Declan Amphlett is going into his fourth year at Cambridge, and has just returned from a year abroad in France. He's only recently broken up with his girlfriend, and is trying to find his way in the world as a semi-awkward, middlingly attractive (according to him) man.
It is a delight to watch this young comic
Amphlett spins these familiar elements into an hour of smart, fast-paced and thoroughly self-deprecating stand up. He speaks at rapid-fire speed, misdirecting and meta-analysing at every turn. Amphlett's time in the Cambridge Footlights was clearly well spent, and he guides his surreal set ups confidently to their payoffs. One gag about plagiarism is particularly smart and unravels in a way I wasn’t expecting.
Some of the jokes are a little gratuitous, and overly reliant on self-aware semantics; “Declan Amphlett is half-Irish, half-English, and seventy percent water. He isn't quite sure how that adds up.” It’s a pointless surrealism that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Or, as Declan Amphlett might say, ‘it’s a surrealism that doesn’t quite hit the mark – not that there is a mark, this is is a comedy show not an over-sixties amateur darts game, and even if there was a mark would hitting it truly be a worthwhile achievement, when there’s so much injustice in the world?’ However, the ceaseless flurry of actually funny high-concept material, combined with Amphlett’s genuine likeability, makes up for these slightly irritating Oxbridge-wholesale syllogisms.
There are also ad libbed moments, and Amphlett demonstrates a quick wit, responding to a dissatisfied group who left early with a joyfully ironic self-awareness – “come back next year, hopefully I'll have improved”. These spontaneous moments were as funny as the material itself – it's always a relief to know that a comedian is funny in person and not just a frigid joke-machine.
Amphlett also includes some of his own comedy songs, which are mercifully not pastiches. The lyrics were generally funny, particularly in a song about Amphlett’s devil-may-care attitude to life, which covers such debaucheries as unsafely removing memory sticks. Sometimes the songs drag on a little, but the music is creative enough to make the melodies enjoyable in themselves.
This is Amphlett's first stand up show, and naturally, not everything falls together perfectly. However, it is a delight to watch this young comic, and he's someone worth looking out for. If you're not a fan, hopefully he'll have improved next year...