Stephen K Amos

Welcome To Stephen's World

30th January 2015

Comedian Stephen K Amos talks to Brian Donaldson about life, politics and awkward questions…

‘Awkward’ is the word at the forefront of Stephen K Amos’s mind. “Even in this day and age, we still don’t like to talk about things like race and sexuality or how much you earn… all those awkward dinner party conversation fillers. There’s a certain weirdness that can spark up in those areas and that gives me a springboard to be awkward within the show and ask the audience the awkward, challenging questions.”

World affairs are preoccupying Amos and his current touring show, Welcome To My World, doesn’t shy away from getting his crowd’s opinion on prickly contemporary issues. “Bearing in mind what’s going on with Russia, say, at the moment, I wonder why the world is reacting the way it has? Is the reason we’re not properly taking them to task is that they’re a superpower and a big danger to us, so we’re just paying them lip service? How would the world react if the indigenous people of Australia tried to claim what is theirs rightfully?”

Issues closer to home are also stretching his patience, and he’ll be posing more tough questions about the current political landscape in Britain. “At the European elections, there was a move to the far right. Over here, it seemed like UKIP was the only party running. On TV, radio and in print, it was all about them. And all I can gather from their policies is that they have views on immigration and Europe, and nothing else. Yet people rushed to make this protest vote. I’d like to think it’s a flash in the pan, and we’ve now seen what happens when people don’t exercise their fundamental right to vote. But history has taught us that wake-up calls don’t always get heeded.”

It all sounds rather serious. But don’t worry – the London comic knows how to play to his strengths. “Ultimately, my main focus is that they’ve got to laugh. The people who come to my shows are, generally speaking, the converted, so there’s no point in me just telling them about race and politics and getting all this applause, that’s just pointless. So I’m giving them the jokes and getting it down to a very basic level. It’s all about keeping it up and down, making a point but keeping the laughter flowing.”

Since he arrived on the comedy scene in 2001, Amos has had no problem with sparking laughter in every room he’s appeared in. He’s had a string of acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe stand-up shows such as All Of Me and Find The Funny, acted in the West End alongside Christian Slater and Frances Barber in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, had his own shows on TV and radio, presented a BAFTA-nominated documentary for Channel 4 and even appeared as a doctor in two episodes of EastEnders.

But like many acts who have conquered their own country, eyes naturally turn to the US. “I’m going there for maybe three months to get a lot of stuff under my belt. One of the main things is to put yourself out there and get yourself known; my goal is to get onto the late night comedy shows because they have yet to see a black British comic on there. I don’t want to jinx myself or sound big-headed but I would absolutely kill it. There was a big resistance towards any British comics for a while, but they love Monty Python and the surrealness of Eddie Izzard. It’s definitely a market waiting to happen.”

Given that he mentioned Izzard, a comic not afraid to wear his political colours on his sleeve, who has hinted that he might run for London Mayor one day, is public office something that Amos would fancy? “No. Even in my job, I don’t harm anybody; if you don’t like my kind of comedy you can just switch me off. But it stirs something up in people when you talk about politics… people will either love or hate you and some will write what they want about you. I do accept there’s freedom of speech, but what is it about the internet and Twitter which just compels people to go and slag someone off? Ten, fifteen years ago, what did these people do? Did they sit in their own houses just banging their heads against a wall because an outlet wasn’t there?”

What about fronting his own TV chat show? “I think we are due a black talk show host,” he agrees. “We had such fun doing it in Edinburgh and I think I’m good with people, a very good listener and I can run with stuff that happens in the moment. And I’m not one of those cruel comics.” Indeed not: just a seemingly effortless, naturally funny one.

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