REVIEW: Simon Amstell gives us warm and fuzzy feelings and slick comedy in What Is This?

Simon Amstell has a story to tell. The TV presenter that we love for his acid tongue and put-downs on Never Mind The Buzzcocks became a shaman-like figure in front of our very eyes in London’s Leicester Square theatre – which you should know has a stella roster of acts between now and March 2018.

Simon Amstell (
Simon Amstell (

What Is This? is Amstell’s coming-of-age tale complete with a juicy beginning, angst-ridden middle, and not one, but two happy endings. In the first he finds himself making good decisions like building bridges with his dismissive father and not cheating on his long-term boyfriend – hooray – and in the second he gets high with the love of his life, embarks on an orgy at a party with a hot guy named Harry and lives happily ever after.

It is consequential to know that Amstell is doing well and is mentally in a good place – having spent moments in his life being unable to muster the motivation to get out of bed – because knowing that allows you to believe his extraordinary tales and laugh without feeling sorry for him.

Aside from the short stories that he racked up in his teens and twenties, Amstell has a protruding narrative… his sexuality. For an hour he takes us to an exestential place where he processes all of the awkward, funny, mucky (crawling naked from a therapy session in a tipee), and romantic moments. He describes as a young boy being afraid of being gay to the point of believing his fear sparked a self fulfilling prophecy, then waiting to test his gayness in the clubs of Paris and Miami – yes, still gay – before finally telling his mum because he was famous now and then being dragged to a family meeting about it but ultimately drifting further away from his dad.

Life is rocky when you are a gem. Amstell is so honest about the rocks he’s stumbled on that he could be talking to himself in the mirror or to his closest confidant, and sitting in a snug theatre with a drink in hand, you feel like just that; a good friend to whom he is sharing his secret and private revelations, trusting that you won’t repeat them to others. So you’ll not get any more spoilers from us!

Amstell started his show with a joke about the deal he struck to publish scripts of his live comedy, and says his first reaction was, ‘Who for?’

For all of us, you know, human beings.

Amstell’s book Help by Simon Amstell is out now and he plays Leicester Square theatre, London, 27-28 September; then tours until 29 November.