The best £1,546 I ever spent


Travel back from corporate gig in Edinburgh. Airport security guard gets excited to have picture taken with me and says, "It's for my mum. She's a big fan." I say that people always seem to want a picture or an autograph for someone else, and if it's really for him it's no shame to admit he's a fan. "I'm not," he says.


Spend most of the day trying to write material for my tour. Writing stand-up comedy is a bit like sifting for gold. Write an hour of material and you're lucky if five minutes of it is usable. I ruminate on the idea that even Osama Bin Laden, who died by the sword and was responsible for the deaths of so many, deserved justice. Crux of the routine is that I would like to have seen him on trial.

I write a routine and, in the evening, I try it out at a comedy club. Questions I ask Bin Laden on trial vary from "What did you hope to achieve with your pseudo-Islamofascistic terrorist aims?" to "How do you keep a cave tidy? And does dusting make any difference?"

Routine is met with such deafening silence that an audience member is clearly heard saying, "This is imbecilic." Someone asks for an autograph. "Is it for you?" "No, it's for my blind son." Post-it note goes up on wall: "Binny routine binned."


Comedy club in Ruislip. Audience has been promised and is thus expecting a "well-known comedian" but is not aware of who it's going to be. Some hope it's Jimmy Carr. Many hope it's Russell Howard. The novel way I'm introduced has an audience member come backstage to meet me and then walk on to the stage to introduce me. A lady called Susan sees me, seems happy to meet me and allays all my fears about whether she knows my name or not by saying, "Please will you welcome Omid Djalili."

Crowd seems happy. First few jokes go well but soon I'm struggling. Some of the audience stay behind to take pictures with me. "You were very funny tonight." Taken aback, I say, "Really?" He says, "No." Sadly, the biggest laugh of the night.


I'm nervous, as I have a speaking engagement today at the House of Commons. I'm the final speaker on a panel of five about human rights abuses in Iran, with a special focus on the seven Baha'i leaders held in prison since 2008. The meeting marks the end of their third year in incarceration.
Sensing the crowd could do with a joke to lighten the mood, I open with the tried-and-tested, "As a comic, you only play the House of Commons twice in your career: once on the way up, once on the way down. It's good to be back" - but it gets nothing. My talk focuses on the absurdity of people who are not criminals and are no threat to society at all being held in prison. Adherents of the Baha'i faith work for the community with peaceful aims. Someone asks for a photograph. It's not for her, she says, but for her village in Eritrea. "I have fans in Eritrea?" I'm informed that the film Mean Machine has a following there.


Go for a swim and a steam. Ruin it all with a heavy lunch with a friend at the wonderful Turkish restaurant Tas in Waterloo. In the evening, I go to see another Iranian comedian, Maz Jobrani, do a corporate gig at the Four Seasons. Comedy flourishes when an audience is settled, listening and ready to laugh. He goes onstage with none of these elements in place but is somehow able to get the audience focused and deals with the mixed crowd admirably.

When he has finished, I'm told that my car has been clamped. I've parked legitimately outside the hotel but the county court van has spotted my car, and its sophisticated equipment has beeped to indicate that I've not paid for two parking tickets. They want £1,546 to unclamp my car. It's midnight and there's much toing and froing with my bank, which won't authorise the payment. I remonstrate calmly that it's a bit steep to pay so much for two tickets totalling £120.

Bailiff is remarkably affable. Eventually, it's all paid for and my car is unclamped. Bailiff then asks for a photograph. "For your wife, is it?" I ask. "No," he says, "it's for me. You're my all-time favourite comedian. When I saw the name come up on the computer, I got a massive rush. Can't believe it's you. I'll cherish this photo of us for ever, mate." A real fan, finally. I feel good. £1,546 well spent, I think. l