Monday, August 13, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe 2007: Simon Amstell - No Self, Pleasance Courtyard, 22.30

Now, I'm a total Fringe virgin (or, at least, was) so I can't be sure about this, but I'd bet quite a lot of money that there are Fringe Snobs. You know, the type of people who actively find the shows playing to one person a night and hail them the best thing ever to hit Scotland. They're the sort of people that will have seen Simon Amstell's show in the Fringe programme and consciously avoided it because he's on the telly. (I was the total opposite, of course - I chose Frankie Boyle and Simon Amstell precisely because I've seen them on TV, and I only know about how brilliant David O'Doherty is because I saw him when I went to see Noel Fielding.) But these Fringe Snobs that I've just made up, they're missing out, because this is a deeply impressive show.

Frankie had the one-liners, DOD (you'll remember) had the Joyous Off-Beat Charm, and Simon Amstell, it turns out, has the ability to pur together a beautifully thought-out set - I was spoilt, really. On Never Mind The Buzzcocks he reduces Phil Jupitus to fits of giggles, and even outshines the brilliant Bill Bailey with his quick-wittedness, and as such, I thought it would be his ad-libbing that would be the highlight of the show. But this was far from the case; he's got a script - and it's a damn good one.

The theme - a much tighter one than that of Mr O'Doherty - is the Buddhist idea that there is no individual, No Self, but that we are instead all part of a single, larger consciousness. But Amstell manages to take this existential argument, and mix it with digs at Justin Lee Collins and come up with a hugely satisfying, cohesive show that you marvel at, as well as laugh at. He's constantly referring back to previous jokes, linking themes together - it certainly hasn't been thrown together, let's put it that way.

But there are some stand-out one liners too. When discussing how we struggle to create a personality, he points out a girl in the front row with dreadlocks and a hat. "But then you have another crisis, because you have to convince others that you're more than the dreadlocks and a hat - whereas in fact, you're less."

Just like on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, he manages to walk a strange line between being thoroughly charming - cheeky even - and utterly cynical. His 'No Self' philosophy means that he can say 'Basically, I'm God', but in fact he's much more at home being bleak: "Is there anything worse than being alive?" he asks. And later, Amstell says that telling us we should just end the misery if we feel like it is his favourite bit of the show. He even does a little jig to prove it.

The tightness of the show was spoilt this evening somewhat by a couple of idiots who decided to pick up on the word 'juggler' and shout it out just as Amstell was coming to a big pay-off line. Obviously a little rattled after this happening several times, when a guy asked if was alright to go to the toilet, he replied; "You can stay in the toilet. That should be the name of my show next year."

Punchline-ruining idiots aside, this was a show that surprised even me, who's already a fan - and it's one that mythical Fringe Snobs everywhere should take time to see.


Rosby said...

Me and the mates are desperate to see Simon Amstell when he comes to Cheltenham this November; we're all Buzzcocks addicts and have desperately been trying to book tickets. It sounds fantastic!

Being Mock the Week addicts as well, we're trying for Frankie Boyle, too; d'you think he's worth seeing? I noticed your review of him was quite negative; would you reccommend him as a good night out anyway?

(He's our favourite, see. Well, he's mine at any rate. I think it's the glasses.)

Thanks for the reviews!

Rosby said...

P.S. This'll sound odd, but huge thanks for that link on that list to The Daily Show videos; I was seething that were all taken off Youtube, but the website is a treasure trove. Thanks for the heads-up!

Dean said...

I'm sort of a fringe snob, i avoid the big shows, but for practical reasons. If you live anywhere near an arts centre (or london) you can see the big shows on tour where they're 30-60 minutes longer (or have a support act) for the same or less money.

If the big name shows we're closer to the ten quid most other shows are, instead of charging a premium, I'd probably go watch more. If I had infinite time... I guess there's also the fact that given the choice between something that I'll have other opportunities to see, and something unique to the fringe, I'll take the former....have saved the rest of your reviews to read later :Dh

AnnaWaits said...

Avoiding big names for practical reasons is just that, practical! It's avoiding them just to look cool is just rubbish :)

And Rosby - yeah, definitely go for it as you're a fan. I am too, and I honestly did really enjoy it, I was just a bit disappointed that I didn't get to see anything much "off-script". But I totally think that another night could be electric.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Hee, I wonder if this was the show that Cloud saw him prepping for in London earlier in the summer?

Dean said...

I gave up trying to look cool a long time ago :D

AnnaWaits said...

Well then you're fine then ;)

Dean said...

I do have a very thinly snobbish veiled contempt for the likes of Carr, Gervais et al, who just book one or two nights in the biggest venue possible, and think they're part of The Fringe, just because they're in the programme. And then proceed to dominate all the publicity for the entire event (oh look, here's Fringe magazine, your guide to the fest, and here's a cover pick of Ricky-chuffing-Gervais who probably isn't on while you're there and even if he is, it doesn't matter as he's already sold out but look here's an 8 page feature...)

Sorry. That just really annoys me.