I forget, from time to time, that most of my readers are still in the US and have no idea who the hell a lot of these Brits are, that I keep talking about. This sounds like an excellent reason to queue up a load of entries with embedded video, which I can knock out all in one evening and then not feel guilty about having to leave the blog alone while I go do professionally-attractive-person things this weekend.

One of the ones I know I've name-checked recently is Simon Amstell. Amstell was the last regular host of Never Mind The Buzzcocks before they gave up and started inviting a new guest host every week. This one's a pretty good sample. Amstell is quite pointy as an emcee and has a tendency to badger people for purposes of comedy. Someone does occasionally volley back and strike a direct hit, as Mel C does there. He takes it pretty well, usually pretend-slinking back to his hosting chair in shame while trying, unsuccessfully, not to laugh.

Prior to that, Amstell hosted a show called Popworld, which I've never seen, but judging from some of the stuff that went on between him and some of the panelists on NMTB whom he'd previously interviewed, it went about the same, except he didn't have to argue with anyone over points.

For once I've picked up on someone who is actually as young as he looks -- he's about my age, early thirties -- which makes him all the more startlingly philosophical and articulate behind all the sarcasm. He's classed as a stand-up comedian most of the time, but his solo stage shows are more monologues than anything else; he's a bit self-deprecating as a host, and it turns into a strange melange of hilarious neuroticism and poignant honesty when his only available target is himself. Do Nothing is the only one of his solo shows that seems to be up on YouTube, and if you're anything like me you'll spend most of the hour wincing, giggling, and wanting desperately to give the poor man a hug:

For what it's worth, my professionally-unprofessional opinion is that all of the introverted, vaguely-terrified body language in this is legit. It's half comedy, half therapy for him. A little disconcerting if you're expecting a straight onslaught of jokes -- quite a lot of the anecdotes make him look distinctly Not Happy -- but if you're going to be the poster boy for Radically Overthinking It, turning it into humor for others is far from the worst thing you can do. It helps that the cringing is for the memories, not for being up on stage; performing is his thing and he's perfectly fine with that part, at least once he's actually up there and talking.

(Also for what it's worth, he's much more neurotic about loneliness than he actually is alone. He does talk about friends, plural, so somebody likes him no matter what he thinks of himself. He knows at least one of them intimately enough to have explained exactly how tied up in knots he really is, and that one has been around long enough to know that it will work if he grabs his friend by the back of the collar and drags him over to the boy he's been eyeing all night and just goes, "Simon, for the love of god, HERE. FLIRT.")

Amstell is not kidding when he says he's kind of petrified of people, and I expect that's why he does very little where he's not either writing it or hosting it, which gives him a sort of default authority to fall back on. Someone did get him on Graham Norton once, with several other people, where he spends most of the time looking like he's on the verge of a very quiet panic attack. He nearly jumps out of his skin once when the gregarious and extroverted pop tart next to him decides to pat him on the knee; to her credit, she does notice and try to fix it, but Amstell has no idea how to go un-yeep! after he's already yeep!ed, and just sort of sputters endearingly.

He must be a pretty dedicated theater geek, as he does briefly climb out of his little pit of self-consciousness when confronted with the lady who's currently rehearsing a show at the National Theatre. (I wish I had a better verb for when that happens -- I usually use 'pops up' or 'lights up', but they're both rather lacking. It's the thing that happens to people at that critical moment when their interest in something finally surpasses the constant buzz of inhibition in their head, and takes up so much processing power that they can no longer properly support their normal state of abject terror.) Amstell actually tries to sit all the way up and talk over someone to tell her he'll be at her show when it opens, and when Jessie J gets up to do her musical number, you can see him immediately scoot over to chatter to the stage actress as the camera pans away, still timid but also smiling.


  1. i'm not sure if you're aware, but the lady actress is Julie Walters. she's one of the most loved actresses in Britain, and achieved the unofficial status of "National Treasure" (along with Stephen Fry, David Attenborough, and several others) some time ago. she played Molly Weasly in the Potter Saga. i'm not surprised Simon scooted up to her, smiling. she's one of those people who carries an aura of coziness, comfort and good humour. whenever i've seen her interviewed she always seems so very easy going, and like a universal mum - the kind whose house every kid in the neighbourhood seems to congregate at - *and behaves*. and yet she also always seems to have an edge of "hillarious, drunken, and slightly risque aunty", too.
    erm... sorry. i'll stop, now.

    1. Oh, thank you. I was going to wiki her and then I got lazy. I enjoy theater when I see it, but I'm not a complete stagecraft nerd -- Moggie is, she'd probably have known who Julie Waters was -- and I gave up on HP films after I saw the third one and noticed that they had whacked a lot of important plot points out of it in order to make room for the CG flying thing. She seemed like a very charming lady and someone I'd go boozing with if asked, but my reaction to her is not the important part of my essay here. :)

      For the purposes of people-reading hoodoo, it doesn't actually matter who she is, only that it's obvious from context that she's a very famous stage person, and Amstell's obvious enthusiasm for getting to chat with her matches with the plethora of anecdotes he tells about dinner with playwrights and getting himself all knotted up over actors. He never says outright that he's a huge theater geek; he doesn't need to, because it's obvious from all the other things that line up. The fact that it made him happy to voluntarily talk to someone whom he didn't seem to know before she sat down on the sofa is a testament to how much he cares about it.


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