Omid Djalili is sometimes in danger of being too thoughtful to be a first-rate comedian. His first Edinburgh appearance in 1993 was in a solo dramatic piece about mid-nineteenth-century millenarian fever, which he subsequently worked in tandem with a stand-up show. Now, with appearances in movies such as The Mummy and Gladiator under his capacious belt, the cuddly Anglo-Iranian subverts the ethnic stereotype which has become his cinematic stock-in-trade.
This year's show includes some favourite older material and, sneakily, a few phrases nicked from Gil Scott-Heron's early classic of political rap music "B Movie", but Djalili spends most of his hour onstage dissecting attitudes towards ethicity. The trouble is that he does so politely, even tentatively, apologising for some gags and frequently resorting to "disarming" motifs which, however cleverly set up and laced throughout his set, are also ways of reminding us that he's a nice chap really. But we don't really need reminding; his affability shines through even in his most mordant moments. If he were to trust himself to be consistently as sharp as he obviously can be, he could transcend his current status as a second-string comedy favourite and become rather special.
Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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