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Simon Amstell: Numb
The award-winning comedian, actor/screenwriter and presenter returns with a brand new stand-up tour for 2012.
Intensely vulnerable and painfully honest, Amstell attempts again to heal himself in public, following 2009's critically acclaimed Do Nothing.
Simon Amstell: Numb
In the real world, Simon Amstell doesn’t function all that well, with almost every human encounter defined by toe-curling awkwardness. But on stage, he has an emotional honesty, beautifully articulated, which gives him an endearing vulnerability that would warm a heart of granite.
In Numb, he returns to his familiar feelings of loneliness, depression and his disconnection from the rest of society, a living embodiment of the tortured clown – smart and funny on the telly but at home facing endless days of nothingness, with only his cat for company. Such is the lot of the brooding, misunderstood poet he considers himself to be.
As compelling as this angst is, his dates at the Melbourne comedy festival, coming in the run-up to a UK tour, have something of a ‘work-in-progress’ feel to them. They are a series of stand-up routines linked only by his anxious insecurities, but no coherent beginning, middle, or end.
The frustratingly fragmented style means that, for example, although much of the hour is about his abject solitude, mentions of an unexplained boyfriend start popping up towards the end, while he concludes that finding joy might be the meaning of life, his angsty existence (and indeed comedy) is far from joyous, even if it is truthful.
He baffles the audience when he leaps into an anecdote about some weird, hallucinogenic new-agey Peruvian jungle therapy without any of the explanation the extreme situation demands. It’s a rather odd section in any case, intent on conveying an otherworldly magical realism, but coming across as a friend telling you about a bizarre dream they had.
Despite the structural flaws, the insightful personal philosophies, densely packed into the hour, will stay with you, whether it be on the ways people stave off the emptiness of existence or simply the gender stereotypes we assign to babies before they are even born.
In his typically confessional navel-gazing, Amstell concludes that his personal enforced solitude comes from his attraction to the trendy but humourless, the irony-free Shoreditch Nathan Barleys who are immune to his conversational superpowers of being ‘funny and shy’ – and even the magic tricks he learned as a child loner. But despite such emotional blocks, there is an unsure optimism that somehow this confusing life might, against all odds, turn out OK.
The same could be said of the show. Just a small magical catalyst could make the wryly funny commentary, inventive thoughts and intense soul-searching amount to a truly brilliant, well-constructed show – but until then, its absence is very noticeable. Fingers crossed it’s discovered before the UK run.
Nonetheless, the combination of Amstell’s frankness and delicate charisma means that even though he makes no effort to directly engage with the audience, he still hold us transfixed.
|Date of live review: Sunday 15th Apr, '12|
Review by Steve Bennett
Good. Really good.
Saw this show last week and it was my first time seeing Simon live. I bought Do Nothing on DVD and enjoyed that. It seems so painfully honest that although I was laughing part of me wanted to ask if he was alright and give him a hug. Very funny and I will definitely go and see him again if I get the chance. The only disappointment was that it seemed very short, it went by so fast that it felt about 20 minutes long when it was really just under an hour.
Saw this last night in Sydney and this review is spot on. While I would give it more stars for being so funny, it is a bit disjointed, but that doesn't matter if you're laughing 90% of the time.
Simon Amstell 2008 tour
A Seriously Funny Attempt To Get The SFO in The Dock
Brighton Comedy Festival: Best Of The Fest
Simon Amstell: No Self
Stand Up For Animals
Simon Amstell: Do Nothing
Stand Up For Freedom 
Simon Amstell: Montreal 2009