British comedian Omid Djalili may be a familiar face to many Americans, but his standup hasn't been seen in the US in quite awhile. His last performance here was in 2005, when he taped a half-hour One Night Stand for HBO in 2005. He also appeared on Whoopi Goldberg's 2003-2004 sitcom Whoopi and the short lived 2010 The Paul Reiser Show, and he's equally well-known for his dramatic work, starring 2010's The Infidel and in a production of The Shawshank Redemption at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.
Now, he's returning to the US, with dates in the New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I got the chance to speak with him over the phone recently about returning to address some unfinished business, why he used to not take comedy seriously, and why it's liberating to perform for people who don't know him.
You haven’t done standup in the US in almost 10 years, is that right?
Yeah, I did it while I was still doing the Whoopi Goldberg show. I did the Aspen Comedy Festival, and then I did a short run in New York in 2004, which HBO came to see, then I got a deal with HBO. I did an HBO special and then – you know, human beings are either conscious or unconscious. I wasn’t really a conscious human being. I just kind of did the HBO special; I never even watched it. I just went back to England. In one of the press releases, we didn’t even write that I did an HBO special, and I’m only the second person ever from Great Britain to star in an HBO special. Eddie Izzard’s the only other one. I completely forgot. And I was doing them with great people, like Louis C.K. was doing his first HBO special. Patrice O’Neal, rest in peace, did his. Jim Norton. There’s a whole bunch of really great people. And I just went back to England. I never really paid much attention to it. It’s very bizarre, and it’s only hit me in the last the year that this is crazy.
So when some people saw me at the Edinburgh Festival and said, “Hey, would you like to do some gigs in New York?” I thought, 'Yeah, I have some unfinished business.' It’s nuts. Who does an HBO special and then leaves the country and doesn’t even refer to it? I didn’t even talk about it. It just seems so dumb that I never even bought it up in conversation. I just did it and left. I split. On the English Comedy Central, they played it, and I caught the last two minutes, and I was like, “Oh my God, did I do that?” And I think one of the reasons why was because HBO sent me some photographs of the night, and I just looked really overweight. I thought, “No, no, I’m not having this.” And I put it out of my mind. I know I’m overweight, but I’m not that fat. And that was it. In my mind, I was just cut off and I’ve never mentioned it until now. And that was 2005, so that was the last gig. READ MORE