STEPHEN K AMOS: A COMEDIAN OF INSIGHT

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By Charlotte Pordage

 

London-born comedian Stephen K Amos may hail from the opposite corner of the globe, but he doesn’t see any difference between English and Australian humour.

 

“You guys know how to laugh at yourselves. You have such a rich tapestry of material and jokes and I like the fact that when you go for someone, you really come out and show your support,” Amos told the Northsider.

 

The “feel-good” comic was recently in Melbourne for the second time this year, performing a limited season of his “Welcome to My World” show at the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival. The show received rave reviews six months ago at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, although Amos refuses to look at what has been written about him.

 

“I don’t read reviews. I never have because if you accept the good reviews then you’ve got to accept the bad reviews. As far as I’m concerned, I know if I’ve done a good show or a bad show; I can gauge it myself and for me the audience are my critics,” said Amos.

 

I think for a comedian, if you’re ready to address those issues in your comedy when you have a captive audience, you must do it.”

 

And the audience don’t seem to be complaining. After his breakout debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2001, Amos has performed in front of audiences all over the world, embarking on multiple stand-up tours, with numerous television appearances and the release of two DVDs.

 

He is often lauded for his easy charm and warm, relaxed style, however this seemingly innate confidence hasn’t always come naturally to Amos.

 

“You definitely have to work on it as it’s one thing being assured and confident in front of your friends but it’s completely different trying to convey that to a room full of strangers. People who’ve paid money for a comedy show first and foremost want to laugh so you might as well get them on side. If you can throw a point in there or make them think along the way, then that’s a bonus,” he said.

 

While he acknowledges that there is room for all styles of comedy on the world stage, he believes that there is no better person than a comedian to highlight important issues, if the opportunity presents itself.

 

“I can’t think of any other job in the world where you can say exactly what you want. I don’t have to have a disclaimer on my Facebook or Twitter feed saying these views are my own. You read the newspapers or watch TV and there’s always an agenda, you never know the actual truth. I think for a comedian, if you’re ready to address those issues in your comedy when you have a captive audience, you must do it,” commented Amos.

 

I think comedy can transcend cultural barriers so if I see a female comic doing amazing stuff, then why is that strange?”

 

Through his comedy, Amos is able to create a dialogue around issues such as race, sexuality and gender, drawing on his own personal experiences to engage with his audience and help challenge perceptions. The 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival was the first time Amos spoke publicly about being gay and I asked him if he noticed any change in people’s attitudes towards him after that.

 

“The only thing I noticed was that journalists would have another adjective to describe me. I was no longer a black comic, I was a gay black comic. I talk about things that matter to me but they don’t define me and when I see people happy to put labels on me, I start from shy away from that,” he said.

 

“I think comedy can transcend cultural barriers so if I see a female comic doing amazing stuff, then why is that strange? Why are some people today still saying that women aren’t funny? That’s such a ridiculous notion, such a mad thing to say. We should find funny in all sorts of areas and in all sorts of people.”

 

Although he doesn’t see himself as a role model, he understands that it is a by-product of the job and appreciates the positive effects that it has, such as young people who tell him that one of his shows or something he’s said has enabled them to come out to their family and friends.

 

In 2007, Amos produced the documentary “Batty Man” for the UK broadcaster Channel 4, which explored homophobia in the black community. He found that much of the prejudice and discrimination came from religious ideology and preconceived ideas about masculinity and male and female roles.

 

“My thing now is to embrace the modern world that we live in and accept that if you believe in a god and you believe that that god is a loving god and only he will judge, then let him judge,” he commented.

 

Amos never intended to be a comedian and was on the career path to become a lawyer when a chance meeting with a London club promoter in America changed the entire course of his future.

 

“I remember her saying ‘you’re really funny, you should do stand-up.’ It totally hadn’t crossed my mind at all but I thought what’s the worst that could happen? I tried it and I liked it and that’s how it all started really,” Amos said.

 

While he certainly enjoys the perks that come with being an international sensation, such as the luxury of being his own boss and first class travel to far-flung destinations such as the Seychelles, the lifestyle does have its drawbacks. He often lives out of hotels and holding down any sort of relationship is almost impossible. Saying that, he’s not planning on quitting anytime soon.

 

“The day I get up on stage and I’m not loving it anymore is the day I will stop. Similarly, if people stop coming to my shows or I’ve got nothing else to say, then I’m not going to do a show just for the sake of it. Working behind the scenes is also very attractive to me; I don’t need to be out in front of the audience and when I started this it wasn’t about fame and fortune, it was just about having a laugh.”

 

 

Charlotte Pordage is a freelance writer/editor from the UK. She has a degree in English Literature and Latin and her interests include riding her horse Oscar and exploring Melbourne’s eclectic nightlife. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @charpordage.

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