Groundbreaking gay sitcom on Dave proves comedy doesn’t need to punch down, says actor Vahid Gold

The Other Half Navid Vahid Gold

When British-Iranian actor Vahid Gold read the script for Dave’s gay comedy pilot sitcom The Other Half, he knew it was different to anything he had read before.

In the pilot, airing on Dave on Tuesday (23 August), Gold plays a young man called Navid who is described as “half-Welsh, half-Iranian and 100 per cent that b***h”.

As a 20-something gay man not out to his family, Navid gets the chance to leave his family home to go to Bristol with his best friend Scarlet (Eve Delaney). He soon embarks on an exciting adventure and tries to straddle the many aspects of his identity.

What immediately drew me to the script was how funny it was,” Gold explains, “when you read comedy scripts, a lot of the time you’ll be like ‘oh, this is really funny,’ but not necessarily laugh out loud. I laughed out loud with this.

“I realised quite quickly that I had never read a script like this. I’ve never read a script where the main protagonist was half-Iranian and half-Welsh and gay. And that was very exciting.”

The Other Half Picture shows: Vahid Gold as Navid and Eve Delaney as Scarlet

Eve Delaney as Scarlet and Vahid Gold as Navid in The Other Half. (James Pardon)

The Other Half is one of four pilots that have been commissioned by UKTV to “shine a spotlight on diverse and emerging talent”. It is written by Kate Reid and Zak Ghazi-Torbati and executive produced by comedian Romesh Ranganathan.

Navid joins a small but growing pool of queer Iranian characters on screen, alongside the likes of Rahim, a gay Iranian man in Disney+ comedy drama Love, Victor.

The Other Half pilot made Gold realise how far the industry has come in a short time, as he says he couldn’t imagine reading something like this even five years ago. 

Reflecting on his experience of Iranian representation on British television, he said: “I don’t remember really ever seeing my culture represented on television. And if I ever did, it was a scene in a film. And then it quickly moved on or it was episode three where they visited a family but it was never the main backdrop to a show.”
Gold, who recently starred in the East Midlands comedy series Newark, Newark is all too familiar with the pitfalls of representation.

“When I get a breakdown of an Iranian character I have an idea of what I’m going to read and how involved that character is going to be with the main storyline. Unfortunately, there are a lot of regular tropes that you see done over and over again,” he explains.

For Gold this is what makes Navid as a character so intriguing. “The fact that he is half-Iranian and gay and half-Welsh is just a backdrop. He’s so much more than that. He’s a 3-D character, and he’s the protagonist,” he explains. 

“And the joke never lands on his heritage or his sexuality. The jokes are the situations he finds himself in or the things that he said. That’s what makes it funny.”

Paul Chahidi as Farhad, Vahid Gold as Navid and Souad Faress as Maman in The Other Half.

Paul Chahidi as Farhad, Vahid Gold as Navid and Souad Faress as Maman in The Other Half. (James Pardon)

As the comedy world tears itself apart over what makes an appropriate joke, with several comedians coming after the transgender community, Gold believes the answer is simple.

“I’ve never punched down,” he states, “and there’s a fine, fine, fine line with comedy. It is so boring when people say: ‘Oh you can’t make jokes about anything anymore,’ because you absolutely can. 

“If a joke is landing in a negative way, or making somebody feel less than for the point of a punchline, that’s just plain and simply wrong. It’s such a lazy way to do comedy.”

So far, Dave has only committed to a pilot, but there is the possibility The Other Half will be expanded into a full series. Gold is eager to see it happen.

“I’d love to see what happens with Navid. I would love to see the scene where he finally comes out to his dad. That would be wonderful. And I’m sure it would go down positively,” he says. 

Speaking about what the audience can expect, Gold says: “There are moments in the episode which are very, very funny. It is joke after joke. But there are a couple of moments that will catch you off guard because you don’t expect them to be so heartfelt.

“I hope people come away from it just a bit more educated, a bit more open to other people’s experience. And I feel like that’s what we all want. We all want to be accepted. We all want to feel like our stories are being told, and we are valid.”
The Other Half airs on Dave channel on Tuesday (23 August) at 10pm and will be available on UKTV Play.