Stephen K Amos is a very talented example of what might be considered a dying breed of comedian. He is clearly popular for valid reason. He is an experienced, accomplished performer with a quick wit. In Amos’ approach there are no awkward transitions between topics. Despite jumping between what seemed to be quite varied stories, the transition was always seamless and swift. Other than a few ‘hard nuts to crack’ (whom he had no issues confronting directly if they were within the first few rows that he could see), he had the audience in stitches very quickly. But the style of Amos’ comedy is quite old fashioned. It is based quite strongly on mocking people – whether it be a large group (such as Tasmanians in general) or a rather unfortunate young man in the audience who became the butt of jokes throughout the entire show, the laughs were often at the expense of others. Although I will admit upon occasion, it was even aimed at himself. Amos’s experience leads him to take the time to sound out the audience and judge the response to a suddenly more shocking joke. But as this progressed, my laughter began to dry up, and I spent the last part of the show in silence, without even a chuckle.
Amos made quite a point of confronting racist views that impacted him personally. But his comments in relation to other sensitive areas were at times quite offensive, and therefore struck me as hypocritical. I don’t think I was alone in feeling he went too far at times. Well, I know I wasn’t, as several jokes actually brought groans from the audience. But on a subtler note, I noticed some jokes, for example, where the laughter in response seemed to come entirely from males (not because women can’t laugh at themselves, or tolerate some sexist humour, but because the joke went too far). In general, I felt that the response overall was less enthusiastic in the second half of the show. There were a number of lines that I feel he crossed. Some of the ‘too soon’ variety, but mainly that simply felt inappropriate and outdated. Paedophilia, for example, is never funny. Amos actually addressed some of my concerns head on. He claimed the difference between his humour, and people just being offensive, is context. His context is that he is a comedian, so it is clear that he is ‘just joking’, compared to people making offensive comments in conversation. I’m afraid I disagree. I’ve never been a fan of humour that relies on mocking people for laughs, and the best comedians can keep an audience laughing without resorting to divisive, denigrating humour.
When Amos stayed away from the severely non-PC topics, he was extremely funny. His decision to cross that line so many times was actually confusing, since he made a blatant statement that being ‘PC’ was a sign of respect. “Bring it on” he said. I wish he had followed his own advice more closely. He has a quick wit, great delivery and excellent comedic timing. He was at his funniest when telling stories about his upbringing with his family and his personal experiences.
While trying to classify Stephen K. Amos’ performance, a childhood nursery rhyme springs to mind. I paraphrase of course, but ‘When he was good, he was very, very good, and when he was bad he was horrid.