OMID Djalili famously lays claim to being Iran's number one comedian.

Truth be told, he's in fact one of the hottest new acts on our screens today (of any nationality!).

The British-Iranian comic has critics waiting in line to pour praise over him and currently holds the box office record at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

His Saturday night BBC TV show broadcast over six weeks last November was also hailed a runaway success.

Perhaps not what you'd expect for a comedian who sends up Osama Bin Laden and cracks jokes about suicide bombers.

"I tend to talk about serious subjects, terrorism, politics and life as a second-generation British/Iranian, because I'm interested in them, not because I'm trying to be controversial," said Omid.

"I think the reason why it works is because people know I'm not preaching. I don't take myself too seriously. A lot of people think political comedy has to be aggressive, but I treat these big subjects lightly because at the end of the day people want to be entertained.

"The truth is that I'm just not particularly good at Peter Kay-style comedy, talking about ordinary things. I've tried it but I'm not particularly strong at doing that."

Of course, not everyone "gets" his act immediately, and when news slipped out that an Iranian comic was getting his own BBC TV show (with licence payers money!) some of the more right-wing newspapers went berserk.

"You realise when you go into mainstream how prejudiced some people still are," said Omid.

"But when the Observer was saying 'How can you give a known fundamentalist his own TV show?' I wasn't upset because part of the reaction involved people finding out about me, which is good."

Indeed, the BBC described him as "The stand-up whose name you might not recognise, but whose face will get you Googling quicker than Britney's latest attempt to get out of a car."

If Omid's face looks familiar, it may be because that as well as comedy, he has an interesting side-line: minor roles in Hollywood blockbusters.

Film credits include The Mummy, Gladiator, Mean Machine, Alien Autopsy, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Pirates of the Caribbean III.He also recently picked up an international film award for Best Supporting Actor in Casanova.

He even refers to himself as the "perfect ethnic everyman bit-part specialist".

But he said he'd never turn his back on stand-up to concentrate on building his movie career.

"Stand-up comedy and movies are two very separate worlds and they don't inter-mingle. Ridley Scott and people like that have no idea there's a comedy circuit.

"The movie world is an interesting one to flit in and out of but I would never abandon stand-up to concentrate on films - it makes me appreciate comedy more if anything. You ask any actor what their favourite bit of a play is and they'll tell you it was when one of their lines had the whole theatre laughing. With stand-up you're doing that every night for two hours - you can't beat that feeling."

And besides, being a stand-up helps him survive the notoriously tough world of film.

"Being a comedian makes you quite brave and it gives you a thick skin," Omid explained.

"When they tell you 'That's crap' you think 'OK I'll do something else'. Some actors don't take criticism so well - they have to go and re-evaluact their lives if someone tells them they've done something rubbish."

Omid is looking forward to playing The Lowry, and is expecting to see lots of friendly faces in the audience.

"I've got some great friends in Manchester and I hope my friends in Preston and at Lancaster University come to see me too. I've been called an honorary Manc before now, because I love Manchester so much.

"Last time I was here I did an Alex Ferguson impression that got a really good response, but strangely only in Manchester. It was so well received I tried it in other places on my tour but it only got a lukewarm reaction. Maybe I'll do it again."

See Omid Djalili at The Lowry, Salford, tonight, April 11 and tomorrow, Saturday, April 12. For tickets call 0870 787 5780.