Omid Djalili fundraises for Gaza via comedy special

Iranian comedian plans to address the Israel-Palestine conflict in his next tour

Omid Djalili performs on stage at the Royal Albert Hall as part of a Turkey and Syria Fundraiser in 2023. Getty Images
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British-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili is raising money for Gaza via online screenings of his recent tour, Good Times.

Forced to cancel a show on the tour due to security concerns after calling for a ceasefire in the conflict, Djalili is encouraging fans to donate to a Choose Love appeal aiming to raise £800,000 ($1,016,000) to help people trapped in Gaza.

Djalili, 58, who has appeared in several movies including Gladiator, The Mummy and Notting Hill, was forced to stream the show online as Netflix turned it down.

He said Netflix felt he was not relevant but that should not be the case given the current situation in Gaza. He said the streaming network aims to appeal to “everyone” but is failing.

“[They say] ‘we’re trying to get everyone’ and yet I don’t see hardly anybody who is Middle Eastern, Iranian. They don’t give us a voice.

“I’m very strong about this because I don’t think they’ve got it right. I think the mainstream does want to know, they do want to hear it.”

The show, which was filmed at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London in December, is available for four days from Wednesday to mark Persian New Year.

In a post on X, the comedian said he was raising money for the “remarkable charity” helping thousands of refugees in Gaza.

“Do please donate when getting a ticket,” he added.

The appeal has so far raised more than £685,000.

The son of Iranian parents, Djalili was born and raised in the UK, but his heritage remains important to his identity. He is a vocal supporter of female protesters in Iran, whom he has described as “bringing down the patriarchy”.

In the early days of the Israel-Gaza war, in late October, Djalili cancelled a show after receiving “increased personal threats” for posting an appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire on X, formerly Twitter.

“I just thought, 'do you know what? Enough people have died already,'” he said.

That was considered, by some, as the “equivalent to supporting Hamas. Some people said, ‘Omid, we love you, but we’re coming to the theatre to educate you.’”

But he is not shying away from the topic, and plans to address it during his next tour, called Namaste.

He concedes it will be “tricky”, adding, “but I am of an age where I have ceased to care”.

He told the newspaper: “We’re not going to do the whole show about Israel-Palestine but I don’t skirt around it. There’s a good 20-minute section about it. Not jokes – material. I have boundaries where I don’t make fun of people’s suffering.

“I’ve heard some terrible jokes about Israel-Palestine. It can only come from a place of pure Palestinian hatred and pure anti-Semitism,” he says. “You see these movements within Israel – Jewish mothers and Palestinian mothers working together. Why is it always extremism that comes in to mess things up?”

At a demonstration in London in support of the protests in Iran, he told the audience: “We are changing the axis of the world. This is why the men are joining the women of Iran, because together we know that the patriarchy hurts people.”

Updated: March 20, 2024, 10:43 AM