In Sheffield, I was served chicken shish by an Iranian man who was also called Omid Djalili. Bizarre
I'm currently touring the UK with a rehashed version of my 2006 No Agenda show, which is part fulfilling tour obligations, part a chance to road-test ideas for my forthcoming BBC1 TV show. It's been the usual mix of pain and growth, success and failure, but always with moments to take away and learn from. Maybe I'm in a heightened state due to the impending TV show, or maybe I'm simply experiencing a natural progression into proper adulthood, but certain events leave me scratching my head.
For example, the other night in Dartford, I suddenly saw the ridiculousness in what I do. A moment of existential angst arrived, inconveniently mid-act. I normally only get these moments on the toilet, but here it was accompanied by a voice that was partly me, partly my conscience and partly every critic I have ever had throughout my career judging me. "All this spouting is ludicrous," I heard it say. "What a ridiculous little man you really are. Is this any way to make a living? Why are you doing this? Do you think that your words or actions have any bearing on the lives of these good people? They have paid money; they need to be entertained, educated and elevated. All you have is worthless jokes with no point. Culturally significant? You confirm every stereotype! You're showing yourself to be what you really are and what you always will be: fat."
I fight back. "Don't listen to him! He's just jealous - I'm up here and he only writes for the Jewish Chronicle."
Next up was my show at Sheffield City Hall, a huge, 2,000-seat venue. Such grand surroundings did not stop me going, after the show, a hundred yards down the road to a kebab shop called "Cubbys". I was served chicken shish by an Iranian man also called "Omid". Bizarre.
After some banter and him recognising who I was and saying how I was his favourite comedian - though he had no idea I'd just played at the city's largest venue and that there was a poster of me advertising the show just opposite - I found out his surname was also "Djalili"! A student at Sheffield University by day and DJ by night. The first person I have ever met with exactly the same name. This was a big thing for me, as I have met five other Omids but never met a single person with the same surname, it being, by Iranian standards, reasonably unusual. After much hugging, photo-taking and him saying it was the greatest moment of his life (there are very few comedians who hail from our neck of the woods), he promised to hang a photo of me on the wall of the kebab shop and said he felt he had grown spiritually from the experience of meeting me.
This moment of Zen made me decide that for my next show I will, Dave Gorman-like, scour the world for all the other Omid Djalilis in existence, taking in locations from Dumfries to Jakarta. Part travelogue, part journey to the centre of my soul through connecting with others who share the same name, my quest will be spiritual.
I will contemplate the mysteries of the universe, of time and of quantum mechanics. I will ruminate on my mortality, on the ultimate beauty and absurdity of life, and contemplate the kindness of simple village folk. The plan, of course, all hinges on this other Omid Djalili bloke in Sheffield not being a wind-up. The proof will be in the pudding. Which is to say, if there's no picture of me up on that kebab shop wall I'm jacking the whole idea in.
At present I'm using my three days off touring being very ill with a chest infection. Drifting in and out of consciousness, I ended up watching a TV programme last night about feral children in Ukraine. Fourteen-year-olds raised in the wild and scampering around like dogs pretty much capped off a depressing weekend.
More at http://www.omidnoagenda.com. Julian Clary is away