No one is more successful at being awkward than award-winning comedian Simon Amstell, hailing from London town. For those of you who are unaware of Amstell’s comedic genius, to give you a quick bio, he rose to prominence hosting PopWorld, where he famously made Britney Spears cry after asking if she thought she’d gone a bit nuts. He then went on to host cult music quiz, Never Mind The Buzzcocks — a show deeply ingrained in British music culture for making celebrities feel gawky. It is essentially a rich man’s version of Spicks & Specks. Displaying his unabashed knack of saying what everyone else is thinking, one of Simon’s more hilarious moments on Buzzcoks (or horrible depending on how you look at it) was when he bantered with team leader Noel Fielding about his relationship with Courtney Love. After Noel suggested she could crush him like a twiglet, he slyly retorted “or kill me and make it look like suicide”, provoking a flashing disclaimer stating: Simon Amstell is Definitely Wrong. Well, if Simon Amstell is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
His more recent endeavours have seen him move away from celebrity ridicule, and he is now writing and starring in the hilariously uncomfortable semi-autobiographical series Grandma’s House. To say I’m a fan is an understatement. In a lot of ways, Simon Amstell is my perfect man, made even more so by the fact that he’s gay and completely unattainable. When I found out that he would be gracing our shores for the Sydney Comedy Festival last year, there were actual tears of joy.
Bubbling with excitement, I went along to his sold-out gig last Thursday night at the Fuse Box. Appropriately titled Numb, his stand-up is more like a hilarious group therapy session than a comedy show. Unlike his outspoken persona on Buzzcocks, the real Simon is painfully vulnerable. His unique brand of funny arises from his clever commentary on his own experiences of disconnection with the people around him and underlying feelings of anxiety, loneliness and depression. In the space of an hour, his endearing awkwardness balanced with his sharp wit and sarcasm had the audience dying with laughter at the most unlikely combination of topics effortlessly strung together: from daddy issues to travelling alone, dealing with hipsters, death & aging, saying no to drugs, Jew issues, weight issues, break-ups, living alone, inappropriate porn, spiritual evolution, depression, capitalism, the news, the past, anger issues, gender roles, veganism, alcoholism and even Nigella Lawson! He ended his show on an adorable note by thanking the audience for listening and declaring that he didn’t feel numb anymore.
Being the stalker fan-girl that I am, I hung around after the show to try and meet him, and I managed to out-awkward someone who makes a career out being awkward. Our conversation was perfectly pleasant to begin with, but then I went and ruined it by getting over excited and pretty much blurting out, “please be my best friend for life”. His reaction was polite enough, but he was clearly bewildered because shortly after he ran away (I’m pretty sure crying). The phrase, ‘you can’t disappoint a picture’, has taken on a whole new meaning after that cringeworthy encounter. Luckily, I did get a picture with Simon so I can spend the rest of my life not disappointing that. In all seriousness though, he was amazing and smelt like all my favourite things – London and funny gay Jews. He’s actually the only funny gay Jew I know (If you’re a funny gay Jew and reading this…best friends for life?). By the end of the night, it was my turn to feel numb, numb with happiness.