Interview: Stephen K Amos

‘I had seven brothers and sisters. No one was listening…so I danced on the dining room table and broke it.’ TALIA RICHARD-CARVAJAL talks to STEPHEN K AMOS, comedian and self-confessed attention seeker.

Cambridge Corn Exchange Comedy Corn Exchange interviews penis Stephen k amos

His favourite noise? “The proper belly laughter of young children.” Stephen K Amos is an improbably nice person, yet he just avoids being sickening with a body of taboo-busting gags, some touchingly personal jokes and being unnervingly honest about his genitals. Moreover, he has the plummiest of accents. He even manages to enunciate his pauses.

Raised in a less than multicultural 1970s London and the son of Nigerian immigrant parents, Amos had a particular impetus to “find the funny”, something he claims he’s been doing ever since he was six years old. “I had seven brothers and sisters. No one was listening. Not my parents. So I danced on the dining room table and broke it.” He adds that this wasn’t his most effective funny find (I would still pay to see him do that on stage today). Not that his comedy has matured with the years: there were willy gags aplenty in the 2007 Virgin1 documentary, Penis Envy, that Amos presented, exploring the male preoccupation with its size, girth and presentation. During the documentary, he completed an online penis survey revealing the anthropometric data of his own genitalia to the national, viewing public.

Given his predilection for anatomical humour, I was curious for his position on the ‘Comedy: an art or a science?’ debate. It transpires that Stephen is a fence-dweller:  It’s “A little bit of both. There are so many different styles of comedy.  It’s all about people and how we connect with and relate to each other.”  In light of his penis work, this seems a pretty damning statement for humanity. Although, I concede that he has got a point. On a basic level, everybody loves the phallic punch-line.

Stephen has exposed all, but are there areas of comedy, certain taboos where Stephen won’t go? “If you’re just being crude, that’s not funny. There’s got to be a point to what you’re saying; got to make people laugh; got to be able to justify it. Not that comedy has to have a purpose.” However, Stephen’s often does. His 2006 Edinburgh Fringe show, All of Me, established him, publicly, as a vocal advocate of the gay right’s movement. His opinions dragged him beyond the comedy and the following year, in response to an increasing number of random, homosexual attacks, he led a controversial Channel 4 documentary, Batty Man, exploring homophobia in the black community. In all of aspects of his life, Stephen helps people to find that connection and relate to each other. There’s not many other comedians you can name who are this socially aware.

He has returned to Edinburgh for the fringe every year since 2003 and is now a staple of the British comedy and theatre scene. Aside from his stand-up, he acts and is a favoured compere (he has won the Chortle compere award three times). He famously performed in the Edinburgh and London run of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Christian Slater in 2004- but something more interesting has caught his attention during our conversation.  “The most extraordinary thing has just happened to me!” (Not that he tends towards the hyperbolic, or anything…). “A man has just stopped me. A man has just stopped me and asked me for directions…and I am clearly on the phone! How extraordinary!” Somehow Stephen has retained a child-like wonder that eludes the cynical me.  Then in the interest of meta-interviewing I ask Stephen what he would like to be asked. I am promptly put in my place: “Would you like some money, Stephen?” is not really what I had in mind.

And finally, if he weren’t a comedian?  “Ooo, I’d be Judge Judy. Presiding over people, making judgements, you know.” Awesome.

Stephen K Amos will be performing his current tour show: ‘The Best Medicine’ at the Cambridge Corn Exchange TONIGHT, Friday 11th February at 8pm.