James Acaster is quite undoubtedly one of the strangest stand up comedians currently working on the circuit in a way that truly delights any audience who is accustomed to seeing a more regular stand up style. Arriving on stage at the MAC in Birmingham to the sound of To Be a Pilgrim and remaining silent for an uncomfortably long period time, Acaster immediately proved his commanding presence.
What is most remarkable about this comic is his ability to craft a (presumably) entirely fictional story from a few disparate elements. He conceals his observations in make-believe anecdotes, such as eating fortune cookies in the cinema, which gave the show an otherworldly feel despite the events and people within the stories being regular, everyday and (predominantly) earth-based. The personalities in the stories are varied and detailed, and even the specific elements of “celebrity gossip” James includes are unusual to say the least.
He’s a very physical performer, often meaning that he doesn’t always need words at all, his gestures and facial expressions are enough to force laughter from everyone. The constant, erratic movements gave the show an unpredictable feel and James’ intentional jitteriness was reflected in his material as well; he was able to throw in spontaneous lines throughout so much so that some of the funniest moments were completely impulsive ones.
It is easy to see how well-rounded and effective this show will be when it reaches a stage nearer completion, but the amount of love in the room for James was clear and his preview was better than some completed shows I’ve seen in the past. The levels of self-depreciation were somewhat disappointing seeing as James is clearly such a capable performer, but this provided humour nonetheless. And as an audience, of course, it was nice to be commended for being “useful”.
James Acaster is currently performing preview shows of Represent across the UK and will be taking the completed show to Edinburgh in August.