British stand-up Stephen K Amos is a Sydney Comedy Festival regular and former guest on shows such as Spicks And Specks and Thank God You’re Here. These days, the London-based comedian feels right at home in front of Australian crowds. But despite being a regular visitor with a stable fan base, he never arrives overconfident.
“Every audience is different,” says Amos. “The show here is not particularly Australia-heavy. It’s a story about things that I’ve experienced in the past, so whether they connect with an audience is another thing. But if I see something while I’m here that’s very newsworthy then yes, I’ll bring it on.”
Amos is known to comment on various serious subjects – from perverse social media habits to racism and sexual identity – while keeping the overall experience feel-good and inclusive.
It may enlighten or it might infuriate people,
but that’s the risk I’m going to take.
“I genuinely believe that we’ve all got a story to tell,” he says. “In my personal life I’m a very positive person, I try and find the good in people. I also know that when people come to a comedy show, they’re coming for comedy first and foremost. So [I try to include], within that experience, some very important topics that mean something to me or maybe have a different take on things.
“One of the big stories I was reading about that happened in Australia last year was the sale of Golliwogs at a shop in Toowoomba. And so now that’s been a big part of this current show because for me that’s quite an important issue. And it may enlighten or it might infuriate people, but that’s the risk I’m going to take.”
Amos is coolly aware of the comedian’s primary obligation – to provide humorous, rollicking entertainment. However, by speaking out on topics of social and political significance, he hopes his show World Famous will potentially influence viewers’ opinions.
“At the end of the day, this is the one job in the world where we really value freedom of speech. I can say anything I like at my shows and I have nobody there to censor me. People can challenge me, but no one’s there to edit me.
“If I’ve got a room full of 1,000 people in front of me, I can’t assume that they’ll all have the same sensibilities or the same political views that I have. So if I can present a comedy show and pepper within that some of my own views – if I can make somebody think, at least – then job done.”
It’s been a dramatic couple of years in global politics. There’ll be no shortage of comedians referencing the rise of Donald Trump and the chaotic Brexit ordeal at this year’s festival. Such events are unlikely to feature in Amos’ routine, though.
“Unless my take on it is completely original and completely left-field, I might not even go there. I think people might be a bit sick to death of [Trump and Brexit] and I don’t particularly want to go to a comedy festival and every comic I see is touching on the same subjects.” ■Write a Letter to the Editor