Simon Amstell performed at Swansea Grand Theatre on the 9th May as part of his new tour, Numb.
Before the show, a couple of friends had informed me that Simon Amstell live is a very different experience to that of his persona on the comedy panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and closer to how he appears in Grandma’s House; a BBC Two sitcom written by/starring Simon Amstell in a version of himself.
Norwegian comedian Nigel Simonsen is Amstell’s support act and keeps the audience entertained, if slightly bemused, for a fair while before reaching an interval; with anecdotes about housemates, unpleasant jobs (he tells us he used to carry urine for a living), and his profile as the best/only comedian in Norway.
Simon Amstell’s set is based around the tour name: Numb. He explains that this stems predominantly from a constant awareness of his distance from society and an inability to connect with other human beings.
Although this sounds like an unlikely start to a comedy gig, the themes work well, most likely due to Amstell’s knack for articulating a brutal honesty that criticises both himself and the world around him. His observations of gender stereotypes are explained through a personal encounter with a woman at a makeup counter and her refusal to recommend makeup to one of Amstell’s male friends.
“Why is it called guyliner? Or a manbag?” Amstell demands. “We still have eyes and hands!”
His interaction with the audience is one of the highlights. When describing an emotional breakup he spies a couple in the front row.
“Holding hands, kind of rubbing it in a bit aren’t you?” he says to them, making everyone squirm with delighted embarrassment as he stares at them for a bit.
“It won’t last,” he says darkly.
Topics stay centred around relationships and the odd little details. Amstell laments the fact that he might be on better terms with his father if the latter had stopped eating toast when he was a child and avoided the effects of a then-undiagnosed wheat intolerance. A lovely thing about the 32 year-old is that, while most comedians will play off stereotypes that they themselves fit in to: Amstell goes out of his way to dismantle them.
Despite a slightly weak structure- Amstell tends to dart from one anecdote to the next- his insights into the more bizarre traits of society and modern culture keeps the audience on their toes and applauding long after he jogs off-stage.
Amstell was born in east London in 1979, and is a BAFTA nominated, award-winning comedian, television presenter, screenwriter and actor.