Opinion: Sam Simmons – My Part In His Foster's Victory?

Sam simmons

When Sam Simmons won this year’s Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award I was delighted for him. Simmons had been nominated twice before, which meant that to persuade the judges to vote for him he had to improve on previous shows. And he clearly did it with Spaghetti For Breakfast, a veritable maelstrom of zany thoughts, madcap ideas and zippy observations.

What was most noticeable about this show was that there were no points where he seemed to be channeling The Mighty Boosh. Until now Simmons had been regularly compared to The Boosh because of his flights of fancy and bizarre juxtapositions, even though, it turned out, he had never initially seen their work. They had clearly just supped from the same comedy gene pool of Python and The Goodies.

Last November out of the blue I received an email from Simmons, who was clearly getting a bit exasperated by the regular comparisons. He was considering writing something for Beyond The Joke about the situation but then decided not to. What he did say to me though at the time was that now he is aware of The Boosh he gets the comparisons and has decided that “it makes me want to either strip it all back or evolve it to make it even busier.” 

In Spaghetti For Breakfast he has managed to do both. The comedy is stripped right down, often to straight observational gags introduced with the repeated line “Things That Shit Me…” On the other hand he has also made it more busy than ever, cramming umpteen quips in alongside audience interaction a more elaborate set-pieces, often involving food.

The other aspect of Spaghetti For Breakfast that differentiates it from earlier Simmons work is the clear autobiographical content. Simmons frequently refers to his mother’s strange ideas about parenting and discipline - for instance dunking the young Simmons in an icy bath with his hands tied to learn about the cold after he left some windows open.

Simmons also alludes onstage to the fact that he considered suicide. Around the time that we exchanged emails he had just appeared in the Australian series Home Delivery, in which ‘celebrities’ return to where they grew up and talk about their childhood. Simmons had been particularly candid in his documentary, revealing how life with his mother was so hard at times he moved out when he was barely into his teens. He mentioned the suicide on TV too and understandably the programme caused a bit of a stir.

Maybe the programme spurred Simmons on to talk about the same issues in his latest live show, or maybe talking about these things on TV and onstage both came out of the same desire to confront his past. I’m not suggesting that our email chat had much to do with it, or that this was in any way a cynical move on Simmons’ part, but it certainly worked for him. It made his show into that thing he is often joking about – “relatable”. And in turn it helped him to win the Foster’s Award. I guess we can finally put those Boosh comparisons to bed now.

Sam Simmons is at the Soho Theatre from Sept 22 - Oct 10. Tickets here

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