Stephen K Amos
Stephen K Amos, comedian, actor and all round heart-warming funny man first entered my sphere of comic understanding at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since his phenomenal debut in 2001, he has appeared at the Fringe every year since 2003.
The year in question was 2007. The venue was large and the atmosphere rowdy, comprising a strange collection of beer drinking stag-doers, pompous students and the odd, muttering old person.
It was the only Fringe show confirmed to be an absolute must see - outrageously notorious for its audience participation; an eclectic mix of people hell bent on destroying whichever comedian was brave enough to attempt withstanding them. Consequently, an audience prepared to be destroyed.
Stephen K Amos was compering the show appropriately titled Late and Live,, which starts at midnight and finishes in the early hours. Hosting a number of stand up comedians such as Russell Howard and underground comedy legend Daniel Kitson, such are the standards and expectations that the comics actually join the audience in heckling their fellow Stand Ups on stage.
It's a dog eat dog business, Lord of the Flies the stand up version. Household names might be showcased on TV night after night, but this is the room in which few stand up comedians can gather for a month each year and place bets on which one will come out alive. It makes the Comedy Store look like a weekly breakfast show.
As compere, Amos handled the crowd and comedians with enviable expertise. In a show that bullies comedians into providing audience kicks by "getting their kit off" before hurling criticism at them for doing so, for example, Amos never once lost control.
Notably, Stephen K Amos made his mark in his 2006 show All of Me, flitting from character to character, satirising his well observed Nigerian and English cultural traits.
Amos took his audience through a journey of childhood experiences - cliched but relatable, cementing his success as a comedian who creates his success by connecting with his audience. He also introduced his homosexuality, drawing on it as a comedian who happens to be gay, rather than from the stance of a gay comedian.
Needless to say, the man more than holds his own in vast jungle pits of sweaty, beer drinking, testosterone pumped men, despite having moved on to venues such as Live at the Apollo and the Royal Festival Hall.
Having explored the derogatory attitudes towards gay men in black communities in his Channel 4 documentary Batty Man, the infectious stand up adds more strings to his bow while proving in sell out stand up tours and year after year at Edinburgh that his wicked charm has power, sustainability and resilience.
Stephen K Amos's 2009 show Find the Funny steps away from his autobiographical comfort zone and the chatty banter that compering limits him to, delving into the self confessed and daring unknowns of having no theme, message or pathos - just pure comedy laughs.
As stretched for content as his new approach might leave him, his unquestionable charisma ensures that Stephen K Amos is a comedy force to be reckoned with. A force sporting a slight whiff of cheese, maybe, but a force all the same.