Omid Djalili

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Omid Djalili
Omid Djalili 2010 Tribeca TFF Shankbone.jpg
Djalili at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival
Born (1965-09-30) 30 September 1965 (age 57)
Chelsea, London, England
  • Actor
  • comedian
  • writer
Years active1991–present
Annabel Knight
(m. 1992)
Comedy career
  • Film
  • stand-up
  • television
  • Religion
  • race
  • culture
  • stereotypes
  • human interaction

Omid Djalili (Persian: امید جلیلی; born 30 September 1965) is a British actor, comedian and writer.

Early life and education[edit]

Djalili was born on 30 September 1965 in Chelsea, London, to Iranian Baháʼí parents.[1][2] He attended Holland Park School and then Ulster University in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, studying English and theatre studies.[3]

Comedy career[edit]

The first significant success of his stand-up comedy career was at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1995 with "Short, Fat Kebab Shop Owner's Son", followed by "The Arab and the Jew" with Jewish comedian Ivor Dembina in 1996.[4][5]

Djalili has performed in numerous countries, including Australia, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Canada and the United States, where he had his own HBO Special.[6]

Djalili took part in a show for Comic Relief after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami and also in 2005 he appeared on the British TV show Top Gear as a celebrity driver.[7][8] The same year he broke Edinburgh Festival box office records with over 16,500 ticket sales.[9][10]

In 2006, Sky Television picked him to be the face of their Saturday night film premières, and he also announced a new tour of the UK called 'No Agenda', from January 2007 until March 2007, covering 23 different dates. The No Agenda tour DVD was released in late 2007.[11]

On 18 March 2007, Djalili was voted by the British public as the 60th best stand-up comedian in a Channel 4 programme "The 100 Greatest Stand-Ups",.[12][13] On 26 October 2007, he guest-presented the BBC political quiz show Have I Got News for You.[14] The Omid Djalili Show started on BBC1 on 17 November 2007. The series was a mix of sketches and stand-up material. A second series was recorded in late 2008 and began broadcast on BBC 1 on 20 April 2009. He performed on We Are Most Amused on ITV1 to mark Prince Charles's 60th birthday in 2008 and on We Are Most Amused and Amazed to mark his 70th birthday in 2018.[15]

Acting career[edit]

Djalili has appeared in a number of films, most notably Gladiator, The Mummy, Mean Machine, The World Is Not Enough, Alien Autopsy, Spy Game, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Grow Your Own, Notting Hill, Mr Nice, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End,[16] Sex and the City 2 and provides his voice in Over the Hedge.

He has observed that he usually appears as a generic Middle Eastern background character in many of these films, often commenting that he appears in the James Bond film as the "Second Azerbaijani oil pipe attendant".[17] He appeared as Nasim in 22 episodes of the U.S. sitcom Whoopi, starring Whoopi Goldberg, and picked up an international film award for Best Supporting Actor in Casanova, starring alongside Heath Ledger and Jeremy Irons.

On 12 February 2009, producer Cameron Mackintosh announced that Djalili would appear as the second Fagin in the new West End production of Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London. Omid took over from Rowan Atkinson, who had been contracted until 18 July 2009.[18]

In 2009, Djalili became the voice of Yusuf Amir in the popular gaming series Grand Theft Auto. He took up the role in the Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony spin-off game. In 2010, he starred in the David Baddiel-scripted film The Infidel.

In 2010, Djalili starred in a series of TV and cinema adverts for[19]

Djalili appeared in the short-lived NBC sitcom The Paul Reiser Show, which was a midseason replacement for the 2010–11 television season.[20]

For the BBC Learning project Off By Heart Shakespeare, Omid played Lord Capulet from Romeo and Juliet and delivered the speech "Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch!"[21]

Djalili appears in the Sky TV adaptation of Moonfleet shooting in Ireland in 2013.[22]

He appeared in the second series of Thunderbirds Are Go in October 2016 as Horse Williams.[citation needed]

Djalili provided his voice in the 2015 stop motion animated comedy Shaun the Sheep Movie.

In 2017 Djalili appeared in an acclaimed performance of Fiddler on the Roof at the Chichester Festival Theatre.[23]

In 2019 he appeared as Dr Martin Lanselius in the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials.

In 2020 he began hosting the ITV game show Winning Combination.

Other activities[edit]

In 2008, he was an official festival judge for the Noor Iranian Film Festival. In June 2010, Djalili appeared in a Meltdown Festival concert[24] given by the Philharmonia Orchestra at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, performing the part of the narrator in 'Rubaiyat', a tone poem by American classical composer Alan Hovhaness which sets the words of Omar Khayyám to music.

He also appeared on the Graham Norton Show on 17 February 2012, alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Cuba Gooding Jr. He now presents the ITV daytime quiz show, Winning Combination.

In February 2022 he shot two pilots of a chat show called Tonight With Omid for the BBC, one version in Persian (for BBC Persia) and another in English.[25]


Djalili has won awards for his comedy. These include the EMMA Award, Time Out Award, and LWT Comedy Award for Best Stand-up Comedian, Spirit of the Fringe Award as well as the One World Media Award for his Channel 4 documentary, Bloody Foreigners.

He has also been nominated for awards, such as the Perrier Award for Best Comedian, the Gemini Award for Best Comedy Performance of 2003, the South Bank Award for Best Comedy of 2003, the Royal Television Society Award for Best Stand-up, and the European TV Award for his Bloody Foreigners.


In 2019, Djalili was criticised for making disparaging remarks about the Welsh language on Twitter after he posted a photograph of a road sign written in Welsh and wrote underneath, "There are worse things than being Welsh, dyslexic & having a terrible stutter. But not many."[26] In response to the unfavourable reaction, Djalili added, "Going to suggest to Sioned a show with the superb replies," referring to Sioned Wiliam, the Head of Comedy at BBC Radio, who is Welsh. However, Djalili declined to apologise. Nigel Owens said that the joke "just wasn't funny", calling it a "cheap, offensive jibe at a nation's language which has needlessly insulted people who have experience with dyslexia or speech impediments".[27]

Personal life[edit]

In 1992, Djalili married actress Annabel Knight, with whom he has three children: Isabella, Louis and Daniel. He is a practising Baháʼí.[1][2]

Djalili is a Chelsea fan, and has appeared many times on the club's in-house channel, Chelsea TV.[28][29]



Year Title Role Notes
1999 The Mummy Warden Gad Hassan
Notting Hill Cashier at Coffee Shop
Mad Cows George
The World Is Not Enough Foreman
2000 Gladiator Slave Trader
2001 Spy Game Beirut: Doumet
Mean Machine Raj
2002 Anita and Me Uncle Amman
2003 Cross My Heart Riz
2004 Deadlines Abdul Sayyaf
The Calcium Kid Herbie Bush
Modigliani Pablo Picasso
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Kaji
2005 Casanova Lupo
2006 Alien Autopsy Melik
Over the Hedge Tiger Voice role
2007 Grow Your Own Ali
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Askay / Pusasn
2008 The Love Guru Guru Satchabigknoba
2009 Dead Man Running "Bald Fat Fuck"
2010 The Infidel Mahmud Nasir
Sex and the City 2 Mr Safir
Animals United Bongo Voice role
Mr. Nice Saleem Malik
2011 Big Fat Gypsy Gangster Jik Jickkles
2015 Shaun the Sheep Movie Trumper Voice role
Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism Barry Rix
2016 The Comedian's Guide to Survival Himself
2018 Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Greek customs officer
2018 The Samurai of Tsushima Innkeeper Voice role
2018 The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Cavalier
2023 It's All Coming Back to Me Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1995 Dressing for Breakfast Turkish Man Series 1 episode 4
1996 The Friday Night Armistice Himself
1998 Alexei Sayle's Merry-Go-Round Various
Barking Various Role 2 episodes
1999 The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Mr Kaiafas Episode: "The Lake of Darkness"
The Bill Yilmaz Demirtas
Cleopatra Storemaster 2 episodes
Coming Soon Amir Hassan TV Movie
1999–2001 Small Potatoes Hoss 13 episodes
2000 Black Books Trebor
Jason and the Argonauts Castor 2 episodes
2001 So What Now? Ken
Baddiel's Syndrome Chef
2002 Relic Hunter Ahmid
2002–03 Dinotopia: the Series Zipeau (voice) 10 episodes
Lenny Henry in Pieces 2 episodes
2003 Between Iraq and a Hard Place Iraqi Television Host TV Movie
2003–04 Whoopi Nasim Khatenjami 22 episodes
2004 Live at the Apollo Himself
2005 Chopra Town Ali Ergun TV Movie
One Night Stand Himself HBO
My Family and Other Animals Spiro TV Movie
2006 Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive Himself
Jack Dee's Lead Balloon Mr Tilak
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law Perfectionist (voice)
2007 TV Heaven, Telly Hell Guest
Have I Got News For You himself
Premier League All Stars Chelsea Celebrity player
Dawn French's Boys Who Do Comedy Himself
2007–09 The Omid Djalili Show Himself, presenter, various roles 12 episodes
2008 Never Mind The Buzzcocks Guest panellist
Headcases Mohamed Al Fayed
2009 Would I Lie To You? Guest panellist one episode
2011 The Paul Reiser Show Habib 7 episodes
2012 Omid Djalili's Little Cracker Tobacconist
2013 Splash! Contestant
Moonfleet Aldobrand 2 episodes
2014 The Great Sport Relief Bake Off Guest presenter one episode
Question Time Guest panellist
2015–16 Dickensian Mr Venus 11 episodes
2016 Insert Name Here Guest panellist
The One Show Guest presenter 1 episode
2016–18 Stan Lee's Lucky Man Kamil 9 episodes
2017 Thunderbirds Are Go Horse Williams voice; 1 episode[30]
2018 All Together Now Celebrities Contestant 2nd Place
2019 Queens of Mystery
2019-2020 His Dark Materials Dr Lanselius S1&2, Episodes: "Armour" & "The Cave"
2020 The Letter for the King Sir Fantumar
2020 The Chase: Celebrity Special Contestant Series 10, Episode 5, 2020-10-10
2020– Winning Combination Presenter
2020 Sunday Brunch Guest Series 9, Episode 41; 22 November 2020[31]
2020 Celebrity Mastermind Contestant Series 18, Episode 1, 19 December 2020[32]
2020 Secrets of the Apollo Guest contributor 28 December 2020[33]
2021 Michael McIntyre's The Wheel Celebrity expert Series 1, Episode 6; 2 January 2021[34]
James Martin’s Saturday Morning Guest Series 4, Episode 3; 16 January 2021[35]
2022 Tonight with Omid Host Pilot in Persian and English
TBC The Change TV series[36]

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Ref.
2009 Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony Yusuf Amir [37]
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand Eddie [38]

Stand-up DVDs[edit]

  • No Agenda: Live at the London Palladium (26 November 2007)
  • Live in London (16 November 2009)
  • Tour of Duty (19 November 2012)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Omid Djalili: Everybody's fool". The Independent. 12 February 2006. Archived from the original on 10 February 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b Kadivar, Darius (3 December 2007). "In The Arena With Omid Djalili". Payvand's Iran News. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  3. ^ Djalili, Omid (20 August 2007). "TV Heaven, Telly Hell" (Interview). Interviewed by Sean Lock.
  4. ^ "Comedian Ivor Dembina". Chortle Comedy Website. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  5. ^ "Scottish Theatre Archive - Event Details". University of Glasgow Scottish Theatre Archive. 23 August 1990. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  6. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (24 October 2011). "NBC Developing Comedy Series Version Of British Film 'The Infidel' Starring Omid Djalili". Deadline. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  7. ^ "extract on Youtube - Comic Aid 2005 Compilation". YouTube. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021.
  8. ^ "Top Gear: Series 6, Episode 4 – TopGearbox". Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Omid Djalili: Live 2008 : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide". Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  10. ^ "Omid Djalili - Hire & Book For Parties & Events - Classique". Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Welcome to the Omid Djalili Website..." Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Omid Djalili, James Dowdeswell, Jenny Collier and Geoff Whiting | Chiswicks Festival". Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  13. ^ "Gulftimes : Award-winning comedian Omid to perform in Doha on April 8". 4 February 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  14. ^ "Have I Got News for You". BBC Programmes. BBC. 26 October 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Royal family pictures of the week". The Telegraph. 14 November 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  16. ^ Crossley, Becki (20 September 2018). "Omid Djalili brings 'Schmuck For A Night' to Wilton's Music Hall, London". The List. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  17. ^ "Djalili cuts out Iran jokes. - Free Online Library". Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  18. ^ Iqbal, Nosheen (11 February 2009). "Omid Djalili pockets Fagin role in Oliver!". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  19. ^ Omid Djalili Money Supermarket adverts on YouTube ( Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  20. ^ "NBC Unveils 2010-11 Primetime Schedule Accented by Five New Comedies, Seven New Dramas and New Alternative Program". The Futon Critic. 16 May 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2010.
  21. ^ "Schools – Teachers – Off By Heart Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet "Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch!"". BBC. 21 March 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  22. ^ "Sky adventure to shoot in Ireland". 10 June 2013 – via {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. ^ "Fiddler on the Roof". Chichester Festival Theatre. 2 December 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  24. ^ "Philharmonia Orchestra: Hovhaness". Southbank Centre. 13 June 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  25. ^ Guide, British Comedy (3 February 2022). "Omid Djalili pilots BBC chat show in English and Farsi". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  26. ^ "Omid Djalili causes anger with Welsh language joke". BBC News. 1 July 2019. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  27. ^ Owens, Nigel (6 July 2019). "Omid Djalili's joke about the Welsh language just wasn't funny". WalesOnline. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  28. ^ Fenners meets Omid Djalili, ESPN (UK), 19 April 2010
  29. ^ "Omid Djalili at the Edinburgh International Book Festival". Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  30. ^ "News".
  31. ^ "Sunday Brunch". Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  32. ^ "Celebrity Mastermind". Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  33. ^ "Secrets of the Apollo". Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  34. ^ "Michael McIntyre's The Wheel". Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  35. ^ "James Martin's Saturday Morning". Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  36. ^ "Bridget Christie comedy reveals cast".
  37. ^ "Xbox World 360 Preview". GTANet. 7 September 2009. Archived from the original on 10 October 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  38. ^ Bridgett, Rob. "50 Cent: Blood on the Sand: Audio Postmortem". Gamasutra. UBM Tech. Retrieved 8 July 2011.

External links[edit]