fri 23/08/2019

James Acaster, Touring | reviews, news & interviews

James Acaster, Touring

James Acaster, Touring

Beautifully crafted show of offbeat observations

James Acaster's new show show is a breathtakingly detailed piece of storytelling

Five nominations for the Edinburgh Comedy Award are surely a recommendation for James Acaster – and with his intelligent, offbeat humour and a wry delivery, he has rightly built up an impressive following at the Fringe (where I saw this show), having improved his craft year on year. Now he embarks on his biggest tour yet and is certain to add to his rapidly growing fanbase.

His latest show, Reset, is a gem, a beautifully crafted and performed essay about having one's time again. In Acaster's very individual take on the subject, it could mean him going into the witness protection programme, or being an aid worker in the developing world, or becoming a beekeeper – or all three, in a breathtakingly detailed piece of storytelling.

He takes us on a virtual journey that never palls

There are some marvellous set-pieces, chief among them his superb takedown of why the British Museum will never hand back the Elgin Marbles to Greece – “We're still looking at them” – and there are also cheeky nods to Brexit and Britain's foreign policy.

But it's not just big ideas; he can craft a very funny piece of observational comedy out of remembering to charge his electric toothbrush, or the protocol of supermarket checkouts, or even the phrase “put the kettle on”. The last develops into a very funny and highly original musing on the difference between Brits and the rest of the world who speak the same language, but differently; New Zealanders, for instance, say “boil the jug”.

In a lesser comic's hands this would be a straightforward gag about us and them. In Acaster's, it is moulded into a thoughtful section on how not nice to the rest of the world Britain has been in the past, and continues to be.

It's an hour with many avenues to explore and Acaster, putting his lanky frame to nicely expressive use in some sections, takes us on a virtual journey that never palls, filled as it is with witty references to all manner of things but with observations that always feel fresh, whether with a snappy one-liner or a riff lasting several minutes. There's even an unexpected but sweet musical interlude, and a neat visual gag about what he's wearing, the payoff for which comes a teasingly long time into the hour.

In previous shows I have felt that Acaster's work is easy to admire, but not always easy to laugh loudly at. And yes, the laughter here is gentle rather than raucous, but this is a very fine hour of comedy.

He can craft a very funny piece of observational comedy out of remembering to charge his electric toothbrush


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters