COOL REVIEW: Simon Amstell – Do Nothing

Posted on December 5, 2010 by

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…I have a bit of a thing for Simon Amstell. And I’m not ashamed.

Before this gets mis-construde, it’s not sexual. In fact, far from it. It’s almost certainly to do with something we have in common. That is, I suspect, similar upbringings (jewish, bonkers mothers, laid-back to near horizontal dads etc) and in our adult lives dealing with our families’ weirdness by drawing upon the hilarity of it all. I identify with a lot of the conclusions Amstell has come to about his own family and couldn’t agree more with his (new?) mantra: Do Nothing.

I went to see ‘Do Nothing’ last week, Simon’s latest stand-up tour. There’s a DVD too, if you buy dvds. I was confident that I’d enjoy the gig because – shock horror – I like him, much to my elders’ disappointment.  They don’t tend to like comedians born after 1970 and are upset that Simon Amstell is so rude to people and gets away with it. As far as they’re concerned, that’s all they need to know about him.

“NORMAN WIDSOM DIDN’T UPSET PEOPLE!!” – says my dad, whose VHS player recently told him to fuck off for making it play his shabby Lee Evans Live at Wembley tape for the 100th time.

If my dad gave the very talented but after a while wearying Lee Evans a break for just one evening, he might spot that Simon Amstell has the proverbial ‘it’ he’s always trapping on about.

“What is ‘it’ dad?

“IT! You know, IT!”

But then I think about the hundreds of things I’ve attempted to make my dad like.

“Just watch this for a minute. He’s got ‘it’, yeah? He must have…”

But it’s me who clearly doesn’t get ‘it’.

“Naaaah!” my dad’ll say. “Who is he? He’s rubbish!”

So, like Simon says, it’s better to do nothing.

Every one of Amstell’s anecdotes comes sodden in neuroses but with an overpowering sense of  clarity; the mental journey of each some kind of therapy. When all he can be is honest, how can a bond not form between him and his audience. All I can do is clap, me and whoever else  is compelled to give this skinny man with his heart on his sleeve a wild applause.  And there he is; weightless. Better.

It’s not ground-breaking comedy, I know that. It’s the stuff you don’t think is worth mentioning…

Tell me someone who didn’t have  an infatuation with Jared Leto in My So Called Life.  But Amstell until recently was still there, desperate to find ‘Jordan’ the tortured,dyslexic no-good Claire Danes never gives up on.  Simon admits to finding vulnerable, emaciated men irresistable and is on the hunt for his very own Jordan. Owing to the showbiz circles he moves in, he nearly had his chance earlier this year. There, sitting at the same table as him was Jared himself. And what did Simon do? He  froze. He did nothing.

In that semi-frightening bar mitzvah boy squeal, he squirms awkwardly about the stage wearing fantastically fashionable, well fitting clothes. Like a mischievous child, he weaves in and out the repertoire stopping now and again to refuel with interesting yet irrelevant digressions, undeterred by the disruptions of an excitable Amstell audience (hecklers don’t bother). And as he returns  to point, cos there’s always a point,  so begins a pay off that crescendos, hitting home with everyone on its way up. And some pay offs are unplanned.

‘Dammit! That wasn’t on the DVD’ – he says disappointedly after an impromptu but masterful digression.

‘Move on Simon’ he says to himelf  ‘at least you saw it right?’  to us, half joking, half miffed . And of course he does move on, he has to.

Simon’s rude, certainly, and it can’t be ruled out that he’s not just a tiny a bit of a dick. But well have a lovable dickish mate and that’s who I think Simon is to his friends. If he has friends. When you’re confused, you haven’t got that many options. Either you become self obsessed or depressed. But Simon has transformed his life’s quandaries into giggly musings and that, in my eyes, requires ‘it’.

Do Nothing seems like some way of an apology if I’m honest. ‘Sorry I’m rude, I’ve just had so much crap to work out these past few years I thought it was everyone else’s fault’. Then again,  it may just be self-congratulatory niceness. I’m happy now! Let’s ALL be happy! Or, he could be up to the same thing  as Simon Cowell. An attitude  U-turn having looked in the mirror and seen an impudent toss-pot.

So, yeah, I have a thing for Simon Amstell and even though he doesn’t like doing interviews, I’d be up for the challenge. He’ll say I have a funny face. I’ll say his looks like a penis. He’ll say ‘oi I wrote that’, and so on…

And, oh, there’s a thought.  We could even do it in my parent’s living room.

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