After twenty years of watching one of the country’s most erudite, well-loved and downright funny comedians, Simon Evans’s fans could be excused for thinking they know who is and what he’s about. Dry, teasingly non-PC and openly baffled by much of modern life – not to say his own family – Evans has created a strongly defined on-stage persona that has served him well over that time.
But almost incredible revelations about his true identity left him reeling last year – and have made his new tour show, The Work of the Devil, by far his most memorable, eye opening and thought provoking work to date. He will be bringing his engaging new show to artsdepot in North Finchley on Saturday, February 15.
“It’s an unusual show for me,” he says. “Because the message of the show – almost beyond my conscious control – has become one that is genuinely heart-warming and uplifting, rather than just another weary sigh at society’s collapsing values and so on. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier. The subject matter, the show itself and audience reaction to it – it’s no exaggeration to say it had a positive effect on my mental health.”
It’s a very different kind of vibe to his last show, Genius 2.0, about the effect that “dumbing down” has had on everything from our political culture to our kids.
“It starts in a similar vein – scrutinising identity politics and resurgent Nationalism, subjecting them to my usual piggy-eyed scrutiny and scepticism. But then we move through a gradual shift of perspective as I approach the Big Reveal – the news I received last year that throws literally everything I’ve said in the show into a dramatic new light.”
The title of the show – The Work of The Devil, comes from Evans’ comedic hero, Douglas Adams.
“It’s from one of his unpublished, unfinished passages for Dirk Gently – a theory about the three different stages of progress in everyone’s life. Firstly, there’s what existed before you were born and until the age of about 12 or 13. With me, I grew up accepting that television, for instance, simply existed. Then there are things which are invented in our late teens and 20s which are exciting innovations. For me, again, computers, digital watches, and arguably sandwich toasters. And then there are things which arrive from our mid-30s onwards, by which point we can no longer keep up with change and which we therefore denounce as the work of The Devil.”
Adams intends the theory to relate to technology, but Evans wonders if it is becoming relevant to our relationship with political and social change too now. Everything from changing family structures to geo-political transformations are creating a world that Evans initially feels requires a healthy dose of his good old-fashioned, robust common sense. But then comes the big surprise, as Evans virtually whips the rug away from under his own feet.
Tempting though it is to drop clues, the show will be that much more rewarding for those who have no idea what is coming. But satisfyingly, it does follow on organically from some of the loose ends that were left at the end of Genius 2.0.
“Part of the inspiration for Genius 2.0 was my sense that my own intelligence, memory, focus, reaction times and so on were all in steep decline, and at a younger age than I would suggest that was inevitable. I did routines about it that got laughs of recognition, but at the back of my mind I had a niggling doubt that this was beyond normal deterioration. It was my investigation into that which yielded the new information which birthed this show.”
The joy of any Simon Evans stand-up show is to watch a comic at the peak of his powers dissecting big ideas and exploring complex notions while finding great jokes within it all. The Work of The Devil, however, delivers all that – plus the most incredible true story.
artsdepot, 5 Nether Street, North Finchley, Saturday, February 15, 8pm. Details: 020 8369 5454 artsdepot.co.uk