Stephen K Amos is hot and bothered when we speak. He’s been in Adelaide for the Fringe Festival, and the city has been sweltering through a heatwave.
“I don’t know how you people live in such amazing conditions – I’m dripping and more moist than I’ve ever been in my life,” he says.
It’s just one of the many keen observations of Australian life that has earned Amos his lofty reputation here. Known for his charming and relentlessly feel-good performances the world over, Amos’ observations about Aussie culture – from our accents and our politics to the Adelaide tram that only goes from the city to the beach that so infuriates him – have helped local audiences see the funny side of things that otherwise seem perfectly normal.
“I think having an outsider’s point of view gives you a unique perspective,” says Amos. “There’s certain things I see that I then highlight, and people will go, ‘Oh my goodness, we didn’t see it like that at all.’ But that’s my job, to find the funny.”
Being an outsider seems to give Amos a distinct advantage. “There are also certain things I can get away with and say that maybe some Australian comics couldn’t,” he says. “I do a routine about some of the things people say, where they think they’re being polite, even though it’s quite outrageous.”
This year, Amos and his observations return to Sydney Comedy Festival with The Laughter Master, a show that promises to include everything Sydney audiences have come to love about the British comedian. The show sees him delving deep into serious issues, finding the light-hearted side and leaving audiences entertained and thoroughly upbeat.
“If I talk about packaging on a Chicos bag, and talk about how that can be construed to be quite racist, I’m talking about very serious issues, but in a very light-hearted way,” says Amos. “They’re very different serious topics to what others discuss – I don’t have the background to make mental health funny, for example – but all of us have our serious topics that we challenge in our own way.”
For The Laughter Master, Amos has focused his comedic lens on perhaps the defining issue of our time – social media. Ubiquitous, influential and a seemingly unending source of debate and conflict, Amos says the subject is ripe for comedic picking.
“It has made the world smaller, but in the same respect, it’s given people a very strange voice. Or it’s made people think they have a voice, and have very silly arguments with strangers over nothing at all … The internet is 25 years old this year, and you know, there are so many things going on online that are quite dangerous.”
While his subject matter has serious undertones, Amos says he hasn’t forgotten his true purpose, evident in the title of his show.
“I want to make people laugh. I’m hoping my kind of audiences have kind of got my sensibilities, so I want them to think along the way, but also have a good time. It’s not a TED Talk, I’m not doing a serious documentary, so I must never forget my focus being laughter.”