drunken Glaswegian, but it had to be perfectly set up.
[18:20] OD never wrote down the routine word for word, he describes the build-up as being like theatre blocking, he starts with Bush, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and now Blair. [18:54] John Hannah doing charity voice-over to illustrate that the Scots are trustworthy, but “that with every reasonable Scot there’s a nutcase bubbling underneath”.
[19:46] Oliver Double mentions seeing this routine at the Gulbenkian Theatre. [20:46] Oliver Double asks if OD has to talk through the routine before he performs it [21:03] OD collaborates with his wife to find the funniest words to use.
[24:17] Oliver Double says OD has fantastic performance energy on stage, and asks how he generated the Arab character he begins the show with to trick the audience [24:53] OD answers that the accent was inspired by his distant uncle, a professor of English Literature at Oxford University. [25:13] OD always laughed at his uncle’s wild passion, he’d tell OD that he’d met Samuel Beckett. [26:22] OD says that his fake Arab accent isn’t even a well-rounded character like Al Murray’s pub landlord, he tells the audience that he’s just putting on an accent.
[28:15] Oliver Double says that the reveal of the real Omid as the British office clown is also a construct [28:35] OD agrees, and says comedy is about putting diametric opposites together. [29:41] Oliver Double says the Arab is exotic, but the office clown character is more relatable.
[30:17] Oliver Double asks how OD finds characters [31:00] OD warns to be careful not to showboat, and says there’s a fine line between showing off and moving the story along [32:32] OD says Eddie Izzard does minimalist and subtle characterisations. [32:51] Even Bill Hicks tried to do an English accent.
[33:40] Oliver Double asks if OD tries out certain voices before he goes on stage. [33:53] OD wanted to do a joke around a Nelson Mandela impression. [34:57] OD includes an element of silliness because the audience will be engaged in what you’re saying if you show them that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
[35:14] OD talks about Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm [35:41] he’s not a big fan of Seinfeld but likes how Larry David always manages to make fun of himself. [36:04] OD says political comment in comedy has to be subtle and sophisticated these days, otherwise it’s like the anti-Thatcher stuff of the 1980s.
[37:47] Oliver Double talks about Milton Jones telling him that people recommend that he gets help after seeing him because they think his persona is real. [38:16] Oliver Double asks about the more serious political aspect of OD’s stand-up, and whether anything has changed in terms of how he is racially judged.
[39:01] OD tells a story about doing Comedy Festival in 2002 with Richard Jeni, who did jokes about Arabs, and OD followed; he talks about the different reception the two acts got when Richard Jeni went on before Omid and when Omid went on before Richard Jeni at a separate gig, he sees this as a triumph in showing people a human face to the Middle East.
[41:36] Oliver Double talks about OD playing with stereotypes, challenging them and having fun with them. [42:30] interview wraps up, general chat.
[43:20] Phone call ends.
Notes1 MiniDisc, digitised to LPCM wave 16 bit 44.1kHz. Digitised using Sony Minidisc Deck MDS-JE53; Roland Edirol UA-25; and Adobe Audition CC 2014. 2016-03-21.
CategoryAudio recordings
Access conditionsAvailable for consultation at the University of Kent's Special Collections & Archives reading room, Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NU. Access is available via digital listening copies. The University of Kent acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors in this recording and the rights of those not identified.
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