Simon Amstell ‘No Self’, Edinburgh Festival Fringe review

Simon Amstell got great reviews at last years Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so when tickets went on sale this year The Edinburgh Blog snapped them up for his first preview show (as part of the Festival Fringe buy one get one free offer). I didn’t, and still don’t, know much about Simon Amstell, although I did see a few funny clips of him hosting Never Mind the Buzzcocks on YouTube; coupled with a few memories of Simon Amstell the Channel 4 Popworld presenter. Although I always preferred the female co-host: Miquita Oliver I think.

Simon Amstell 'No Self' show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007 (including badge)

Simon Amstell’s show this year is entitled ‘No Self’. The content loosely revolves around Simon’s personal life and the ideology that we are all equal. Simon Amstell takes this to mean he is God; that we are all God - apart from the person on the front row who is an ‘evidently inferior God”. He enters the stage asking for the audience to pretend he had delivered a great opening joke, to which a member of the largely inebriated audience (it is just past 10.30 in the evening) yells out “Preston”. A reference to the singer and ex-husband (not sure if the divorce has gone through, but doesn’t interest me enough to Google it) of the Big Brother housemate, Chantelle. Preston stormed off the Simon Amstell hosted ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’ TV programme, after one too many taunts. Amstell obviously did not want his show to revolve around this kind of celebrity reference, so while hitting back with a quick quip - ‘Not that I’m saying I told you so…” - he did not make too much comedy capital out of it. A few of the drunken audience members did continue to interrupt the show a little, with a girl on the front row singing “everything about you is so sexy” to the host, while another older couple stumbled out of the Pleasance One Venue (Simon Amstell now plays to a big crowd) saying they needed a p*** and shouting a final ‘Goodnight’ to our comedian. Charming.

The first thirty minutes of the show were well constructed and I learnt that Simon Amstell was Jewish and gay. Probably common knowledge to most of you, but I haven’t followed his career too closely, so it was new information for me. And so his religion and sexuality played a part in numerous well constructed jokes. Simon Amstell’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe show is delivered with many of his obvious personality traits, such as intellect (he states how one of the jokes was researched on Wikipedia), sharp observation and a clear vision that nothing is taboo (those seeing the show will know what to associate with clowns).

Ending the show with tales about the tsunami that hit parts of Asia might have been a high risk strategy for some comedians, but Simon alluded to the fact that a reasonable time period had passed, so it was acceptable. Maybe. But he gets away with it, using quick turns of direction and turning the tale back to hooks left earlier in his set.

After the first thirty minutes Simon frequently looked at his watch and struggled to remember where he was up to in his set. He coped with this reasonably well e.g. putting his finger in the air, like he was experiencing a Eureka moment. Although it often took a few fingers before we got back on track. This was the first night of Simon Amstell’s ‘No Self’ show and it was only a preview. So these issues should easily resolve themselves after a few days.

Amstell asked the audience if his finishing joke was a suitable ending point for the show and left the stage; probably content with the good audience reaction, but knowledgeable that continuity must be improved for the shows full fare paying guests. On the way out I was handed a Simon Amstell badge (pictured above). In today’s society it struck me as a strange marketing ploy, but c’est la vie.

Despite a dislocated second half start to the show I did enjoy seeing Simon Amstell do stand-up. He’s a thoughtful, well constructed comedian who will deliver countless themed jokes, some intricate, packed with plentiful laughs. However he’s not a comedian who will deliver constant side splitting laughter. But that’s not what (rightly) he’s about.

Simon Amstell is performing at Edinburgh’s Pleasance Courtyard venue, in the main Number One Venue. His show is entitled ‘No Self’: the official Edinburgh Festival Fringe website is reporting no ticket availability, but the Pleasance Courtyard website does have some tickets available.

If asked to give a rating out of five The Edinburgh Blog would give four.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Reviews coming soon from The Edinburgh Blog: Mark Watson, Fuerzabruta and Lucy Porter.

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