The Simon Amstell of this, the Numb tour, is not the Simon Amstell of Popworld and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. This is the Simon Amstell of Grandma's House – not just self aware and self deprecating, but also full of self doubt and self loathing. We've got no idea which is closest to the real Simon Amstell, but this thoughtful and clever persona is definitely a step up from being acerbic to pop stars.
Much like the version of himself he plays in the brilliant Grandma's House, Simon is seeking enlightenment and freedom from his constipated emotions and constant, crippling inability to enjoy himself. This involves some therapy speak, stopped from drifting into terrifying hippy territory by caustic undercutting. These days he's not bitching at celebs but at himself. And he's rather wonderful at it. It takes some skill to bare your soul to 2,000 people and have it be hilarious rather than plain awkward.
This was the final night of the Numb tour, but it continues the previous tour's themes so seamlessly that progression onwards and upwards seems the logical choice. If you see future dates, snap up tickets immediately.
We really need to mention Norwegian warm up act Daniel Simonsen, who was also a treat. Utterly deadpan, with jokes about vomiting cats and an excellent impression of the tube ("Hello, I'm the tube. I'm here to ruin your day"), he turned the audience from 'who is this guy?' to 'we love this guy!' in less than half an hour. We also learned that the word "cookies" said in a Norwegian accent is the coolest thing ever.
A word on the venue as well: comedy often loses something in bigger venues. But unlike the nearby Hammersmith Behemoth – sorry, we mean Apollo – even sitting up in the gods at Shepherd's Bush Empire felt relatively intimate. It might have something to do with being an old-fashioned theatre, or the way people are packed in vertically rather than horizontally. Either way, we recommend going there for laughs. (Next comedian to use the venue is Rhys Darby, playing four nights from 20 July.)