I had an inkling this man would make me laugh. I interviewed him last week, and felt like I gained a tiny peek into the wonderfully astute window through which he views the world. He finds things funny, but doesn't quite know why. He'd well and truly worked it out for this rich hour long set, where joke upon meta joke tumbled around, beginning as seemingly throwaway comments and ending up wholly integrated into ranting monologues and hypothetical scenarios of hilarious proportion.
I knew from the out he would be good at improvisation - he'd said so. But seeing it in action when an audience member popped to the bathroom, followed by a scurryingly tentative second, demonstrated his ability to spontaneously build a comedic frame around the banal, configuring our imaginatives to momentarily revel in his.
He's equally adept with a script. His understated delivery means the audience is held comfortably in the palm of his hand, we enjoy the build up, anticipate where each story is leading us, only to be tickled by surprise at exactly the right moment when it takes a sharp turn.
Even when things don't go completely to plan we laugh. At one point he apologises for 'testing our patience' after a particularly long diatribe about the redundance of evaluating how satisfied you are with your smile. After one joke he admits 'I fucked that one up because I laughed...'. I don't think the audience noticed either mistake, but it exemplifies how humbly self-aware his performance is - he second-guesses every audience reaction and uses that as a tool to throw your line of thinking. He's clever.
Don't miss James Acaster, he's a definite favourite from this year's International Comedy Festival. Just make sure you go with the flow when he begins talking about a subject out of nowhere, as it's got an assured destination which you can relish in getting to.
James Acaster really snuck up on us, didn’t he? Ever since his excellent set at the comedy gala, New Zealand has fallen in love with him. He certainly has taken the festival by storm and I feel extremely privileged to have gotten to see this talented young comic in his solo show.
They say never judge a book by its cover and this could not ring truer with James. Do not be fooled by his meek demeanor – he may be more on the introverted side and the show is quite low energy but it is this more restrained style of storytelling that makes his material so captivating and utter comedic gold.
James delivers an hour of amusing anecdotes and wry observations from his foolproof business plan on handing out free refills as an ice cream man (should the comedy not work out) to his annoyance at songs that don’t rhyme. His stories have pretty elaborate narratives but they never ever drag – his set is wonderfully witty and intelligently written, perfectly paced with impeccable comedic timing.
By the end of the show we will learn many things about James – how much he loves mariachi music, his skills at Twister and how he plans on clearing Yoko Ono’s name. Each story transitions smoothly to the next and we even get some “DVD extras” at the end too which I thought was a brilliant touch!
James Acaster is the quintessential stand up comedian and someone who will be in this industry for years to come. His show is extremely entertaining and a barrel of laughs that will leave you wanting more. If you don’t get to see him this year, make sure you do on his next visit!
After the interval, James Acaster takes to the stage. He really impressed me at the Comedy Gala so was very keen to see more! Do not be fooled by the understated demeanor and deadpan style – he is sharp as a tack. His set is self-indulgent but not in an arrogant way and is incredibly witty and delivered impeccably.
James Acaster is also gold. From start to finish: gold. A proper gangly ginger clad in flat front trousers and armed with the quiet confidence of a hired gun, he assassinates us with his easy energy proving he is a laconic, ironic genius. It doesn't matter that he didn't tell us in length how much he loves New Zealand, he delivered the laughs, and that's all we are here for primarily. I could have happily got up and gone home after his very funny set.
Kate Ward-Smythe - theatreview.org.nz' The fact that his first heckle of the night is a loud and emphatic “Genius!” from a woman up the back, and another woman in the front row articulates positive agreement with everything James says, pretty much sums up the whole audience's appreciation of James' intelligent craft and delivery.'open/close
A packed house awaits James Acaster for his opening night in Auckland. The word has spread that this skinny lanky white guy from Kettering, England, brings a different perspective to comedy festivals.
Looking like Tin-Tin's nerdy brother, James' unassuming personality, appearance, and smooth casual delivery are as inherently funny as his perspective. As James quietly performs a whimsical yet cleverly calculated hour, his humour feels natural and completely off the cuff.
James' comedy substance comes from scratching round in the unexpected and odd to connect the most unlikely sequences and imaginings, filled with quirky details, little obsessions and well placed ponderings. His ambition to sell ice creams seems an unlikely comedy haven, yet by the end of the night, he's weaved it in and out of his material, with the same great left-turn punch line.
In between this chosen life-path, James shares a bevy of gems. Audience favourites include his Morse-code deconstruction of Mariachi music; rave moves; bad lyrics; questionnaires; sky-writers; the Beatles; Yoko and the Titanic – all of which he cleverly spins together by the end of his hour. The comedy bonus after the official finish is just as satisfying.
Not surprisingly, James' musings are peppered with language and phrases that don't get around much anymore. He had me at “get fresh with”, “segue” and “flirty Twister”. Even when he tarries too long on a subject (smiles, for instance), we forgive the sweet man as he deadpans, “I acknowledge I tried your patience with that one.”
James is just as comfortable off-script: His ad-libs as two audience members tip-toe off to the loo, providing fab one-liners which he then reincorporates into his current theme. Plus his recovery back into his routine is funny.
The fact that his first heckle of the night is a loud and emphatic “Genius!” from a woman up the back, and another woman in the front row articulates positive agreement with everything James says, pretty much sums up the whole audience's appreciation of James' intelligent craft and delivery.
James Acaster is an unassuming looking guy but don’t be fooled by his meek appearance. He is totally sharp in both his delivery and ownership of his performance.
Acaster is able, through his perfect pace and timing, to bring together a story while seamlessly examining every nook and cranny of it. He is totally in control.
After only a few minutes on stage a lady in the audience is heard saying ‘genius’ after one of his jokes. This early assessment isn’t wrong.
His set evokes full belly laughs and a rolling titter around the room throughout the hour show. His examinations of seemingly simple situations are original and become beautifully crafted jokes.
From a love of Mariachi music to what split up The Beatles, Acaster transforms a story with his unique comedy mind to produce the perfect gag.
He really is a pleasure to watch. James Acaster’s set is full of clever and excellently delivered comedic prose where he looks at the normal and makes it absurd.
There’s no two ways about it. He’s just brilliant.
The highlights, though, came from the comics of more standard fare. James Acaster, with his low-key, droll British delivery had the audience in stitches with his unconventional plan to capture the ice cream truck market, as did Markus Birdman, with his reflection on dating again at 40 years old. Both comedians provided a wry, witty commentary on various aspects of life, and helped lend the evening a degree of credibility that was at times lacking.
The male comedian has become something of a stereotype in 2013. Fuelled by such arrogant, testosterone-toting blokes as Russell Brand, Russell Peters, and to a slightly lesser/more pudgy extent, Ricky Gervais, comedy has increasingly become the domain of the extrovert. So it’s always quite refreshing to be jolted from the world of chauvanistic, boofhead comedy and instead taken to a world of clever repartee, dry British wit, and jokes about the Beatles.
So it went last night, as we were greeted by a reedy, sky-blue cardigan-wearing young man with a classically British mop of golden blond hair, who approached the mic with an air of trepidation, as if to say “I’d like to try and make you laugh, please”. Well alright then, we seemed to collectively murmur in response. We needn’t have worried. James Acaster was in the house.
Acaster is immediately captivating, luring us in within the first few minutes with a wonderfully delicate delivery; at times speaking so softly that you had to genuinely strain your ears in anticipation. This wasn’t due to some inexplicable lack of awareness about his capacity for voice projection, but rather seemed to stem from a desire to leave his audience hanging on every word, and boy, did we ever.
He takes us through his genius, must-be-heard-to-be-believed plan to rejuvenate the flagging ice cream truck market; discusses the differences between American society – “They call their unidentified men John Doe. He’s the guy at the bar with a whiskey on the rocks, looking cool in the shadows” – and British society – “We call ours Joe Bloggs. He’s the guy at the bar forcing shy people to do karaoke”; and reveals the truth about Yoko Ono and the Beatles. I don’t want to ruin it, but it involves biscuits, guitar amps, and sex with a list of men.
Acaster delivers an incredibly well put-together routine. You know those shows where you’re constantly being fed jokes “from before”, making you feel like you’re involved in some intricate long-form in-joke? And those performances where the conclusion is punctuated by a big, hilarious exclamation mark from all the way at the start of the show? Acaster had all of that, and it was brilliant. He even found time, amongst his multi-layered setups, to engage in genuinely witty banter with the audience. Oh, and he had bloopers, too. The bloopers are exactly what you think, but way more hilarious than you could possibly imagine.
I cannot recommend Acaster’s show highly enough. He’s funny, endearing, and superb value for money. Go and see it while you can still get tickets!