When I’d interviewed Andy Hamilton prior to this show, he’d told me that while he doesn’t tailor his work for a particular audience, he seems to attract a Radio 4-type crowd. Looking around at the audience, this stereotype certainly rang true, with an age gap of at least 15 years between me and the next youngest person. But, all the under-40s who haven’t yet discovered Andy Hamilton are definitely missing out; I laughed the whole way through the evening.
Hamilton began the show by making the audience comfortable in his presence. He told some funny anecdotes, and laid out the structure for the evening, or the lack thereof. The premise of An Evening with Andy Hamilton is that the audience are the ones in control. Audience members have the freedom to ask Hamilton questions about anything and everything, meaning that every show will be entirely unique. The success of An Evening with Andy Hamilton thus relies on building up a rapport between Hamilton and the audience. This is undeniably something that Hamilton achieved straight away. Before he opened up the floor for questions, he asked some questions of his own with audience polling; how much they knew about him, what kind of shows they’d seen/heard him on before, how they heard about this show, etc. Since the audience had been quizzed first, it then felt natural to move onto asking Hamilton our own questions.
The nature of the show meant that Hamilton was placing himself in a vulnerable position. Stand-up is scary in itself because there’s nowhere to hide, but in this show, if targeted with an unusual/surprising question, Hamilton did not even have the luxury of time to prepare a response. However, he dealt incredibly well with every question. For instance, one woman gave him an incredibly narrow genre in which to create humour. She told us about how she’d danced with a man at a wedding who, a week later, became one of the peaceful protestors imprisoned for their anti-fracking protest near Blackpool. She asked Hamilton what joke he’d tell them in prison to cheer them up. He was obviously taken aback by the specificity of the question, but still managed to respond in a humorous manner which sympathised with these protestors (who’ve since been released after appeal). He also brought in his past experiences of performing in prisons, creating a very funny extension to the original question.
Other questions were more generic but equally interesting and very relatable. One man asked if Hamilton was a comedian at school. Hamilton admitted that he was more likely to be the one sniggering than the one telling the jokes, but that his school environment meant most of them were hard workers. He told us about the wood work teacher who threw chunks of wood at his students, and how he was later told that older students avenged the teacher by pissing in his tea when he left the room. He then asked the audience for the worst thing a teacher had ever hit them with at school, to which there was the response of ‘a cricket bat’. The natural progression of his anecdotes and the way he engaged the audience in his responses gave the show an intimate feel, making it truly like An Evening with Andy Hamilton, despite the fact you were sharing this with 500 other people.
Hamilton skilfully maintained banter with his audience throughout. One woman began her question by asking Hamilton if he remembered who she was (they’d met on a train the week before). Later in the show, he admitted the reason for the look of horror when he was asked this question, telling the story of the woman he feared it would be. This honest and genuine approach was key to the show’s success. He also openly talked about his political views, something which many celebrities shy away for fear of a media backlash. The show seemed a more authentic experience than one you’d gain from his TV and radio appearances. For instance, he told a story about the sex lives of conjoined twins, which he admitted he wouldn’t have felt able to tell on TV or radio because of the way some would react on social media. In this sense, you felt that you’d truly gained something from seeing Hamilton perform live.
It was evident that some audience members were avid fans of Hamilton, asking questions very specific to his previous work and career. Some of his references to celebrities and former politicians did go straight over my head but you can hardly blame him for assuming the audience would know who they were, given the average age of the crowd. Personally, as a fan of Outnumbered, I was really interested to hear about life behind the scenes. Hamilton had many hilarious stories about this, including anecdotes of parental mistakes he’d made, akin to those in the show.
An Evening with Andy Hamilton was engaging and honest, and most importantly, incredibly funny. Hamilton has achieved great success in the unique concept of this show, with his impromptu answers both making his audience laugh and leaving them with things to think about. I would thoroughly recommend catching one of the shows in Hamilton’s tour, and while your experience will be completely different to mine, I can guarantee that it’ll be just as enjoyable.
Photo Credits: Steve Ullathorne