James Acaster

James Acaster

Acaster has also been nominated a record four times for the Edinburgh Comedy Award from 2012 to 2105, but never won. He did scoop the breakthrough award and the best show award at the Chortle Awards 2015 for Recognise.
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James Acaster: Recap

Review of one part of his new Netflix tetralogy, Repertoire

It’s testament to the sheer amount of quality material than James Acaster puts out that he was able to secure a four-special deal from Netflix – and all to be released on the same day, too. Today.

And there are threads running through across the whole series, too – not just Acaster’s dryly absurd, outsider’s tone. About 16 minutes into the first special Represent (after finally getting up from his knees and explains what the heck that was all about), he tells us that when he was growing up he wanted to be an undercover cop, a concept that he doggedly sticks with for the rest of the show. After more than three hours of high-class stand-up, its echoes are heard again, providing a circular conclusion to a series that very literally ends back where it started.

We reviewed three of the shows in what we could call his Four Colours Corduroy collection when he performed them on stage: Recognise (green cords) in 2014, Represent (red cords, concerning itself with the time he did jury duty) in 2015  and Reset (mustard cords, about the metaphorical ramifications of being able to go back on your mistakes) in 2016, when he performed them on stage on stage. The fourth in this sequence, Recap (a combination of all the previous colour schemes) is new.

And it will be no surprise to learn that in this 50-minute epilogue, he continues to prove himself a uniquely offbeat thinker, applying an absurd logic to points that might start off rooted in the observational mainstream, such as  nuisance sales calls, cheese graters, cow-based weather forecasting or the weirdness of lip skin, but are given their own wryly surreal twist.

Delivered with a precision of focus through his nerdy persona, always trying to score points against the cosmos, his routines are strangely relatable, no matter how peculiar his trains of thought become. Even when he’s sharing the hilariously esoteric results of his research into bread.

Whatever he does is always slightly out of step with the world, from starting the show by walking on-stage mid-thought – no pleasantries required – to having a microphone that’s been spray-painted burgundy and never mentioning it. Seemingly everyday turns of phrase are given new absurdity just by him saying them in his dry Ketteringinan tones, no further deconstruction is needed. And when he does coin a pithy phrase, which he does so very often, the effect is magnified.

Acaster’s precision in writing extends to structure, too. There are no cheap callbacks here, every return to a topic is to add a new piece to the puzzle to slowly reveal the bigger picture. Subjects already given one strange twist are twisted again: that bread routine has a gluten-free version, while a layer routine about apricots is subsequently reimagined based on a heckler’s suggestion for what Acaster should have said. The remix is definitely funny, but not in the way the hapless punter would have imagined. 

On the biography he’s creating for himself, we now hear of his past as a lollipop man and how he found romance after using Twister as an ice-breaker. And for long-term fans of his work there’s a welcome reprise of his Kettering Town FC chant – ‘with a K and an E and a T…’ – which shows an epic commitment to preposterousness that pays off. And you may be singing it in the morning.

It’s the same audacity of that joke that leads to four top-quality stand-up specials being released on the same day. Another step on Acaster’s inexorable rise from cult figure to comedy icon.

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Published: 27 Mar 2018

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