We need positivity and laughter — and viewers got plenty of both during a recent episode of BahaiTeachings Live. U.K.-based actor and stand-up comedian Omid Djalili and Toronto-based “wannabe comedian” Shahin Sobhani joined host Liz Dwyer for “Humor in the Age of a Pandemic,” a conversation about the role of comedy in difficult times.
Omid, who has starred in films such as the Oscar-nominated “Shaun the Sheep” and the Oscar-winning movie “Gladiator,” shared that when stay-at-home orders were announced in the U.K., he and his family made intentional choices about the words they use. “Instead of ‘lockdown,’ we wanted to use the word ‘staying safe’, instead of ‘quarantine’, we’d use the word ‘time to reflect,’” he said.
Omid also shared how he got started in comedy and why, given the Baha’i teachings about racial unity and justice, he’s partnering with Public Health England to raise awareness about the spread of COVID-19 in communities of color.
Shahin, who is the executive producer of the upcoming film “Guidance,” talked about the importance of hope. “We will come out of this,” Shahin said. “There’s no doubt about that. The question is: Will we come out of it understanding that we are one human family and are very interdependent? This is our chance. This is our moment in this generation to do that, and I have tremendous hope that we will do that.”
One viewer asked how they can reconcile staying positive and happy while so many people are suffering. “It’s not about forgetting about that,” Omid said. “it’s actually [about] being driven by that.”
Indeed, Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
“Laughter is caused by the slackening or relaxation of the nerves. It is an ideal condition and not physical. Laughter is the visible effect of an invisible cause. For example, happiness and misery are super-sensuous phenomena. One cannot hear them with the ears or touch them with his hands. Happiness is a spiritual state.”
“When Abdu’l-Baha says ‘happiness is a spiritual state,’ I think this is beautiful because it reminds us that humor is left to us as a species as human beings, and if we can get to that spiritual state, it helps us…I used humor to protect myself [from religious prejudice] when I was 5-years-old in Iran,” Shahin explained.
As you can see in the above video, Omid also talked about whether there are any topics he avoids joking about, and he performed a special dance in response to a viewer’s request. Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Tara Ellis kept the good vibes flowing by closing the episode with a musical performance.