Simon Amstell, Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh Festival

Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh

There is a bevy of starstruck teenagers in the front row. Perhaps they are expecting celebrity chat from this impish interviewer from Channel 4's Popworld. But Simon Amstell is aiming higher than that. In this hour-long stand-up show, his subjects range from the prejudices we all harbour to the difficulties of living ethically. The problem is, he's discussing these subjects at what might be called a Popworld level, whereby the joke is about how ethics make life all the more inconvenient for Simon Amstell.

It's frustrating, because there's ample evidence that Amstell is smarter and more thoughtful than that. He starts with a neat riff on why Mattel might release a wheelchair Barbie but never a fat Barbie. He confesses to his own knee-jerk bias against "thick English people taking jobs away from better-qualified immigrants". He has an easy way with the audience, inviting us to examine our own prejudices, and our tendency to moral compromise, as when Eva Braun overlooks her new boyfriend's racist tendencies because "he's got a nice house".

It's a provocative subject on which, as a gay and Jewish man, Amstell is qualified to speak. But he stops short of taking it into areas that might make himself, or us, see things anew. His material on ethical consuming is more non-committal still. The competing claims of organic and Fair Trade are impossible to arbitrate, he argues. And who wants to boycott supermarkets if that means having to chat to talkative local shopkeepers?

This is comedy that comforts us in our complacency, and there's a big laugh when Amstell jokes that his Converse trainers are so cool that the sweatshop kids must have enjoyed making them. From the solipsism of that remark, he goes on to tell us that his hobby is Googling his name and reading his own reviews. Perhaps he's spent too much time with celebrities: Amstell's gaze outwards at the world seems forever to be drawn back to himself.

· Until August 28. Box office: 0131-556 6550.


Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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