After regular spots on comedy panel shows such as Mock The Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Kettering-born comedian James Acaster played Salford Quays’ Lowry recently, here’s how it went …
Creatively whimsical is but of just many ways to describe James Acaster’s unique comedy style. Highlighting life’s smaller endeavours and bringing them to the forefront of his hit ‘Represent’ UK tour; Acaster brings fresh light in British comedy.
In a dimly lit Lowry Theatre of Salford Quays, on a simple stage with just three spotlights illuminating the room, James Acaster enters left to the stage. The subtle playing of religious holy music is played at the beginning of the show, which later proves to be all part of the plan as Acaster makes is comedic presence immediately known. Seven shows into his tour and a mere twenty-seven remaining, the entrance is supposed to be a smooth cut from the moment he disconnects the microphone and places the mic-stand out of view. However, after a sound error, James declares, “Well, that’s not supposed to happen, let’s start again. I don’t want you guys to think that this is what’s supposed to happen and miss out”. After a quick restart and a smooth transition later, James begins the show with ironic cheers as his performance hits the ground running.
Taking something as simple as his recent time on jury duty, Acaster finds his comedy in situations in which others may simply gloss over. Misplacing information in sentences and accidently approving of murder, are a slight taster of the creative mind-flow of the Kettering comedian.
If there was one standout joke, it was definitely the often-unregistered existence of the ‘Cristingle’. After meeting members of a jury on which most of the comedy derives from, a priest from the group asks everyone to come round Christmas Eve for a cristingle. Adding to his layered depths of comedy brilliance, James removes the mic, opting to instead shout to the crowd “What is a cristingle?!”. A simple and yet effective move and this pays off with one of the biggest laughs of the night.
A main contributing factor to any form of live comedy is an acknowledgment of the crowd. James immediately establishes his adaptive abilities as he connects effortlessly with the crowd and creates a relaxed atmosphere that doesn’t feel forced or unnatural. The secret star of the night however was crowd participator ‘Aiden’, who answered the thought provoking question of what do you name a singular hundred and thousand. Simply replying with ‘Dave’, which seemed to momentarily stump Acaster in his tracks as Aiden received thunderous applause.
Adding to his adaptable comedy skills, James mentions a “classic” tale regarding the ‘sloth and the goose’, to which one brave audience member asks “what’s that?”. What follows is a bizarre run of events regarding random animal qualities applied to these rather unconventional choice of characters to deliver a smooth flowing story with a surprisingly underlying moral to it.
Whimsically charming in his comedic talents as Acaster is, there were however, one or two moments, which caused a few cringey faces. Where punch lines can often be pushed further with the use of repetition two or three times, members of the crowd where struggling to find a laugh after the sixth or seventh time, resulting in a few awkward silences between jokes. Towards the end of the performance, James also appears to be having a mental breakdown. Disconnecting the microphone and shouting as he angrily shakes the lead around following a joke about happiness at a dentist, there was a moment of asking, “Is he okay? Or is this all part of it?”.
If there’s one thing you can take away from a James Acaster gig, it’s the amount of thought provoking questions he raises. What are cristingles? What is a single hundred and thousand? What came before that? Random as these questions may be, Acaster finds refreshing ways to answer these questions as well as casually inserting them into other joke’s punch lines later on. Quoting Steven Hawking and even conversing with a priest, asking them for there opinions on the matter, resulting with the conclusion of perhaps poppadoms, or even an egg, came before ‘the big bang’.
Overall the Kettering comedian is delightfully whimsical whilst providing a fresh injection into British comedy. Highlighting life’s minor issues and bring them to light in a variety of comedy styles, resulting in a truly captivated audience. Although one or two cringey moments of over playing punch lines, the clever use of intricate thought provoking questions, doubling up as delayed gags, far outweigh the mental breakdown. Entertaining crowds whilst somehow educating is what James Acaster does so effortlessly. Leaving crowds thinking what did come first? But also, what’s next? Perhaps an egg…