Simon Amstell, “Numb” in New York City

For someone who grew up on camera in front of much of England the United Kingdom, and performs his one-man shows around the world, Simon Amstell remains socially awkward, lonely and depressed. That much Amstell is quick to remind his audiences in his latest one-man show, Numb. “That’s the hour!” he cheekily tells a New York City audience.

After performing it in front of sold-out theater crowds in the UK and Australia this spring, Amstell has brought Numb to NYC to, as he says more than once, “break (into) America.”

He’s halfway through his first five-week stab at doing just that — Numb runs through Aug. 9, and Amstell will appear this morning (July 25) on ABC’s The View to promote it, and also talk about his evolving relationship with his grandmother in doing so. Across the pond, Amstell stars in the semi-autobiographical series, Grandma’s House, on BBC2. That’s the same channel that showcased him as presenter for the game show, Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

In Numb, it’s his strained and distant relationship with his father that comes into focus. Amstell also explains how he overcomes his social anxiety at parties, typically making the other party-goers feel more awkward than him in the process. He tries to alleviate his anxiety by spending time alone on holiday, by visiting a shaman in Peru, and by communing with nature, which he feels is more logical and spiritual than talking to God. He’ll make a good case for it. Even if, as the audience on this particular night, didn’t go along with his argument. Not to worry. He has an answer for everything. In this case, “it’s mildly funny, but mainly brilliant.”

Same could be said for his show, wringing out the angst and sexual perversions, revealing himself in all of his imperfections. I’m not sure whether Numb is more therapeutic at times for Amstell as it is for the audience that relates to him.

He’s easily distracted, too. A man coughing a few rows up got too much of Amstell’s attention, followed by his disdain when the coughing man turned out to be British. “I’m not here to provide a cheap show to people who already know me!” Amstell declared.

Earlier, when a woman up front found it funny that a boyfriend had dumped Amstell, the performer rejoindered: “Fuck you! This is my life. It’s not a fun night out.” He paused. “We must put that on the posters.”

Simon Amstell, “Numb,” runs through Aug. 9, 2012, at Theatre 80 on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. Tickets: $20 plus fees.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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