By S Mulvihill
On a dull, dreich night in the farthest corner of the Pleasance Courtyard Simon Amstell invites his audience to a preview of the two man show he is taking on tour. Though there is only one name on the bill it is a two man routine as Amstell is joined by his equally independent ego and we watch them both battle during this hour of stand up that feels half as long, if that.
The tour is to be called ‘To Be Free’ and Simon Amstell ekes every possible connotation from that title possible. Freedom from social norms, freedom from oneself, freedom from expectation. Born from the desire to be loved, Amstell does his best to gain affection from everyone present, despite considering himself above us all at the same time. Strangely, though, in this stand up routine still in the making the audience finds itself able, determinedly willing even, to forgive his god complex as it is so mired in humility. During the show Amstell’s wit peaks as it highlights the absurdity and hypocrisy of day to day life, whether it be a BBC breakfast show or his lifestyle choices as a vegan. At times the jokes cut pretty close to the quick, which could make for his audience feeling uncomfortable, but his manner of delivery, his logic and his charm never allow for the crowd to feel anything but safe in his hands. There are moments, as in any good comedy routine, that feel like Amstell is dodging the need for a therapist by exploring his inhibitions and neurosis in front of an audience, but he is so completely in control of proceedings that no one can do anything but laugh helplessly exactly when he wants them to.
This show is, however, a work in progress. Amstell keeps a notebook on a stool at the side of the stage which he refers to whenever a joke goes down particularly well (or badly). There are times some of the punchlines fall flat and the narrative loses its flow. This being said, however, he quickly recovers each time, even making a joke of it, and the highlight of the night comes from when he strays from his script to speak to the crowd, giving us a song from “Little Shop Of Horrors” with an exceptional impression of Rick Moranis. Though slightly disjointed in its current format there is a touch of brilliance to this show and, if tonight is anything to go by, the tour will be something fantastic to see for all fans of stand up comedy (though I’m still wondering why a vegan would be eating croissant).
On until 12th August