James Acaster: Lawnmower | Review by Steve Bennett
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James Acaster: Lawnmower

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

James Acaster is in no rush to make you laugh.

Dressed like he fell into a Marks & Spencer returns bin, his material is delivered with all the urgency of a pensioner keen to spin out a rare moment of company before returning to the loneliness of their sheltered accommodation. The point is something to be gradually ambled up to, not brought up directly; that would be vulgar.

Besides, he has a loftier mission than comedy in mind: to clear Yoko Ono’s name. He believes that for too long she has had to unfairly carry the blame of being the woman who broke up the Beatles, and he’s the man to put the record straight.

It’s a long and winding road to get there, though. He puts the case for Ono’s defence through a meandering, mildly surreal 50 minutes, involving Twister, mariachi bands, ice-cream vans, skywriters and the Titanic. But not Lawnmowers, that’s a red herring.

Though it’s not a storytelling show, his style owes a great debt to that genre. Strands presumed finished reappear, but not just as callback trickery. The interwoven segments of offbeat observational comedy have a stylistic similarity, which means Acaster layers up a coherent world in which all these seemingly odd ideas could be true, and the whole show a single story within it.

The wit is dry and understated; the mood is all-important. The audience have to completely buy into the narrative for all this to work, but the deadpan Acaster isn’t going to go out of his way to encourage that, you have to be seduced by his quiet demeanour and unusual thinking.

At times the humour is a little too subtle, and just a smattering more solid lines would move the prevailing mood from the amiably entertained to the hilarious. It’s a change he can and does effect, when the mood takes him, but he’s not going to be rushed into any punchlines. Minor changes of posture or expression garner more titters, as he adheres to his ‘less is more’ approach.

The result is a show that’s dense, but mild. There’s a lot going on in his rich, evocative routines, with well-crafted turns of phrase to elicit laughs, but it’s not a wild comedy roller-coaster.

Review date: 7 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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