“It’s a bit tense in here tonight.” At any given moment Sam Simmons can split the crowd — two-thirds of the room laughing at the gleeful insanity playing out before them, the remainder sat in flummoxed silence. I can hardly blame them: Simmons is a near-indescribable curiosity, revelling in material that is not just a little bit odd, but often barely intelligible surreal. He delights in baffling the audience, but most of the time, thankfully, he manages to stay on the funny side of nonsense.
Though it has the feel of an unrepentant lunatic messing around, Not a People Person is a supremely polished show
Every detail of Simmons’ persona is tailored to looking raving mad. He’s always ridiculously dressed, swapping out the karate getup he initially sports — after a striptease I’ll never be able to forget — for a large pair of banana-patterned boxers and a loose-fitting shirt. It’s an appropriate outfit for this singularly odd comedian, kind of like the warning stripes on a poisonous snake: noone can see that ensemble and be mistaken about what sort of show they’re about to witness.
Though it has the feel of an unrepentant lunatic messing around, Not a People Person is a supremely polished show — the madness belies its meticulous construction. Indeed, Simmons’ routines often involve him sparring with prerecorded voiceovers and executing routines in time to music — you can’t get much more preplanned than that. He’s also impressive off-script, however, improvising hilariously with the front row, and with a couple of people unlucky enough to dash to the toilet mid-routine.
Not a People Person did occasionally miss its mark. Some of the insanity is simply bizarre, with a couple moments leaving the entire audience scratching at their collective head. In these instances, Simmons — wholly unperturbed — would acknowledge the moment, riffing on the slightly muted response, eking laughter out of these minor misfires. It was more than enough to salvage momentum, and the show never dipped for long.
Writing about Simmons is no easy task, but the crux of the review, I suppose, lies in the answers to two questions. Did it make sense? Not at all. Was it funny? Immensely.