Ten questions: Stephen K Amos

RACHEL TOOKEY quizzes comedian STEPHEN K AMOS about going on tour, edgy comedy and the best heckle he’s ever received.

Comedy family Rachel Tookey Stand Up Stephen k amos tour

Stand up stalwart Stephen K Amos answers The Tab’s ten questions about comedy, his memoir and those pesky hecklers…

How did you find writing your memoir?

I found it quite easy to do as I am already a comic, so it just meant sitting down at a table. It was quite nice to think back over a long period of time and relive those memories.

What’s your favourite memory in there?

I suppose the one where I actually got involved in comedy; that’s quite an interesting tale so I won’t give it away, but it involves quite a well-known comedian.

How’s your current tour?

I love being on the road, going to different parts of the country I’ve never been to before. I haven’t yet got a tour bus, but let’s say I do and it has a hot tub on the top deck and beautiful women feeding me grapes.

What’s the best heckle you’ve ever received?

I will never reveal the best heckle I’ve ever received against me, because if it’s out there some smart alec will come to a gig of mine and say it in an attempt to throw me. It will remain one of those dark and dangerous things that you won’t even find on Wikipedia.

What’s your favourite type of audience? 

Nothing beats doing a live audience where you’re not constrained by radio and TV executive people over what you can and can’t say. When you do a show you are your own self centre and anything can happen.

Some comedians have claimed that British television comedy is too safe and not edgy enough, do you agree?

What does edgy mean? What is edgy to me might not be edgy to you. Some comics like to swear. Some people love that, others may hate it. It’s really hard to strike a balance I think. Some people do it very cleverly and are very funny, and if you can do that and people get it, then it’s great. The one thing we have as comedians that we should hold onto is freedom of speech, but it’s also accepting that if you say something that’s inflammatory, you have to be prepared to justify it.

Do you have a message you want to get through with your comedy?

I like to be subtle because I’d like to imagine that the people who come to my gigs know about race and sexuality issues.

Your comedy is semi-autobiographical. Do your family ever ask questions about it?

They’ve got loads of questions to ask! But it doesn’t involve them. It’s my point of view, if someone comes to you and says they like a musician, and you say ‘ooo, they’re awful’, that’s not the point because they like them. With my comedy, I take it to the logical or illogical comedy conclusion: it’s done for my point of view, not for my parents’.

What’s your favourite comedy show?

I tend not to watch a lot of comedy shows because I don’t want to be influenced by anybody else. There are so many comics in the world now, it stands to reason that people will come up with the same ideas, the same jokes, the same thought process. Some bigger comics even use the same writers, but that risks being too generic and too formulaic. I like sitcoms: Modern Family at the moment is really funny, but even there you can see their influences, such as talking to the camera.

What would you say to anyone out there who wants to try their hand at stand-up comedy?

Check out some open mic nights, get 5 minutes together, and don’t try and be like other comics or copy anybody else. Don’t show it to your friends, go try it out to strangers. The worse that can happen is people don’t laugh. It’s not rocket science.

Stephen K Amos is performing in Cambridge on 29th October at The Junction. His memoir I Used to Say My Mother Was Shirley Bassey is out now.