Omid Djalili: Pandemic has made me a better comedian

Omid Djalili: Pandemic has made me a better comedian

Stand-up star Omid Djalili has said grappling with the difficulties of performing during the Covid-19 pandemic has made him “a better comedian”.

With comedy venues across the nation closed, many acts have turned to doing gigs online.

A series of drive-in gigs got under way in the summer but were scrapped due to concerns around local lockdowns.

Djalili, who hosts the ITV quiz show, Winning Combination, told the Radio Times it was time “to adapt”.

“People now want more meaningful comedy, so that’s raised everyone’s game,” he said.

“What’s happened this year has resulted in a great recalibration of who we are as comedians and what we’re trying to say.”

He added: “It’s actually made me a better comedian. I really believe that.”

In August, a string of Edinburgh Festival Fringe performers told the BBC it was “a scary time” for stand-ups.

Many found their shows were scrapped, moved online, or in some instances into a shed, after the flagship festival was postponed.

Relaying his own experiences of performing comedy in 2020, Djalili continued: “I did a socially distanced gig at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall Theatre, which holds 1,000 people. But only 250 were allowed.

“My career is so on the wane I jump for joy if we sell 250 tickets!” he joked.

Downing Street recently criticised a government-backed advert suggesting performers – specifically a ballerina, in this instance – should retrain while the entertainment and arts industries lay largely dormant.

But Djalili, who has also acted in Hollywood blockbusters like Gladiator and The Mummy, believes comedians won’t be waiting for financial support for the government.

“Everyone was upset when they said we should retrain,” he said.

“But you can’t really criticise a government that has launched a furlough scheme.

“OK, so three million fell through the net but, whatever happens, comedians aren’t the type to sit there with their cap in hand, saying, ‘Give me free money’.

“Instead, we adapt.”

He added that some online and drive-in gigs had been better than traditional theatre shows.

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