Simon Amstell – Original Review | Review by Steve Bennett

Simon Amstell – Original Review

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Simon Amstell seems to be doing his career in the wrong order. He’s already an accomplished star on TV, where he’s a sarcastic natural, but, to his credit, he also wants to prove he can cut it as a heavyweight stand-up.

He’s on the verge of cracking it, too. About five years into his live career, you’d identify him as a future star, even if it wasn’t for Buzzcocks and Popworld. That fame gives him a star-struck audience he doesn’t always want – and in turn he gives them a brand of bleak, misanthropic comedy they probably don’t want, either. But he’s proving increasingly adept at squaring that circle.

His set is honest, intelligent, self-analytical and sometimes profound stand-up that skilfully weaves together anecdotes from his failed relationships, middle-class eco-angst, and confessional tales of his own lack of empathy.

You might think, from his nihilistic beliefs, that the tone would be miserable, but as plenty of other comics have found before him, there’s great humour in despair. In fact, when all is lost, laughter is the only sensible response.

He doesn’t get bogged down in any of his philosophising, instead using it as a thread to link routines in which he chats, matter-of-factly, about his failings and fraught relationships, whether it be with his ex, his divorced parents or any of their respective subsequent partners. It’s comedy as therapy, but since he can laugh at his flaws, it seems churlish for us not to join in – especially as he’s taken so much trouble to make it funny.

The glibness of his twentysomething generation means there’s gap between the seriousness of the situation and his flippant, ironic response to it, which is where jokes can be planted.

It’s simultaneously challenging and playful, delivered with a self-aware charm and a wonderfully sharp mind - and just a few of those sneery put-downs he’s so good at on telly, just to keep the fans happy. It all points to an intelligent comic who is becoming better almost by the day.

Review date: 1 Oct 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.