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Edinburgh Review: Simon Amstell

Monday, August 17 2009

Simon Amstell lays bare his private demons in a show that is impressively candid but less funny than previous offerings, says Jay Richardson.

From self-deifying arrogance to morbid vulnerability, advocating consequence-free sex to desperately cuddling himself after masturbation, Simon Amstell’s stand-up explores some emotional extremes, yet the disparity between his confident onscreen persona and his tortured private life couldn’t be more marked.

Neurotic to an almost philosophical degree, he ‘wills’ a series of Jared Leto-a-likes into his life, including the Requiem For A Dream actor himself, yet each time blows the courtship through faint heart or coming on too strong.

Inspired by a more sexually successful friend, he manages to live in the moment of realised fantasy, yet still yearns for the reassuring, work-a-day reality of a relationship. Acidly funny on subjects like bulimia and prepared to portray himself as slightly predatory in his dating of a younger man, Amstell’s honesty is engaging and it’s worth remarking that he’s one of relatively few gay stand-ups to relate his sex life so openly and matter-of-factly.

Nevertheless, I didn’t find this show quite as funny as previous Amstell offerings, even if it perhaps showed more ambition and bodes well for the future. In his closing anecdote, he switches focus to his family and reaches a conclusion about acceptance that, while slightly trite, suggests he may be closer to reconciling his inner turmoil with the more extrovert elements of his wit.

Three stars

Simon Amstell: Do Nothing is on until August 30 at 8.40pm at the Bongo Club. Click here for tickets.


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