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Review: Simon Amstell, Numb, Grand Opera House, York
REMEMBER Simon Amstell, the cheeky, wiry-haired T4 presenter? How about Simon Amstell, the host of Never Mind The Buzzcocks, whose insults were as sharp as his cheekbones?
Well, forget them both, because Simon Amstell has been in therapy, and the result is a dark, introspective, brutally bleak and very funny upgrade.
It’s a 60-minute set, which occasionally feels longer, but is well timed and rehearsed. So confident is Amstell with the material about anxiety and social awkwardness, interruptions by audience mobiles and flash photography fail to slow him down.
For a show in which Amstell laments a lack of connection with “joyless trendies in Shoreditch”, or, indeed, anyone, part of the gag is that the majority of punchlines for the first half of the set see him praise his own talent – it’s a fact he alludes to when discussing the inherent selfishness of humankind while admitting the only way he can deal with people is raised and lit on a stage in front of them.
Although some of the subject matter is bleak (for example, he notes: “If you live alone and don’t make plans, here’s what happens – you wake up, and it just gets darker”), the old rule Tragedy + Time = Comedy rings true, and even as Amstell talks about a strained relationship with his father, or his split with a recent boyfriend, the laughs are there. Ending with a discussion about shamanistic healing therapy in Peru, it all goes a bit Bill Hicks, before an abrupt ending on a flat joke, but it’s refreshing to see an intelligent act which doesn’t rely on easy bits or routines and challenges an audience to think long after the show ends.