From Brexit to breakups, James Acaster is an audacious king of comedy


In the drear of a socially remoted Christmas, it was one thing to have a good time: a reside stream of James Acaster’s career-best present, Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999. Premiering straight on to the West End two years in the past, this for-the-ages set took an already top-notch comedian to a brand new stage totally. But it was a blink-and-you-miss-it present, introduced in a trio of transient West End runs, and by no means screened till a stream on Dice on the finish of final week. It was a welcome probability to reacquaint oneself with what makes Cold Lasagne – and Acaster himself – so nice.

What was putting the primary time round, moreover the present being deliriously humorous, was the sense of a comic stepping out from behind his masks. Yes, his standup was already exceptional – therefore the record-breaking five consecutive Edinburgh comedy award nominations, not to point out four simultaneous (and interconnected) Netflix specials. But these reveals hid as a lot as they revealed about their creator, behind these trademark tricksy conceits about jury service, say, or his secret life as an undercover cop. Sometimes they steered real-world considerations behind the flowery fictions – a non secular disaster, in Represent, or a breakup, in Recognise. But you had to extrapolate, and there was no realizing – Acaster definitely wasn’t telling – whether or not your hunch was proper or flawed.

Cold Lasagne represents a change of tone totally. The nerdy Kettering comedian in autumnal colors, corduroy and ties makes method for a cock-of-the-walk in aviators. The comic who made his title overthinking trivia (and avoiding politics totally) opens with a strident part on Brexit, brilliantly in contrast to requesting steak in a restaurant, being supplied shit as an alternative – and never being allowed to change one’s order. And the artist who avoids specific autobiography instantly will get very private certainly – not simply together with his first-act anecdote a few disastrous activate The Great British Bake Off (which drives him desperately to telephone the Samaritans), however with nearly all of the second half, which lays naked an unlikely occasion from Acaster’s love life, a painful cut up together with his agent, and his ongoing struggles together with his psychological well being.

James Acaster in 2014.
Overthinking trivia … James Acaster in 2014. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

Sounds a chore? Oh no it isn’t. I can scarcely keep in mind a extra electrifying hour of comedy than Cold Lasagne’s second half. It opens with Acaster’s hilarious dissection of being dumped by his girlfriend in favour of Rowan Atkinson (or as Acaster prefers it: Mr Bean). It’s a to-die-for premise from which our host wrings each drop of indignity. But even that pales subsequent to the part about his agent breaking apart with him after an ill-judged comment on Saturday morning telly. It’s one of these routines, of which Stewart Lee is a grasp, that makes you snigger out loud whereas marvelling at how Acaster is reaching his comedian results. The conceit – he’s telling the entire traumatic story from his agent’s level of view – is audacious and richly humorous. And the emotional complexity, given the sunshine the story shines on Acaster’s wellbeing, is breathtaking.

It’s extraordinary stuff – nevertheless it does depart you questioning the place Acaster’s standup profession can probably go subsequent. I didn’t really feel that method when I first saw the show, a yr earlier than this Hackney efficiency was recorded. But watching the stream, I used to be struck by how cynical Acaster sounded about Britain, the world – and his comedy. There’s a second, too, when he berates his viewers for tweeting about his reveals, which is amusingly brusque, and simply that bit too shut to the bone. For all that it’s a incredible instance of the artwork type, Cold Lasagne doesn’t depart you with the impression of a person thrilled to be performing standup comedy.

Let’s hope I’m flawed. Certainly, Acaster appears delighted with the present: “I could not be happier [or] prouder,” he stated on saying the occasion – which suggests rather a lot, in gentle of the struggles the present depicts. Let’s hope that Cold Lasagne is the beginning of a brand new chapter for Acaster, retaining from his earlier work the meticulous set-building ability, the attention for oddity, and the compulsion (amusing in itself) to dig deeper and push more durable than most to discover the humorous within the methods we behave and the issues we are saying. But marrying that to the fierce emotional candour and laborious edge that Cold Lasagne launched to his act. It’s unusual to assume that 5 award nods working and a quadruple whammy on Netflix may need simply been a palate cleanser – however Cold Lasagne is adequate to make you imagine it.


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