The last time I saw Stephen K Amos at the Festival Fringe was in a large and boiling hot chamber in the Pleasance. Work in Progress is in a far more humble arena; the boiling hot basement of the Stand 3 & 4 building. It quickly became apparent that Amos was all too aware of the differences too.
Work in Progress is in the basement in the supplemental Stand building because, as the name suggests, it is a Work in Progress. Stephen K Amos happily admits that he’s testing out material for a new show. The new show will be called Laughter Is My Agenda and it’s rather good to consider that as a member of the Work in Progress audience I helped shape it. Alternatively, as Amos jokes, tickets for Work in Progress are dirt cheap (~£10) so you can hardly go wrong.
There are some noticeable differences between Work in Progress / Laughter Is My Agenda and previous acts. Amos has always drawn heavily on his heritage; both his own South London birth but also his family’s Nigerian roots. That’s still there in this show but he also talks about the more recent past – he’s mastered the comedy effect of the “I don’t need the money” dismissive hand gesture. This is Stephen K Amos; that comedian from the TV.
The other very significant level of difference between Works in Progress and previous shows is the level of interaction with the audience. This, I suspect, was very much due to the venue. He’s right up close to the audience, flanked on three sides and able to hear any chatter from the back rows.
We might not see the same amount of audience interaction in Laughter Is My Agenda – but that would be a shame. I thought Amos was at his best when he was exchanging banter with the audience, reacting and joining in with the laughs. He feels more confident, more natural and very good at reading the audience.
There is a twist. The Stephen K Amos who enjoys joking with the audience certainly enjoys joking at the audience. I sense he means no harm, at times it even feels like defensive humour, but it is certainly true that some members of the audience may find themselves the brunt of jokes. He caught one person trying to hide; it didn’t work.
Certainly by the end of the gig much of the audience had taken the view they’d laugh at the jokes but not volunteer themselves for any more attention from Amos. He sensed it to – which is a good sign – and steered the Work in Progress back towards the script.
Perhaps it was the slight hesitance from the audience to get involved but not all the jokes in Work in Progress are new. Quite a few I recognised from previous gigs. They were still funny, much of the audience probably hadn’t heard them before and I think they were used to buy Stephen K Amos time to re-centre himself after a particularly funny exchange with the room and get back on track.
Work in Progress lives up to its name in the sense that its ranges across a spectrum of jokes and styles.
Overall – pretty much everyone was laughing. I was laughing. The conversation was the audience trailed out of the venue was of how funny it was. This may be a Works in Progress that, on this occasion, borrowed some jokes from the past – but it was classic comedy festival stuff and the crowd enjoyed it.
Laughter is my Agenda is likely to be a very good set indeed.
Reviewed by Andrew Girdwood on , 2012.
A works in progress from Stephen K Amos, a comedy set that ranges across a wide scope of different test material and gets involved with the audience.
Stephen K Amos’ Work in Progress is a precursor to Laughter is my Agenda. The South London comedy gets up close with the audience, gets involved and shares belly laughs and stories.
Rating: 3.5/5 Edinburgh Stars.