Stephen K Amos: The Spokesman | Review by Steve Bennett

Stephen K Amos: The Spokesman

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Stephen K Amos has discovered the secret of success. He’s been coming for Melbourne for maybe eight years, storming it in increasingly large venues every time. And how does he get the big laughs? By mentioning another town, pulling what can only – if offensively – be described as a ‘mong’ face, and smashing himself in with the microphone as he demonstrates just how stupid and backwards those people from a different place are. The idiots.

It works for Adelaide; it works for Darwin; it works for individuals who he doesn’t much like, too... so the technique gets quite a few run-outs, like it’s his catchphrase. That or saying an incredulous ‘fuck off!’ And if the face-pulling is in dubious taste, wait until you hear the comedy Thai accent he later employs, and then has to seek the audience’s reassurance that it’s not ‘a bit racist’. (It is)

As well as the old tricks, there are also a few older routines in here, too, not that it really seems to matter to the audience. Some actively encourage it in a kind-of encore when he jukeboxes his own back catalogue on request; while for others it will be new anyway. Amos took a straw poll and found the vast majority of people in the Atheneum Theatre had never seen one of his live performances before. But this is a new show, and we get to it eventually.

Among the fresher material is an anecdote about his phobia of water; how he hates the idea of swimming in the sea as there’s no safety rail to hang on to. The analogy with his comedy is obvious.

Perhaps he needs a reliable prop; as for all his experience, and exemplary crowd work – warm and enthusiastic as he gently ribs those in his sights – he can occasionally misstep, as evidenced tonight with some off-colour gags about Rolf Harris that the audience bristled against. That’s clearly not what they’ve come to expect from the effusively charming Amos.

But largely he delivers exactly what they want, as he very loosely explores the theme of this show: that he’s no fit person to be a spokesman for any cause, or a role model for anyone. The content encompasses the faceless mouthpieces who make corporate apologies for cock-ups like the horsemeat-in-lasganes fiasco; some fairly obvious gags about Jesus, ‘the original spokesman for God’ (well, if we ignore the Old Testament) and then on to his own failings.

The thought process was sparked when Amos reluctantly found himself being asked to comment on all sorts of gay issues, since coming out in his 2006 Edinburgh show. It’s not a subject he ever particularly dwells on, but as in all his anecdotes he reveals enough about himself to draw out the funny - no more or no less. Even his age remains a mystery when he claims to be 37, but no one believes him.

Indeed there are some very witty anecdotes here, especially his run-in with a stern woman in an off-licence (he can’t bring himself to say the Australian equivalent ‘bottle shop’ without mocking it) – and, as always, his warm, gregarious manner elevates even the most everyday of routines, let alone the good ones. The phobias seam encourages the audience interaction with which he excels, as he addresses such weird fears as ‘eggshells’.

It’s an hour (well, more like 80 minutes) of charismatic bonhomie and affectionate mockery, with some great routines, but also a fair bit of padding. If it’s not advancing the artform of comedy, well Amos was never a spokesman for that, but neither is it a constant peak of straightforward stand-up of which there’s the ever-present hope he is capable of producing. But ‘solid stuff, with moments of hilarity,’ a spokesman for Chortle said.

Review date: 3 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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