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James Acaster: Amongst Other Things

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Phill Gillespie

'Is this a dream?' James Acaster asks himself after being presented with the most bizarre audience interactions this Fringe. Having been accused of being stoned, he was then corrected as to where he grew up by his former local MP, who was sitting in the crowd. This is before he showed us the correct facial reaction to a doughnut covered in egg-shells and filled with sperm, and then mounting an audience member who was laying face-down on the stage.

Faced with the strangest of heckles and comments, Acaster handles these twists relatively well, and found us a good portion of entertainment in them. Sadly these were probably the strongest and most memorable parts of his set, as his prepared material was frequently obvious and pedestrian. Mis-cutting cheese and a long segment on pretending an onion ring is doughnut is not really ground-breaking.

Acaster also has a fondness for over-playing a long drawn-out silence while slowly acting out the end of his story, but the continual nervous giggles were one-sided, coming from him and not the crowd, who instead just waited patiently for the conclusion. At least they were rewarded with some good follow-up gags.

There are some cleverly creative thoughts in Acaster's show, starting with examples of how he is an easily excitable person. His best gag comes early on, about visiting London as a young boy and seeing the posters in the underground. Bookending his long and unrewarding ‘doughnut recognition’ section come some amusing comments on relationships, including a simile between dating and a bouncy castle as well as the stubbornness that comes from failed surprises.

Acaster has a certain charm and ably controls his stage with a measured delivery akin to a pleasant stroll. He's able to gently mock himself, too but still maintains this slightly impish nature. There is a nagging feeling that taken to the next level, either through swifter delivery or stronger material, Acaster could put together a great show – and ultimately that thought means this hour is underwhelming.

Clearly Acaster can handle whatever diverse things are thrown at and still entertain people along the way but he needs a more inventive set of ideas for next year's set, rather than relying on improvisation to get his bigger laughs.

Review date: 21 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Phill Gillespie

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