Omid Djalili's un-PC quips aren't shocking, just tired – review

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Omid Djalili in Schmuck for a Night at Dorking Halls, Dorking
Omid Djalili in 'Schmuck for a Night' at Dorking Halls, Dorking Credit: Bernie Sweeney

Omid Djalili has a line in his new show about seeking validation, but arguably the British-Iranian comedian has already received this in spades. The multi-award-winner has been cracking jokes in front of an audience for over two decades, made his rounds on British and American TV shows, and can celebrate a diverse range of acting credits (from Gladiator to Shaun the Sheep, via Sex and the City 2).

So when, in the fourth month of his latest tour show Schmuck for the Night, he tells his Dorking audience "I'm not cutting that, that's piss funny”, it’s easy to understand the source of his confidence. But that confidence is misplaced: the bit Djalili says he won’t cut is a riff about transgender women, and – like another punchline about women on periods – it’s not so much risqué as tired.

He’s aware that much of his material is not PC, creating the character of a fictional maltese critic who accuses him of being a “Jew-hater”. But although the gags may have been validated by his "blind, Jewish manager", it’s hard to be amused by his musings on Jews, which have been a staple of his live-shows for several years.

Credit: Tom Baxter 

Djalili needed to inject more energy and effort into even his non-contentious material. An opening about not having a strong opening is difficult to pull off, and his non-starter led into a rambling ninety minutes, jumping from observations about his Iranian family, to Twitter misdemeanours, to Jihadi John, to football chants, with a bunch of callbacks (some expertly, others not so expertly executed) to jam the bits together. The show felt overlong, though many of his fans seemed to enjoy this bounty.

But scattered throughout the set there were some lovely, witty little gems, such as his explanation of why a movie industry led by Brits would be rubbish (churning out such titles as "Apocalypse in your Own Time"). An impressive encore about cancer – hardly the most promising subject – came as a pleasant surprise, with Djalili wrapping up his show much more neatly than he had begun it.

He is undoubtedly a master of accents, and came into his own with a cracking – and gloriously unconvincing – impersonation of Theresa May. Still on the subject of politics, he argued that Donald Trump, whilst bad for the world, is excellent for comedians. But his material – only summoning a few chuckles with his comments about “pissgate” – proved this is not necessarily the case. It's easy to get the audience on side by taking a shot at the new American president, but much more difficult to come up with original satire about a man who seems to parody himself.

Touring until May 20. Tickets and information: omiddjalili.com