We chat to Stephen K Amos
Ahead of his new show in Epsom, comedian Stephen K Amos tells Ting Dalton why he’s on a mission to cheer up the nation
It has been said that laughter is the best medicine – and finding the joy in the simple things in life is perhaps the key to being able to do just that. After all, switching on the news these days, reading the paper and following social media can often bring a big dose of reality about the world we live in – and a lot of it is far from pleasant. From Brexit to Donald Trump, is it really possible to not get caught up in the drama of it all? Stephen K Amos thinks so. The comedian reveals that he’s been all over the world for the past year and has enjoyed connecting with people who are getting frustrated by the big divisions that seem to be occurring. Which is why his new tour, Bouquets and Brickbats, plans to tackle these issues and get people across the country to begin talking and laughing again.
“I think there is so much more of the goodness in people that we have to keep going,” says Stephen, who will be on stage at the Epsom Playhouse on 23 January. “If we really thought that Russia was going to be poisoning people left, right and centre; that Donald Trump was going to mess up the world’s economy, and that leaving the EU would ruin the UK, then what’s the point in living? It’s a depressing thought isn’t it? So we have to make sure that even though we are divided, we can still have a dialogue, which is so much more important than what we see now – which is just abuse.”
So why did he decide to name his show Bouquets and Brickbats? “When you think of bouquets and flowers, you think of happy times, weddings, birthdays that sort of thing. But when you think of brickbats, you think of the curve balls that always get thrown into our lives,” Stephen explains. “People on the exterior may appear to be happy, but social media puts so much pressure on people to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. We’re all forgetting about the simpler things in life. I know that when you say that out loud it sounds trite and not realistic – but to me what is unrealistic is setting yourselves unattainable targets.” Stephen openly admits to me that in the past 18 months he’s lost two close family members, which has made him reflect about the important things in his life which he says are learning from his mistakes, holding onto the ones he loves, and trying to be a decent person.
“I don’t want to get too serious because the main aim of the show is to cheer us all up and be able to laugh about it all. So you may have your own views about Brexit, and we can disagree. But if you’ve come along to listen to me, then we can laugh together about the same things. And this to me, is a stepping stone.” It’s a busy time for Stephen, who is not only in talks about starring in a big movie, but also has a new BBC2 three-part series about to air called Pilgrimage: The Road to Rome, which sees him following the ancient Via Francigena trail from Canterbury to the Vatican.
“you may have your own views about Brexit, and we can disagree. But if you’ve come along to listen to me, then we can laugh together about the same things.”
He has also just released The Stephen K Amos Talk Show on Amazon Audible which was recorded at The Edinburgh Film Festival and features interviews with fellow comics including Ed Byrne and Reginald D Hunter. But who were his comedy heroes that inspired him?
“Can you believe I wasn’t really a comedy fan growing up,” he laughs. “During the 1970s, most of the comedy was a bit sexist and a bit racist. It was only when I started doing it myself that I became aware of other people. This American called Redd Foxx was ahead of his time, and Richard Pryor was incredible. When I started out Eddie Izzard was so original and I love Lee Mack and the late great Felix Dexter.” Stephen says it’s his fifth time performing in Epsom and he’s very much looking forward to it – the added bonus is he doesn’t have to travel far from his home in Wimbledon.
“This is my 10th national tour and every year I do a new one. It’s lovely,” he smiles. “And for me, people want to come and see me, it’s great. There’s no other job in the world where I can speak to a roomful of strangers and say exactly what I want. It’s so rewarding.”