Omid Djalili, the world’s edgiest and quite possibly its funniest comedian as well, is performing an act at Caroline’s in New York Times Square this weekend so hysterically funny and at the same time so poignant and powerful that calling it standup barely does it justice.
Djalili is Persian-born and a resident of the U.K., and his comedy touches every point in our collective nervous system.
He finds the humor in ethnicity in Persian, Arab, British, and American ways of thinking and speaking, and he addresses through comedy subjects like terrorism and politics that less courageous comics wouldn’t touch.
He told a packed crowd that he was arriving in New York the same day as the terror attack in Lower Manhattan and that news of the event flashed on screens at JFK.
“Please God,” he said, “let it be a white guy.”
You’ve got to be gutsy to try to find the humor in tragedy, but as he quoted Mel Brooks, “Comedy equals tragedy plus time.”
The audience was howling with laughter at his bits about such topics as…
A neighborly feud between Nobel Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.
Play-by-play of an Egyptian soccer match.
A plan for stopping terrorism involving disarming the world’s men and arming the world’s women.
Persian customs involving hospitality and behind-the-back gossiping, both at the same time.
What God really told Moses on Mount Sinai.
How to beat a traffic ticket from a Nigerian traffic cop in London.
The real speechwriters for Trump – two stoners in London writing insane stuff for his TelePrompter and then howling with laughter when Trump actually says what they wrote.
Not exactly the jokes about girlfriends and Twitter that most current comments offer up.
Djalili has been in movies and TV shows here in the United States, so he has a following here, and at the same time a sizable contingent of his audience comes from Britain, where he is a comedy legend.
He had to provide a bit of background for his Brexit jokes, in order to get the Americans in the audience up to speed, but once he did so, he inspired waves of laughter about British immigration and politics.
In American comedy, you’d have to go back to Mort Sahl or even Lenny Bruce to find a remotely comparable stage presence.
Like those pioneers of news-based outrage, Djalili constantly tests the audience’s limits to accept the wild approach to comedy he offers.
He actually brings out the best in his audience, essentially demanding that they keep up with his humor, which is scathingly funny yet at the same time intellectually challenging.
Djalili says he used to be the typical turban-and-pantaloons caricature of a Persian-British comic, but he only goes to that stereotype in order to make fun of it.
His name isn’t yet a household word here in the States. But if you’re smart, you’ll find a way to get to Caroline’s before his engagement finishes. It’s only going to be harder and harder to get a seat at one of his shows.