Stephen K Amos

Stephen K Amos

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.”

Stephen K Amos’The Laughter Masteris on at Enmore Theatre on Friday May 6; andThe Concourse, Chatswood Saturday May 7.

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Stephen K Amos

Stephen K Amos

Stephen K Amos is an assertive man. The title of his new show, What Does The K Stand For?, doesn’t mean to suggest any kind of identity crisis. We won’t witness the British comedian going through one of those hour-long ‘What Am I Here For? What Was I Put On This Earth To Do?’ routines. Yes, he’ll tell us what the K stands for, and perhaps reveal a little more as well – but Stephen K Amos keeps his secrets secret.

“We live in such an age now where everything is online, you can’t say anything anymore without it being recorded somewhere for prosperity,” Amos says. “It’s quite nice to have some things that you don’t put out there. For example, I’ve never publicly said to anybody how old I am; I’ve never given interviews or said anything to Wikipedia, so I have no idea where they get their information from.”

What Amos will share is his thoughts on questions of universal identity. “The whole idea with this show is it’s just me, and I just have fun like I did in my previous shows, and I try and address the questions I’m asked a lot: i.e. ‘Where are you actually from?’; ‘What does the K stand for?’; ‘What’s your heritage background?’; ‘Are you in a relationship?’ – so I’m kind of addressing all those personal stories and hoping they’ll relate to other people.”

Returning to the Sydney Comedy Festival for the fourth year running, Amos reckons his new material will speak particularly well to Australians. “Whenever I’ve been in Australia for Australia Day, I always question the fact that everyone’s celebrating, but where do you actually come from? … Were you born there, or were you born where your parents came from? I know there’s a lot of Greek people in Australia, lots of British people in Australia – who ‘owned’ Australia? Where are the Indigenous people in this mix? Where’s their Australia Day? So that’s [similar to] the notion of me asking myself where I come from, because obviously I was born and raised in London, my parents were [Nigerian] immigrants to this country, and that presents a dilemma.”

As far as his comic identity goes, though, Amos can’t stand the lazy reviewers and critics who inevitably pencil him ‘the black gay comedian’. “I’m so bored of it, because what I don’t want is people to have a preconceived idea of who I am, what I am, and what I’m going to talk about.

“I’m generally a person who’s got a very positive disposition. I believe that if you pay good money to go and watch a comedy show, by definition you want to go and have a laugh. Obviously you want to go and have a good think along the way, and that’s what I like to do with the audience, but primarily they’re there to laugh – they’re not to be made fun of, they’re not there to be fodder for me, they’re there to have a laugh, and to forget whatever it is that’s going on in your world for that couple of hours, you’ve come to see a comedy show.

“I had a guy come up to me after a show in Melbourne once – he said, ‘I’ve just had my divorce papers through today, and can I just say to you, thank you for making me laugh.’ When you hear things like that, that kind of makes you go, ‘Yeah, that’s the reason why I’m doing this job.’ Laughter is the best medicine, and every one of us has got a story to tell, and I am fortunate enough to be able to translate that onto a stage, a platform.”

Stephen K Amos is atEnmore Theatre onTuesday May 6 and Thursday May 8.

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