Stephen K Amos – The Spokesman [FringeTIX]
Stephen K Amos @ The Gov
8:00pm, Tue 12 Feb 2013
ff2013 kicks off early with a new, earlier, pre-week – which I’m half-tempted to call pre-pre-week – but that’s essentially useless nomenclature, since very few people use the grammatically-poor phrase “pre-week” in the first place. Nevertheless, with a projected thirty-four days of Festivities this year, kicking off on a Tuesday night when I have to go to work the next day feels… well, daunting.
But a mid-week Fringe comedy gig – before the Fringe has officially started – obviously appeals to someone, because The Gov was pretty bloody chockers. Indeed, I got the impression from staff that the show was sold out – and whilst it wasn’t standing room only, there was barely a spare seat to be seen. As the house lights dropped, Amos’s unmistakeable voice came on from backstage, and he cajoled the audience into cheering for his Close Friend.
Now, I’d previously seen another of Amos’ “close friends”, The Prince, back in 2007. This time, however, Amos was introducing Adam Rozenbachs, who blasted through a ten- or fifteen-minute set. Rozenbachs delivers solid situational humour (with the exception of a slightly uncomfortable tirade targeting Matthew Newton); there’s some good jokes in there, but I’m not sure he could structure an hour-long set. I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing his work in an ensemble show, though.
After a quick booze break, Amos takes to the stage – and I was half-surprised, and half-wary, to see him carrying a clipboard when he arrived. After all, he did the same thing during last year’s show – and (again) announced that he was trialling new material for the show, complete with joyous ticking and grumpy crossing of jokes on the clipboard. But it really did feel like he was performing much of the act directly from his script on the clipboard… and that made me feel like a bit of a guinea pig for his new material.
But in Amos’ case, that’s fine – because he has more than enough raw comedic talent to carry the performance. After some introductory I’ve-got-a-massive-cock banter, he leapt into an occasionally uneven cluster of jokes surrounding the recent British horse-meat scandal. He quizzes the audience for strange phobias – one woman completely failed to explain her fear of scabs, a girl directly behind me said she was afraid of “touching my neck” (Amos cackled with glee at the mis-heard “touching myself”), and there was a token midget-phobia; these fears (as well as Cory the Grocery Manager) were constant callbacks through the rest of his set. He also asked the audience – with (retrospectively) cunning innocence – who was afraid of public speaking; the front-row woman (with the unfortunately billowy dress) got to face her fear at the end of the show, reading Amos’ prepared statement apologising for much of his prior material (in another litany of callbacks).
Some chunks of the show are most definitely rusty – there’s some short jokes that noticeably don’t fit in, with only tenuous connections to the rest of the material, and some of the local references feel like real throwaways – you know the sort of thing: namedropping Gillard and Abbott, and slipping in a derogatory reference to Salisbury. But his delivery is so good (his rubbery faced antics, his storytelling style) and his laughter is so infectious (his utter joy at finding something gut-bustingly bizarre in an audience interaction is great to behold) that it’s hard to hold anything against him. Hell, he even called-back to Rozenbachs’ melon jokes.
The Spokesman is (as Amos tells it) a response to the call for him to be a spokesperson for homosexuality (after he publicly talked about his own sexuality in a 2006 Edinburgh show); this is the first time I’d heard him mention it in Adelaide. And, in closing the show, he dedicated the performance – and his ongoing efforts to show others how to Find the Funny – to the memory of a British lad who recently committed suicide after being bullied because he might be gay; it’s a well-meaning dedication, to be sure, but it was a bit deflating for the end of the show.
I first saw Stephen K Amos completely by accident nine years ago – nine! – and he was astoundingly brilliant at the time. Since then, the talent hasn’t faded, but it feels like the polish of his performances has been tarnished somewhat – but (tonight, certainly) that could be my fault for seeing him so early in the season (or on opening night of a new show). But make no mistake: a Stephen K Amos gig will still have you laughing a lot… because no matter how undercooked the material may be, the delivery is nothing less than brilliant.