Omid Djalili: Behind Enemy Lines Perrier nominee

Note: This review is from 2002

Review by Steve Bennett

No doubt about it, Djalili knows how to put on a show.

From belly-dancing to characters, from song to stand-up, this Iranian powerhouse puts his all into every performance.

It's an easily enjoyable, entertaining experience - but one with an essential lack of substance at its heart.

The big hook, of course, is September 11. You would hardly expect this country's leading Middle Eastern comedian (not the most crowded of fields, admittedly) to ignore the politics of the situation, and Djalili does make some valid, intelligent points.

But he does tend to examine fringe issues, rather than core ones. His finest routine, for example, revolves around media coverage, rather than any serious comment on the east-west divide. And he even gets a small laugh just from the very mention of the word 'pretzel' - though to be fair, he does back off the obvious gags.

Djalili also lacks the determination to stick to this vital subject, not quite courageous enough to let a monologue run long enough to go really deep, for fear of losing the attention of even one member of the audience.

Thus he continually breaks up the routine with enthusiastically-performed set pieces, making for a more stagey, theatrical experience than the personal relationship a stand-up traditionally has with his audience.

Such gimmicks, though, does mean that the show is never going to flag, Djalili is nothing if not committed to ensuring the audience is enjoying itself - even going so far as making some gratuituously ingratiating comments about THAT Archie Gemmel goal to appease Edinburgh's home crowd.

There's no doubt that Djalili is a fantastic and talented entertainer with an astounding stage presence, able to call on a vast array of accents, characters and theatrical trickery to keep interest up.

But as a comedian, he is patchy. Able to produce some brilliant moments such as the fabulous bait-and-switch moments provided by his Iranian accent, or the lovely circular argument with which he concludes his pseudo-political section, but elsewhere peddling comedy is too broad to be truly effective.

Crowd-pleasing, undoubtedly, but lacking real bite.

Review date: 1 Jan 2002
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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