Omid Djalili’s not used to a four o’clock crowd. It’s full of prim Middle Englanders, he jokingly complains, who aren’t prepared to run with material with edge. But, standing onstage in a black velvet jacket, Djalili is not so far removed from the audiences he gently mocks, and his set could really benefit from something of the edge he says the afternoon audience wouldn’t be able to handle.
Even when it’s not quite working, Djalili is a consummate professional.
He’s very keen, actually, not to offend anyone. He explains multiple times how much he loves Jews, seemingly worried (unnecessarily) that the yiddish word in his show’s title might ruffle a few hyper-sensitive feathers. He reigns himself in when he thinks he’s said something a little racy. Greater confidence to test the crowd — who may be there at four, but are also Fringe attendees — would have been appreciated.
This desire not to offend means he insists on staying away from politics for the most part — which is a shame, since some of the funniest moments in the show come from Djalili’s spot-on material on our nation’s hyper-British post-Brexit obstinacy to sticking to our decision once it’s been made, no matter the cost. There’s also some good material on Trump. Now, for any half-decent comic, Trump is not so much a sitting duck as one that provides its own oven and pancakes — but Djalili thankfully avoids the usual targets when it comes to Trump, imagining a hilarious conversation between two of his scriptwriters.
Some material, however, seems untested. An extended imagined confrontation between Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, for example, surely wouldn’t be in the show if it had been tried out in front of enough crowds, and either discarded or improved. As a skit, it’s a vehicle for impressive accent work, but was nowhere near as entertaining for anyone else as it evidently is for Djalili, who seemed baffled it wasn’t killing. The idea of two grandees saying silly things in a petty neighbour’s squabble has comic potential, but in its current state it’s too simplistic to receive more than a few scattered titters.
Even when it’s not quite working, Djalili is a consummate professional, smoothly papering over weaker bits of material with lighthearted, good-natured banter. It’s a solid hour of comedy, but — given that tickets for this show cost more than twice that of lot of great comedy at the Fringe — it’s up for debate whether Schmuck for a Night describes Djalili or his audience.