Omid Djalili – “Shmuck For A Night”

The Lowry, Salford Quays; Sun 26 March 2017



Lowry’s Lyric Theatre played host to British-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili as he continued his marathon “Shmuck For A Night” tour on what turned out to be a relaxing and satisfying Sunday night of stand-up comedy. Sunday nights out are a bit of a strange thing: there’s a mad sense of danger at being out when you feel you should be in, but once you sit back and relax (which is, after all, all you’d be doing if you’d stayed in) you soon realise that good live comedy doesn’t (and shouldn’t) need to involve drinking huge amounts to make it more entertaining.

Performed on what the Lowry themselves describe as Britain’s largest (and surely most-totally-purple-coloured) stage outside of London, the night began with Djalili’s sidekick / support act Boothby Graffoe. This opening half-hour just didn’t seem to work properly in the overall context of the night. Two main reasons for this:

  1. It meant a running schedule of 30-minute support performance, 15-minute break, 60-minute main performance; and that just didn’t work well at all. Graffoe is perfectly capable of (successfully) delivering his own show, there was only one act that the audience came to see and I’m sure most would have preferred more Omid-time for their money.
  2. Graffoe’s material was pleasant enough: some simple observational comedy and some amusing guitar lullabies; but that was too sharp a contrast to Djalili’s trademark “I’m might offend you but deal with it” material. Graffoe started so well with witty and sharp teasing of Djalili (who cheekily responded with his microphone backstage) but he failed to follow it through and soon reverted to the less-offensive and safer warm-up routine, one which has presumably been the same throughout the tour so far.

Despite this, the main act was excellent. Djalili’s British-Iranian heritage (is there even a box for that on Equal Opportunities forms?) and his loud, extroverted style gives him a unique and special place in Britain’s entertainment scene. Can you even name any other famous Arab personalities in the public eye, other than the mass-media’s terrorist caricatures that make the news all too regularly?

Yes, some of the material could be deemed to be offensive. But (despite the rotund appearance) we’re not talking about Bernard Manning levels of offensiveness. All the weighty subjects of the day were discussed: Brexit, nationalism, Trump, prejudice, even mention of the events at Westminster just a few days ago. But none of it was insulting for the sake of a cheap laugh, it was witty and accurate, an alternative view on things, it makes you think differently as well as making you laugh – and when the performer is consistently belittling himself as well as others, it’s quickly clear that this is not, in any way, offensive material.

Djalili has himself in a good position in the comedy world. He’s definitely a “funny” guy, what with his slapstick funny voices and accents, his mad belly dancing, and his accurate impersonations – most notably his terrifying interpretation of Godzilla’s agony at having his toes trodden upon. If he was at your party or in your pub you’d want to chat to him and hear what he’s got to say. He’s been around for a long time now, successful on stage and a regular on TV screens. “Shmuck For A Night” was a perfect dose of madcap comedy, it delivered exactly what it says: a funny guy being funny for your entertainment.

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