Simon Amstell’s latest stand-up comedy show, Set Free, dropped to Netflix on Tuesday, August 20th.

Simon Amstell has always been plagued by the tagline of ‘that funny guy’ from Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

Unfortunately, it’s a character and persona that he has never been unable to fully shake despite over 10 years of comedic work elsewhere, with several stand-up shows since 2012.

Now 39, he couldn’t be any different from that witty know-it-all who once wore the crown of TV hosting glory and Set Free proudly releases the real Simon to the world not only as a comedian but as a person. 

Set Free is an eye-opening, tender comedy experience that is packed from start to finish with smirky chuckles and, above all, delivers a punchy feel-good factor about life in 2019 even when jokes are centred around quotes such as “I think the problem is we just don’t die young enough.”

It’s hard not to love Simon Amstell

Simon is extremely difficult not to enjoy as a stand-up comedian. From his wispy glasses to scrunch of poodle-curled hair and mousey voice, no-one can look at this guy and feel anything but warmth.

Dropping one-liners such as “we’re all going to die one day, we must go to a sexy party” and burrowing down introspective rabbit-hole tales of daddy issues and therapy classes may feel totally unrelatable to many viewers, yet his delivery packages it together with a sense of understanding.

His brand of loose-fitted trouser and hipster comedy won’t isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and if you came to the Netflix performance for a 50-minute roar of bellyful laughs then your’e going to be disappointment.

But any comedian can do that.

Simon finds the skill and courage to present his stand-up show as if it is a mockumentary, allowing viewers to laugh at the situations he’s been forced into whether it is from experimental ex-boyfriends or a society unwilling to accept him for who he really is.

At one point he says:

“I was at a very traditional wedding the other day and I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming feeling that if the Nazis came to take me away… the guests would feel sad… but they wouldn’t stop them. And it made me quite sad all day.”

For those who didn’t know Simon was gay or thought that his levels of humour were still stuck in 08′ Buzzcocks territory, the set is real eye-opener.

As the set continues he expands on his first homosexual kiss in Paris while also losing his virginity, which came moments before the ballsy gag: “And suddenly we were washing the c*m of our hands in the fountains of Paris.”

Awkward sex parties, Daddy issues and sexism

The Set Free sketch takes 15 minutes before it really get the wheels turning but from there Simon’s comedic brilliance shines.

His mouse-like voice and giggly approach to topics such as homosexual relationships and sexual fantasies gives the performance a refreshingly different voice.

“I had a sex dream seduced by… I don’t know how to describe him other than… wet, slut, man – I don’t know. And it wasn’t even water it was lubricant. But my dreams aren’t normally that exciting… the other night I had a dream I was in a queue… I didn’t even get to the front of the damn queue.”

This section continues with Simon talking about his “sworded” experience in the sex dungeons of his dream yet the performance never feels feel awkward or smutty thanks to the delivery. 

There’s a tender moment where Simon talks about a shameless lust for sleeping with someone else other than his boyfriend during a night out, wrapped up in elegance as Simon explained that his lover simply replied:”Well I’m really glad you’ve told me that, I guess what you’re saying is that ‘you’re a human-being’.”

Of course that quickly led into a sex party anecdote… but that’s not the point.

Top five one-liners

1. No-one wants an ironic blowjob.

2. Really your dad is just a man who ejaculated.

3. I went to see this dance piece… don’t go to see something if it is a ‘piece’.

4. I asked my agent if there was a way I could be a not-for-profit comedian and she said… you’re getting there.

5. I don’t know if you know much about the Jewish religion but if you’re a boy and you have a boyfriend, it’s very important that your boyfriend is a girl.


Simon Amstell: Set Free review – 5 out of 5 stars

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