Bahá'í comic breaks into mainstream with NBC
After years of increasing success on tv, film and as a stand-up comedian, Omid Djalili has now been awarded his own show on American network NBC. For those who have seen Djalili's performances, this is hardly surprising. He has been described as 'Magnificent' (Daily Mail), 'Painfully Funny' (Independent), and 'Remarkable' (Daily Telegraph), and his most recent tour, addressing cultural misunderstandings after the September 11th terrorist attacks, was a sell-out everywhere.
Born in the UK in 1965, his Iranian appearance has allowed him to land roles in films such as Gladiator, The World is Not Enough, and Spy Game. He has also become a familiar figure on UK comedy shows, with a major role in the series Small Potatoes and with guest appearances on virtually all the major comedy programs, from They Think It's All Over, to Have I Got News For You and The Comedy Store.
His latest show is expected to air next fall, and will focus on the collision of Iranian and Western cultural identities, like much of his comedy. An NBC spokesman said of Djalili, "He's the best comic that you don't know. He is a character actor who is like a bigger-than-life John Goodman, a big lovable guy", a comparison which promises much for the 37 year old's future.
But it was as a stage comedian where Djalili first shined. His first play, A Strange Piece of History (incidentally, this writer's first contact with the Bahá'í Faith) won a Spirit of the Fringe Award at the Edinburgh Festival in 1995. He was to receive another Spirit of the Fringe award in 1999 after continuous sell-out shows at the festival.
Djalili has also produced and starred in the award-winning documentary Bloody Foreigners, which aired on the UK's Channel 4 in 2001. The program was nominated for the European TV Awards, and won the One World Media Award for its penetrating angle on the growing hostility in the UK (and the whole of Europe) towards immigration. Despite its serious nature, the documentary succeeded largely due to Djalili's ability to defuse the issue through comedy. Immigration themes occur throughout his routines, with one routine starting off with, "Keep the laughs coming. They help with my asylum application."
Djalili also performs regularly at Bahá'í events. This year he even performed in the most prestigious location in the House of Commons, when he was invited to the celebration of the Bahá'í New Year by the All-Party Parliamentary Friends of the Bahá'í Faith. The fact that he can entertain parliamentarians as much as Bahá'í youth and viewers of NBC says much about Djalili's talent. Planet Bahá'í wishes him success in both the NBC show and his upcoming film The Calcium Kid.
©Copyright 2002, Planet Bahá'í (USA)