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Comedy Review: Simon Amstell--To Be Free (****)

Lorna Irvine reviews 'an oddball delight' followed by a 'thoughtful, hilarious and poignant' headliner.

Support Daniel Simonsen is a laconic oddball delight: like the ghost of Ian Curtis, directed by Ingmar Bergman. (Bergman was Swedish and Simonsen is Norwegian, but you get the idea. He has that Scandinavian gloom.) His star has risen as Eric in the reliably daft Vic and Bob retro- sitcom House of Fools, but it's as a stand-up that he excels. He shambles to the front and sighs, ‘This is as energetic as I get.’

His series of bugbears, gripes and general whinges is endearingly presented, with Simonsen coming across as a sleepy man-child. How to combat his life problems? Fitness is not the answer. With his pigeon chest and IBS flaring up, he admits that he despises joggers ''Ooh, I'm jogging off my likeability''. Only his cat sees the real him, and it's not pretty.

With riffs on how Eminem would never have been 'street' with supportive parents, his disastrous attempts at swimming and the chasm between selfie smiles and real smiles, his set is succinct and astute. He is the little nagging voice in your head, the voice of neurosis and doubt, and all the better for it.

Fitting then, that the headliner is Simon Amstell, a man for whom no slice of shame is too squirm-inducing to share. He careens between Bambi-esque sweetness and taboo-baiting philosophy. One minute he is insisting that he is a misunderstood 'brilliant, vulnerable clown', the next, urging the couple in the third row stop holding hands as it's all about him, before riffing on how autistic children are truly free, as their lack of social filters mean they are pure in a way that normative, prescribed behaviour is not.

It is material like this that means he will never, by his own admission, play the Michael McIntyre stadium gigs. After all, 'transcending the ego' is not your obvious blokeish banter. Nor his original thoughts on why misogyny is idiotic, or the superb kicking he gives a contemporary dance piece. But of course, Amstell is far superior--thoughtful, hilarious and poignant, with a faux-naive charm. Stand-up, but better. The Anti-Davidson.

At the Citizens Theatre as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival.

Tags: comedy event

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