‘Find your voice’: Stephen K Amos returns from sell-out tour Down Under to star in Balham Comedy Festival

Following a three-month stint in Australia, Stephen K Amos has returned to the UK in time to perform at the Balham Comedy Festival tomorrow.

But since the referendum, the country he’s returned to is not the same as the one he left.

“It’s frightening – I did a show on the day the results came out and the mood was very subdued,” he said.

“On Twitter people think they are entitled to an opinion. By all means have an opinion, as long as it’s informed.”

He believes the referendum result is a symptom of a wider change taking place in other countries too.

“There’s a domino effect,” he says. “Across the world there is the mood for change but nobody quite knows how to change it.”

Stephen is no stranger to challenging prejudice, he talks openly about his sexuality in his stand-up routines and his 2007 documentary, Batty Man, was about confronting gay stereotypes in the black community.

“I think it is quite important to have a variety of role models who represent different aspects of the community,” he says.

“In open-minded cities like London, New York or Melbourne, it’s fine. But there are other countries in the world where it’s still much frowned upon.”

Being black and gay, Stephen found being funny at school was a reliable defence mechanism and earned a reputation as ‘the funny guy’.

That reputation has followed him throughout his career but he’s not so sure he’d make it these days, being lucky to get into comedy on the cusp of the change towards stadium tours and a more marketed version of comedy.

“People try to go into it as a career but it was just something I was really interested in and wanted to do. The competition is so fierce now,” he said.

He reckons it’s harder for young comics because new comedians need a chance to grow and they’re not getting that chance, with agents and venues wanting the finished product.

“You’ve got to find your voice. If you haven’t got the time and space to find out who you are, it’s going to be much harder,” he said.

Luckily festivals – including the Balham Comedy Festival – provide a great space for comics to test things out, as Stephen explains.

“It’s the one time you can go to one venue and hear lots of different voices,” he says.

“They can say what they are thinking and that’s quite important.

“People who wouldn’t necessarily go to a big show at the O2 would go to a festival. They take a chance, and the area is behind it.”

Having grown up in south London, Stephen now lives two streets from the venue and feels it is somewhat of a homecoming to be performing again at the festival.

“I’m looking forward to being able to go home and be five minutes up the road,” he says, laughing.

Stephen’s new show will include politics, lashings of comedy and a talk show format.

Catch him and other comedians at The Bedford in Balham from July 8 – 16.

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