BBC Comedy Presents: BBC @ Potterow, Edinburgh, 2012
Sean Hughes’ Blank Book: Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, 2017
James Acaster: The Trelogy (Represent / Reset / Recognise): Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, 2017
Always Be Comedy (5 shows): The Tommyfield pub, Kennington, London, 2018
Always Be Comedy Online (2 shows): Online: 2020
James Acaster: Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999: Online: 2020
I first saw English comedian James Acaster as part of a comedy bill at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012 called BBC Comedy Presents. The showcase is a popular one at the Fringe and I have seen many of them since I have been going to the Festival. The show took place in a giant purpose-built tent which had been built next to an outdoor space where people ate, drank and were merry. In the space was a giant television screen and on the particular night that I saw Acaster perform, the television screen outside was showing the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games which had been held in London and Britain’s team had produced its best ever medal haul. The space was packed full of people watching the ceremony and unfortunately the tent was only half full. I could barely hear Acaster on stage for the noise outside but what struck me was that he seemed fearless in his delivery of a routine or a joke. Acaster was first on the bill that night and has since become much more popular with television and stage audiences.
In 2017, after I watched him as a guest on Sean Hughes’ Edinburgh show, I finally got to see Acaster perform his own one-hour show. That year, he performed on rotation his three Edinburgh Comedy Award nominated shows and the one I saw Recognise was superb. The Pleasance One venue in the Pleasance Courtyard was packed as Acaster gave a first-class display of comic invention which was obscure, imaginative, observational, and opinionated. Acaster has also been nominated a record four times for the Edinburgh Comedy Award but has to date never won. Maybe 2018 will be his deserved year.
When I saw comedian James Acaster on stage at Always Be Comedy over the course of three shows in February, March, May 2018, he was both very clever and hilarious. One show was a full preview and the other two were half hour headline routines. The first hour long set was polished, refined, stylish and very very funny. The contrast between the sets was astonishing. The second time I saw him, Acaster was angry, awkward, political and a one-off. The audience saw a side to him that they were not quite expecting. The third time featured a story involving a mobile phone which he used to brilliant effect. Whilst watching him on all occasions, I thought Acaster was one of the best visual comedians around with amusingly brilliant looks and glances to the audience richly enhancing an already funny story to its comic conclusion. The pauses between the stories too were perfectly timed giving the crowd time to realise what has just been said and laugh all the more. In fact, I was exhausted from laughing so hard – the first set was a brilliant hour-long performance with a well-deserved encore.
I saw Acaster again later in the year perform a full one hour show at Always Be Comedy in June 2018. Before he was introduced by MC James Gill, I was invited up on to the stage to badly perform a song to get the crowd going for the main act. Earlier that week I had been extremely lucky to see The Rolling Stones at Twickenham Stadium and at the comedy club, I announced to the crowd that I was going to attempt to sing a rendition of their big hit Satisfaction. This amused the audience and before I started, Acaster who was sitting at the side yelled out, ‘Hang on Rich, I am going to record this!’ which got a big laugh. After my bad but encouraging attempt, Acaster strolled onto the stage and performed a brilliant hour pf stand-up which as ever made the audience listen and laugh. His routine was very tight and was able to talk at will about serious issues with very funny delivery.
Acaster once again played Always Be Comedy in October 2018. Whilst chatting with the audience, he came across an angry bloke citing Acaster as the cause of his anger. Pulling apart why the audience member was angry, Acaster brilliantly turned the awkward room into waves of laughter which thrilled and entertained the rest of the audience. Winning them over, Acaster successfully continued with his set and after the angry man left soon afterwards.
Acaster returned triumphantly in May and November 2020 to appear for Always Be Comedy Online. In May, he delivered a solo spot followed by a Q & A with Ed Gamble. Due to a worldwide pandemic, everybody was locked down in their homes and Acaster broadcast in full view of the virtual front row which included me. The comic can make a routine out of any subject even spotting me drinking orange squash and my admission of enjoying Brewdog beer. When Acaster and Gamble were on screen, I had never been actually quite so involved and referred to as part of a comedy routine in a comedy show. When Acaster was asked if he did not do comedy what would he do, he replied sit next to Richard Gill and encourage him to laugh all day. In November, he was interviewed by James Gill and again featured me heavily in his answers as I was grinning from the online front row. The wonderful comedian was an absolute joy to watch.
A pre-Christmas treat was an online showing of Acaster’s show Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 recorded live from the Hackney Empire that I watched in December 1999. I was delighted to be watching as I had tried to catch the tour in Carlisle but couldn’t get in. He walked on with all the swagger of rock star and wearing cool glasses, the first half included a brilliant routine when Acaster had been a celebrity contestant on The Great British Bake Off and in the second half, he talked about his breakup. His comic storytelling skills, delivery and timing were all superb and he created an exceptionally funny atmosphere.
Acaster has a brilliant mind and wit being one of the best comedians working on the circuit today.