“I’m performing on the 11th in a venue called the World Trade Centre [in Dubai] so not sure if it’s a gig or a reconstruction site,” kidded Iranian comedian-actor Omid Djalili before his Friday show in the UAE.
The British-Iranian comedic star is known for his appearances in Hollywood movies such as “Sex and the City 2,” “The Gladiator,” and “The Mummy.”
Having received various awards, including The Time Out Award for Best Stand Up Comedian, Djalili doesn’t actually refer to himself as a comedian at all, but rather as a “motivational speaker.”
He is acutely aware of the stereotypes surrounding Middle Eastern comedians, using them as fodder for his jokes.
“As an Arab comedian I gallop onto the stage wearing flowing robes atop a white horse and throw fruit to an adoring crowd,” he teasingly told Al Arabiya News in an email. It should be noted, however, Iranians are not considered Arab.
“As a British comedian,” he ventures on, “it’s pretty much the same only under my flowing robes I’m wearing Margaret Thatcher themed underpants and sock suspenders.”
Well-versed in Middle Eastern culture, Djalili is quick to make light of the tradition of long family names, brought about by sons taking on the names of a lineage of male ancestors.
On asking his full name, the comedian responded: “Omid Abu Abdel Khader Aboosh Trevor Maximillian Wahda Wahda Wahda Whada Shuf Messi Howaddah Messi Djalili… The 3rd.”
Next, Al Arabiya News asked his age.
“As a woman I can’t answer that,” Djalili joked.
Your Birthday? Al Arabiya News asked.
“Are you still trying to sell me car insurance?”
Excited about Dubai
This is not the first time funny-man Djalili will touch down in Dubai and the performer says he is “very” excited for his return.
“I’m staying at a seven star hotel. I’m told two of the stars are for the Concierge’s under garments which I hope to see one day,” he said.
He also poked fun at the emirate’s status as a luxury-shopping destination.
“Dubai is also a great place to buy presents; stuff that’s expensive at home and cheap over here. I’m buying my children five liters of petrol each,” he quipped.
Despite looking forward to the performance, Djalili states that the Arab culture of comedy and entertainment has limits.
“Arab culture is about peace and love. But when it comes to comedy, Dubai has its fair share of taboos and restraints on expression,” he explained.
As a result, he told Al Arabiya News that a workshop will take place after the show, to highlight issues that were not covered in the performance.
So, what can the audience expect in that performance?
“Routines about celebrity, getting older and joys therein and a few nuggets about relationships, with a little bit of dancing and singing on the side,” he revealed.
“My expectations are very high and I hope the people of Dubai can live up to them,” Djalili jested.