For his latest tour Stephen K Amos says he wants to cut across social and political differences and be a comedian for the Everyman.
But in a time that seems to have divisions everywhere, even the title has its own questions to navigate.
“You can take it in a variety of ways: is it every man for himself, as it appears to be around the world at the moment? Or is it that we should reconsider the fact that the whole of humanity will only survive and progress if every man pulls together?” he says.
“It really does depend on your point of view. I’m not a preachy sort of comic, I prefer to leave things up in the air and for the audience to make their own decisions.”
Each time Stephen takes a new show out to the nation there are fresh social and political challenges to be faced. This time around, Everyman will be performed in a country which still doesn’t know the final fate of its EU membership.
“What I’m trying to be more prepared for is how the audience will react because I did a show on the night of the Brexit vote, and that was the weirdest crowd I’d had for many years: there was a huge division in the room and people were in shock.”
Stephen insists that he won’t cover Brexit if he finds he has nothing new to say about it, but he does have some broad areas he will definitely be confronting in Everyman: “I’m tackling things as simple as how we face our own mortality as we get older, and looking at things you can do to improve yourself when you’re trying to find answers to questions.”
This desire for answers has been partly sparked by a TV show he appeared on earlier in 2019. BBC’s Pilgrimage featured a number of celebrities (including Dana, Lesley Joseph and Les Dennis) who embarked on a journey (both physical and spiritual) to Rome. As an atheist and gay man, Stephen was initially taken aback when the group was offered a private audience with the Pope as part of their adventure.
“Never in my wildest dreams, at the dizziest heights of stand-up comedy when you’re meeting very famous people and on bills with Rihanna or Madonna, never did I think I’d be sitting down for a half-hour private audience with the Pope. Particularly for a man with no religious leanings; it was so surreal.
“I was very apprehensive because I said I would only be part of it if I could ask some questions; I didn’t want to be sitting there being talked at and not have the opportunity to address issues. I had a weight on my shoulders that if I didn’t do this, that I would be doing a disservice to a whole community of people. They did say it might spark an international incident depending on the question, but I said bring it on.”
The pontiff’s response to Stephen’s question about not feeling accepted as a gay man by religion and religious groups surprised him by being so open and generous.
“I said to a friend there beforehand that I was 100% prepared to walk out, not flounce which may have been great for TV, but just get up and leave if he had given me a stock response. But I was blindsided by how candid he was. He wasn’t that explicit in what he said but it was enough to make me realise that, you know what, you’re one of the good ‘uns.”
His experiences during Pilgrimage bolstered his belief that it is important for comedian’s to reach out to a wide range of people.
“I’ve always wanted to have people in the audience who don’t share the same views as me whether politically, socio-economically, and racially, and to see if we can have a common ground for laughing together,” he says.
“I don’t want to be that kind of comic who gets a big round of applause and everyone goes ‘yeah, I agree!’. I want you to laugh and to be blindsided in the way that the Pope blindsided me. I want you to be surprised, not to feel like you’re at a rally with like-minded people.”
Stephen is happy to be back on the road and delighted with the show he has put together. “The structure is in place, and I’m very fond and pleased with it. I think there’s a maturity to the show; I’ve got peace with myself in terms of not having to show off. It’s a departure for me.”
Stephen K Amos: Everyman is touring from November, including: November 14, Harlow Playhouse; November 23, Southend Palace Theatre; December 10, Colchester Arts Centre; January 24, Cambridge Junction; February 13, Norwich Playhouse.