Simon Amstell Review

Review of Simon Amstell’s stand up show ‘To Be Free’ in Sheffield.

Daniel Simonson from Norway opened up tonight. Eagle-eyed audience members might know him as Bob’s son, Erik from the BBC sitcom House of Fools, but for most of us he simply provided a very funny, almost deadpan, start to the evening. Comedy gig support spots on a can be hard work, but the half hour or so from Daniel emphasised why he’s been tipped for big things.

Simon Amstell is best known for briefly hosting Never Mind the Buzzcocks, making it much more watchable, but for me his greatest TV moment was the sitcom Grandma’s House, which he wrote and starred in as a thinly-veiled version of himself. Tonight he did what the best stand-ups do, he took us into his world, and made us see it through his eyes. Don’t be put off by his angst-ridden persona, and self obsession; it was very a funny show. He talked about his misjudged attempt at humour on Radio 1 on the morning Nelson Mandela died, and had a really incisive view on how the Queen must see herself. He is naturally concerned about how much denial she must be in when people treat her as being someone so special, when deep down she must know she’s just like the rest of us. He went on to tell us of his growing acceptance that he’s never going to be happy, having once convinced himself that when he was eventually successful, he finally would be. Outwardly, he’s now a big hit. He’s in the middle of a sell-out tour, having just returned from a well received New York residency, so he really has made it. But when people contact him on Twitter, to ask when his show will finish, so they can book a babysitter, he can’t get away from feeling ordinary again. His tour is called To Be Free, and his mixture of having the entire audience in fits of laughter whilst maintaining a self-lacerating approach to life is a liberating experience. He found himself spending three nights meditating in Sri Lanka last year. As he says, confessions like that perhaps explain why he’s not currently playing the O2 arena. Which may be true, but Simon Amstell provides intelligent, though-provoking comedy and this was a hugely enjoyable night.

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