I had heard of Simon Amstell because I had seen episodes of Nevermind the Buzzcocks, but I didn’t know he did standup until I saw that he was coming to Theatre 80 here in New York City with his new show, Numb. I didn’t know if he was any good, but seeing as if there’s one thing I love more than comedy, it’s British comedy, I thought it was the perfect gamble for my birthday entertainment.
Simon greeted a sold-out house and began his tales of loneliness, which turned out to be shockingly funny. I remember going home on the subway and thinking there was something wrong with the nerves in my cheeks because they hurt so much, and then I realized they were just sore from laughing for a solid hour. Nothing Simon said wasn’t funny.
But poignant, too. What works about Simon’s act is that it’s very personal (he talks about a breakup and the relationship with his father), and there’s a lot of contemplation about emotions that audience members can relate to. He talks about how he feels his personality is temporary while he waits for the good one to develop. He analyzes all the silly things we do by pretending to be from the future and mocking our present with “Remember when people used to drink milk from other animals? What, did they look at a calf drinking from a cow’s utter and think ‘that’s for me’?”
He also points out that he doesn’t do drugs, and then proceeds to tell three stories of times when he did: sucking helium at a party (“I don’t do drugs, but I will if they come in balloons”), doing magic mushrooms (“I don’t do drugs, but I will if they have magic”), and the time he went on a retreat to a rainforest and drank some kind of healing water that made him hallucinate that he was a cat. Now, it was this part of the show, where I get lost. Don’t get me wrong–it was historical–but it definitely was not a “you know when,” moment because it would have been a “ya know when you’re in the rainforest with a bunch of strangers and your guide gives you some magic healing water and you turn into a cat and have a sexual experience with the soul of one of the strangers who has also turned into a cat?” Not really, no, but you’ve got my attention now.
Probably the funniest line, and the line with the longest pause for the laughter to stop (spoilers ahead) was when his temperamental father comes over to fix Simon’s washer and he does it without any emotional rift. Simon asked, “You were so calm, how did you do that?” and his father said, “Last month, I cut out wheat.”
All in all, an extremely good show, one of the most consistently funny ones I’ve ever seen. The show is available as a DVD called Simon Amstell Live at the BBC, which comes as region 2/PAL. Highly recommended.
Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd. She lives and works in NYC. Follow her on Twitter.
Originally posted Nov. 23, 2012