Monday, January 31, 2011

Amos-ing Grace - Stephen K. Amos review

Stephen K. Amos at Arlington Arts, on Saturday, January 15

I TOLD you last week what a nice man Stephen K. Amos was, and at his comedy show at Arlington on Friday he proved it to the max. While he relies heavily on audience interaction he went out of his way to make sure that no one felt uncomfortable, and promised to return to do a fundraising gig for Mary Hare School, to which sixthformers would be invited.

His current show show, The Best Medicine, would certainly be spot-on for a young crowd, as much of it is based around his genuine childhood diary, proving that Amos had a witty turn of words even aged 12, despite the fact that at the time he was deadly serious about his major life traumas, such as his mum buying him cheap “Abibas” trainers.

As it happened, the front row was chock full of young people, which proved the perfect conversation point as Amos compared his own childhood and adolescence with that of the youth today, pausing to explain terms which they may not recognise, such as “chalk” and “mining”.

Like Lenny Henry, performing his own preview shows at The Corn Exchange this week, who covered similar themes on his last tour, Amos is one of seven children of immigrants whose parenting style combined love with regular clips round the ear. HOwever, he clearly has a great love for his family - even if he didn’t when he was 12 - and has his mother to thank for rediscovering his diary and the comedy gems hidden within when she read out extracts at his twin sister’s wedding.

It was a treat to see Arlington packed to the rafters, and I recommend that others make the effort to experience the warm and wonderful atmosphere for themselves when Amos makes his promised return visit.

Support came from Paul F. Taylor, a Reading comedian and graduate of Newbury Comedy Festival’s You Must Be Joking stand-up contest. He was enthusiastic and likeable, with some enjoyably leftfield lines, including his thoughts about Americans sending their children to camp to deal with their problems such as “fat camp” and “brat camp”. When he was young, he had a problem with concentration... I’m sure you can figure out the payoff.

  • First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, January 20, 2011

This charming man - Stephen K. Amos interview

RELAXED after a Christmas and New Year in the Australian sun, comedian Stephen K Amos is geared up for an 80-date UK tour that brings him to Arlington Arts Centre on Saturday, January 15. And with his show called The Best Medicine, he really does want to bring the joy of laughter into our gloomy winter lives - but maybe not in exactly the way you’d expect.

“The show is all about things that happen in our lives that at the time seem quite negative, but now we can look back and laugh,” he explains.

“It came out of finding the diary I wrote when I was 13 - it was so funny to remember the crazy little stuff that really mattered to me at the time.  If I could talk to my 13-year-old self now, I’d say ‘life is too short, you never know what’s round the corner’.

“’Eventually you’ll grow up and realise that certain things can’t be changed’.”

Amos is as charming to be interviewed as he appears in his many other regular television appearances, such as Five’s current affairs daytime show The Wright Stuff. Once crassly informed by Prince Harry that he didn’t “sound like a black chap”, his cultured accent certainly makes him stand out from the crowd of potty-mouthed comedians, although he did once accidentally use a naughty word on ITV’s Loose Women, declaring afterwards “I didn’t realise it was that bad a word”.

But it is Amos’ BBC Two series, The Stephen K Amos Show, that is a dream come true for the comedian (although not all his fans may agree - he elicited an impassioned “no!” from one audience member when he declared his wish for it at a Corn Exchange performance two years ago). Partly, it was because it gave him the opportunity to draw on his acting skills, which have also been demonstrated on the West End stage in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, with Christian Slater.

“The TV show was such good fun. I was able to do something a bit different, play different characters, and bring on quirky odd guests. Hopefully if all goes well, we’ll be filming a new series in the summer.”

With the current tour running until late May, Amos certainly has a full schedule for a good chunk of the year, for which he is grateful. “It’s very beneficial not having to worry where the next gig is coming from. The last tour was really exciting - every venue sold out. The comedy industry in the UK is very healthy at the moment.

“I love the live stuff. Things happen in the moment that you can’t plan for. I love to play along with the audience.”

Amos certainly made the most of the moment at his last Newbury gig; inviting an impromptu teenage boyband up on stage, who amazingly had a rehearsed routine “just in case something like this ever happened”; berating an audience member for their persistently ringing phone when his own mobile received an unexpected call from fellow comedian Jo Brand; and inviting his support act down from the balcony to perform some of Amos’ own routine when a friendly heckler pointed out the similarity between their themes.

So, with Amos vowing that he’ll be over his jetlag and reacclimatised to the chilly UK, he vows that he’ll be on top form for his Arlington date on Saturday. “It’ll banish those winter blues,” he promises. “Come along - we’ll have a laugh.”

  • First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, January 13, 2011, and online at Newbury Today on Saturday, January 15, 2011: