British comedian Stephen K Amos’ recently published memoir, I Used To Say My Mother Was Shirley Bassey, details the lies and exaggerations the funnyman used to resort to as a youngster in the hopes of getting some attention amongst a family of eight children.
“When you’re in a large family, you have to do anything for attention. I used to tell little white lies all the time, and one of them was that my mum was Shirley Bassey. It did backfire when my teachers asked my mum to open the school fete – that’s when things got awkward,” he told the Star Observer.
Insisting the diva who belted Diamonds Are Forever is your mum seems a particularly – how can we put this – gay sort of fib for a young boy to concoct.
“I think the clues were there, weren’t they? At eight-years-old, loving Shirley Bassey in her sequins and high heels…” he chuckled.
He may have had a knack for tall tales as a child, but in his new stand-up show, The Spokesman, Amos tackles the lies and hypocrisy present in much of public life nowadays. While ‘The Spokesman’ is in fact an anagram of his name, for Amos, the title cuts deeper.
“It’s based on a news story I saw that was quite scandalous, and then the spokesperson for that company had to go and apologise by reading a prepared statement – and then expected us to believe that statement,” he said.
“You never know what to believe when spokespeople are spinning a yarn. For me as a comedian, it’s almost the opposite – I stand up and I’m just myself talking, I’m telling the truth and I’m not representing anyone else, whereas a spokesman will happily stand up and lie for somebody else.”
And while Amos has parlayed his stand-up career into a multitude of high-profile television appearances in recent years, he said that the magic hour on stage each night was still his favourite part of the job.
“In that hour you can say and do whatever you want. When you do TV and other things there are constraints about all sorts of things – you can’t swear, you can’t say things about the network or certain companies. On stage, I can talk about anything. I’m a firm believer in freedom of expression – if you say something and someone in the audience doesn’t like it, it’s your duty to defend yourself.”
The Star Observer spoke to Amos en route from Melbourne ahead of his upcoming Sydney Comedy Festival stint. It follows festival runs in Adelaide and Perth – all up, the comic spends about half his year Down Under. As Amos said, if he had it his way, he’d live here.
“I’m trying to avoid the cold winter in England, and it’s working. All I need now is a lovely Australian partner to make it so I can stay here for good.”
INFO: Stephen K Amos, Enmore Theatre, May 9-11. Tickets through Ticketek.