Simon Amstell | Numb | Largo (Los Angeles, CA) | November 13, 2012 |
To sum up: painfully hilarious. Both in the physical – keeled over in one’s chair, or perhaps curled on the floor having fallen out of one’s chair, with arms curled around one’s stomach from laughing – sense and the metaphysical sense (which was explored as the show went on).
Numb recounts the journey of an awkward boy growing into an awkward man and his quest to find meaning in life. In the space of an hour, Simon painted a picture of the quintessential odd outsider, pushing his description to the point of caricature. With his grasshopper figure topped by a curly mop and glasses, it’s not hard to imagine the caricature come to life.
Someone sneezed as soon as he came out, prompting a “Bless you” within his first few lines. A few sneezes later, he was compelled to ask if there was something wrong, perhaps to somehow alleviate the person’s distress. When it turned out that nothing could be done, he tried to go on, verbally reminding himself to just “Ignore, ignore, ignore.” That moment set the scene for the rest of the show, immediately identifying him as someone who cared about his audience enough to ask, and a comic possibly insecure enough that a sneeze could disrupt his flow despite years of experience. It established him as human (spiritual cat quests aside), making him instantly relatable to everyone else just trying to get through their day.
During his verbal meanderings, he touched on more philosophical subjects such as gender roles, veganism, marriage, racism, and patriotism. Cleverly delivered with a quick wit and good humor, it’s easy to dismiss his more serious subjects if one is so inclined. Part of his brilliance is his ability to guide audiences through potentially touchy moments by revealing his own vulnerability, through a line delivered in broken, panicked falsetto or punctuated with a breathless laugh. Those who feel more strongly however will have something to think about after the show is over.
One of his best moments started with a simple bit of advice, “You just have to make plans. Especially if you don’t have a normal job. Because if you live alone and you don’t make plans, here is what happens. You wake up… and it just gets darker.” This simple observation provoked instant laughter. Those with softer hearts responded with a collective “Awww.” His honest delivery and raw admissions made him incredibly sympathetic, even when describing his medicinally-induced journey wherein he chanted a Jewish prayer and promptly turned into a cat.
From anecdotes about his then-distant father, traveling and being alone, getting older, being invited to the “cool” parties, to his spiritual quest in Peru; Simon poked fun at social convention, mainstream media, and most of all, himself. He quickly established, then carefully nurtured a connection with his audience, ironically by describing a series of instances when he was unable to connect with the people around him at the time. He asked the question, “What are any of us doing? What is our meaning, our purpose in life?” For those in the room with him, the answer came in the form of laughter and through that shared experience, a bit of joy.
Numb is a show that will leave you feeling anything but. Go see it.
– Joy Jarme