Simon Amstell - What Is This?

12 April 2019 | 2:22 pm | Joe Dolan

"The UK comedian is a master of mixing the thoughtful and ludicrously hilarious."

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In an industry so dominated by cis-white men, Simon Amstell’s voice stands out as one deserving to be heard. His inimitable ability to craft poignant material from the most mundane of channels is an inspiring and refreshing rendition of the craft and rewrites what it means to be a 'clever comic'. Whether he’s accepting external love via bowel movements, or lamenting reality through multiple sex parties, the UK comedian is a master of mixing the thoughtful and ludicrously hilarious.

What Is This? is Amstell’s fifth stand-up show and first back at MICF in seven years, and he has only gone from strength to strength in the absence. The show, like Amstell’s previous offerings, is a tender and hysterical self-reflection that sets out to solve as many problems as possible. In an attempt to broaden his horizons of mindfulness, Amstell divulges that a number of revelations have come from the influence of various drugs such as MDMA and ayahuasca, and the results are exactly as bizarre as to be expected.

What Amstell does so brilliantly is to make his comedy as cerebral yet accessible as possible. The former host of Never Mind The Buzzcocks has an incredible knack for eliciting contemplation from everyone in the room and beyond. All walks of life are brought up to his level as he muses on sexism, race relations, religion and internalised homophobia, all the while strewing the hour with that uniquely astute tone for which Amstell has become synonymous. It’s precise, considered, meticulous comedy, all the while avoiding the trappings of pretentious elitism.

There’s a certain genius to What Is This? that needs to be experienced in its entirety. Not a word out of place or a moment wasted, Amstell makes every single second on stage a priority. Astoundingly enlightening and mirthful to boot, it’s another triumph for the stand-up.