There was a mini British comedy invasion at NXNE on Saturday night, as Londoners Luisa Omielan and Simon Amstell headlined separate sets at the Great Hall. The two repeat their shows tonight (Sunday, June 22), so there's time to catch them.
Omielan's What Would Beyoncé Do? feels more like something you'd see at the Fringe - which is no surprise, since it was a huge success at the Edinburgh Fringe, which prompted a UK tour and runs in LA and New York.
The energetic if choppy show chronicles Omielan's life as a 30-something who's moved back to her mum's home after being dumped by an ex. There's a clever bit about collecting welfare from the job centre, and one brilliant routine about how long you should wait to text a guy after shagging him.
But the best sequence concerns a metaphor about being on the ocean of life and building a relation-SHIP, even though the guy you're with eventually wants to fuck off on a jet ski. Omielan returns to this image at the end with hilarious results.
Dressed in a sparkly top and booty-hugging pants, Omielan brings a confident, fearless physicality to the show, whether she's acting out sex from both a man and woman's perspective or shimmying and dancing to Beyoncé routines.
It helps to know the lyrics to Beyoncé's songs, since there are a couple of sing-a-longs. The cheeky title, though, is a bit of a McGuffin; Omielan uses it as a touchstone throughout, but fails to establish the singer's importance to her off the top.
And keep in mind: Omielan's show isn't all jokes. She deals with some serious issues in here - depression, abandonment, suicide - demonstrating that humour is one way to get over heartbreak and hurt.
Simon Amstell's show is more traditional stand-up. A big star in the UK, where he's hosted several TV programs, he has a distinct look and stage presence. Imagine a British Jesse Eisenberg, with less self-effacing humour.
In fact, being an all-powerful God-like figure is part of Amstell's act. He gets solid laughs from proclaiming that he's "a delight," "a big thing in London," and too important to tweet to fans the running time of his show. He's the star of the show, so why should he?
It's a fascinating strategy that plays against the British (and Canadian) sense of modesty and understatement, and it mostly works.
One of his funniest bits explores the idea of privilege and entitlement. Isn't Queen Elizabeth II embarrassed when she arrives at an event and trumpets sound? Amstell then takes it further to see how she can be so regal after taking a dump like the rest of us.
Some of his most honest-seeming material concerns his inability to live in the moment. His bit about going to a spiritual retreat where he can only speak words that are "truthful, kind and useful" is amusing. So is his anecdote about being so anxious during one moment watching the site-specific show Sleep No More that he misses having an adventure.
Amstell is a vegan and openly gay, and he's got a couple of jokes about both topics. His line "How can there be homophobia when Elton John wrote The Lion King?" is brilliant.
But it doesn't feel like he's completely found his comic voice yet. There are suggestions about how his parents' divorce was painful for him, and there's a bit later on about debating his father (who became an Orthodox Jew) on the subject of homosexuality. There's also a joke about feeling very at home with his current boyfriend's family.
None of these bits is particularly funny or sharp. But I think if he explores them deeper he could come up with something focused and clear.
He's got lots of anger, which is the lifeblood of comedy. It's there in a sequence about seeing a sanitized biopic of Freddie Mercury. And it's also there in his genius put-down of a rude texter sitting in the front row.
If he weds that anger to more personal material he could emerge as one of the best comics of his generation.
Luisa Omielan performs What Would Beyoncé Do? today (Sunday, June 22) at 7:10 pm at the Great Hall; Simon Amstell performs today (Sunday, June 22), 9:20 pm at the Great Hall. nxne.com.