Saturday, August 8

Interview: Simon Amstell

- July 10, 2017

Hit writer, director, and filmmaker – Simon Amstell is a busy man and is about to embark upon a new stand up tour. He speaks with Victoria Nangle about what he’s been up to.

Hi Simon, how are you today?
I’m good, how are you?

Good too, thanks. Thank you for including Brighton in your tour. Are you looking forward to visiting the city, or have any strong memories of the place?
My main memory of Brighton is getting on the train there every fortnight for therapy sessions, because I made the strange choice of finding a therapist who lived in Brighton [when I didn’t]. 

Obviously you hope for the best for anything you make, but was the great success of Carnage something you were prepared for?
I was really worried people would hate it so we made it as funny as possible. Once I saw people liked it, it was quite a relief.

How did you find being in control and responsible to such an extent (writing and directing a feature length) for an entire film, in contrast to Grandma’s House?
In a way, it was easier in that it wasn’t as personal… with Grandma’s House I was playing myself, expressing every personal insecurity I had at the time. If people hadn’t liked that, it would mean that they didn’t like me and I thought I would have to leave the country.

It has been reported that you will write and direct ‘Benjamin’ as your second film. How involved are you planning in being involved all of the aspects of the production – casting, producing, editing, soundtrack etc – and do you find it easy to delegate when you are shaping something from its start?
I’m involved in every detail but I’m working with people I love and trust, so tell them they have to be as creative and experimental as they can.

Could you describe ‘Benjamin’ for us in a trailer – teasing and giving a glimpse of what’s to come, with maybe a tagline?
I think I shouldn’t say too much about ‘Benjamin’ now as it’s going to be a while before anyone sees it and we haven’t made it yet.

“ Saying the most embarrassing, shameful things I feel about myself out loud ”

Will you be writing ‘What is This?’ at the same time as ‘Benjamin’ is in production?
Most of the show is ready. I have a few more warm ups. All the stories are there, I’m just not sure which order they should go in. 

Do you have a writing method for stand up – and does it dovetail well with other workloads drawing on you?
I get on stage in front of 100 people and keep talking until something funny happens. Then that bit goes into the next show and I keep doing that until I feel funny enough to go on tour.

What brings you back to a live audience?
I suppose, for me it’s that I get to reveal who I am on stage. By saying the most embarrassing, shameful things I feel about myself out loud, I feel less confused and alone… when the audience laughs, I feel like they’re saying, ‘you’re okay, we feel that too’… there’s a feeling of connection in that moment. That’s what I’m in it for. 

Simon Amstell – What Is This?, Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Sunday 19 November 2017, 8pm, £24

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