Simon Amstell: Numb
Raw, moving narrative from the despairing comedian-cum-poet
This article is from 2012.
'It’s all about rules,' Amstell tells us urgently, as if his life depends on it, continuing an anecdote on why he had opted for the particularly joyless route of becoming a vegan. 'We need rules. Living with other people imposes those rules. Otherwise you just wake up and then … it’s dark.'
This bleakly funny reference to depression is representative of Numb, a subtitle he explains pithily at the outset of his show as a word encapsulating his ever-present feeling of disconnectedness, of always remaining an outsider whatever his external success.
Amstell tackles a variety of off-limits-topics, interspersing his flowing, masterful narrative on the injustices of the world, and his feeling of malaise within it, with a second strand composed of his personal, anecdotal voice. This enables him to deal even with tangents in a way that is never self-indulgent and always gets him back to the main thread.
This is not a young, hip comedian trying to be young and hip (although he’d probably like that); but rather a modern man who feels the pain of the world so intensely you can see it gleaming behind his thick-rimmed spectacles.
This hopelessly hopeful approach injects new life into otherwise hackneyed comedy tropes, notably his difficult relationship with his father (‘I mean, he provided the sperm, so in a way, spot on. Done your job. Good man’) and a recent break-up (‘My washing machine broke in the same week. Dad fixed it. That’s all he did’). His biting commentary on our (lack of) relationship to the past, and his heart-breakingly idealistic desire for the world makes for comedy which rings true in every despairing sentence.
Bongo Club, 226 0000, until 27 Aug, 8.30pm, £16.50 (£15).