TIME OUT: Telly joker Amos brings his laughter plasters

Stephen K Amos
Stephen K Amos
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GLOOM lifter Stephen K Amos’s choice of career may not have impressed his family at first but now they go and buy his DVDs. GLOOM lifter Stephen K Amos’s choice of career may not have impressed his family at first but now they go and buy his DVDs.

GLOOM lifter Stephen K Amos’s choice of career may not have impressed his family at first but now they go and buy his DVDs. GLOOM lifter Stephen K Amos’s choice of career may not have impressed his family at first but now they go and buy his DVDs.

The comfirmed ‘cheeky chappie’ has long since stopped having to sneak out to work, not least since his royal engagement.

“For many years I didn’t tell my parents I was doing comedy,” he recalls.

“They probably thought I was attending a fetish club or maybe working late nights as a mini cab driver. They just didn’t know.

“And then when they kind of twigged because little bits started coming on TV they weren’t particularly impressed. It was like coming out. It was only when I met the Queen they were ‘Oh, wow’.”

Now a regular on the likes of Have I Got News For You and Live At The Apollo, as well as his own BBC2 series The Stephen K Amos Show, there’s no hard feelings.

“It comes from a place of care and thought. They didn’t want their kids to fail. Nobody wants that. Particularly if you’re not from a middle or upper class background, your parents want the best for you and that means a proper education and job. They don’t want to see you make a fool of yourself. But those experiences we all have to go through, hopefully they mould us into the comics and people we are.”

And his parents’ handling of his comedy bent has, of course, gone on to fuel his routines, as his Octagon show The Best Medicine will illustrate on Saturday.

“They constantly figure. I want people to get an idea of where I’ve come from. I went against the grain.

“They don’t come to all my shows but they go out and buy my DVDs. That’s a mad turnaround. My Edinburgh show four or five years ago was all about that... how you are risking becoming disowned or being a disappointment to your family by choosing to go into a profession where there is ‘no future’, no guarantee of any money and you’re doing that with sound mind and body.”

Not that Stephen is likely to have either come the end of his sprawling UK tour.

“The whole idea is to cover as many cities in the country as you can,” he says, having woken up in Leicester. “It’s gruelling but I would rather do that than maybe a massive stadium because you lose the intimacy of the show if you go and do a 10,000-seater venue.

“I have done a stadium in a compilation show of different comics and it’s a very different feel and energy. But when you’ve got a room that feels intimate you feel like you can go wherever you want and that we’re all in on the joke. It’s a bit more ‘in the moment’.

“Sometimes you play a hall and it’s just a monstrous large room where the acoustics aren’t right and the laughter goes up into the ceiling so it’s difficult to hear what’s coming back at you.”

Amos is no overnight success and has steadily won over millions with his mix of semi autobiographical material combined with observations on life. While some stand ups see their show change on the road, he prefers to stick with the plan, where possible.

“You’ve got to focus otherwise if you take your foot off the gas the engine stops running,” he says. “I tend to put in a few extra bits and pieces but I really don’t want the show to evolve into something else because the idea is over the course of the tour to have something you can take out the next time that has evolved from it as opposed to the whole show evolving gradually.

He sees himself as “the sort of bloke you can imagine sitting at a table with in a pub and having a laugh”, which is a big part of his appeal as one of the current breed of less confrontational comics.

“I don’t think there’s anything worse than trying out jokes on your friends and family, though, because that would be so irritating.

“What we’re now experiencing in the mainstream was for a long time the alternative because we all know what it’s like to have no money, to live in a country where we all hate the government.

“We’re all much more sophisticated now so to have a bloke on stage telling us about the bad things in the world as if he’s talking to simple folk... it’s kind of moved on.

“Comedy is constantly evolving, for the good I think, and I’m sure coming behind us there’s going to be another wave of different styles of comedy.”

And that could include more black comedians. In the UK, few have made such a big impact as Amos or maybe Felix Dexter and Gina Yashere since Lenny Henry.

“It’s because like with a lot of stuff it’s all about people at home watching TV and saying to themselves ‘I think I’m going to do that’.

“But you only say that when you see someone you identify with. I never saw anyone on TV that I thought ‘Wow, he inspires me to become a comic’. That’s why there just isn’t a healthy black comedy circuit.”