From Brexit to breakups, James Acaster is an audacious king of comedy

From Brexit to breakups, James Acaster is an audacious king of comedyDecember 22, 2020

Two years on, the Kettering comic’s show Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 remains personal, painful and electrifying. What will he do next?

In the drear of a socially isolated Christmas, it was something to celebrate: a live stream of James Acaster’s career-best show, Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999. Premiering straight on to the West End two years ago, this for-the-ages set took an already top-notch comedian to a new level entirely. But it was a blink-and-you-miss-it show, presented in a trio of brief West End runs, and never screened until a stream on Dice at the end of last week. It was a welcome chance to reacquaint oneself with what makes Cold Lasagne – and Acaster himself – so great.

What was striking the first time around, besides the show being deliriously funny, was the sense of a comedian stepping out from behind his mask. Yes, his standup was already remarkable – hence the record-breaking five consecutive Edinburgh comedy award nominations, not to mention four simultaneous (and interconnected) Netflix specials. But those shows concealed as much as they revealed about their creator, behind those trademark tricksy conceits about jury service, say, or his secret life as an undercover cop. Sometimes they suggested real-world concerns behind the elaborate fictions – a spiritual crisis, in Represent, or a breakup, in Recognise. But you had to extrapolate, and there was no knowing – Acaster certainly wasn’t telling – whether your hunch was right or wrong.

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