Review: James Acaster - Recognise!

James Acaster presents a deadpan set that's at once startlingly complex in its formation and an utter delight to behold.

Often, you’ll notice something when it’s lacking in a show (funny jokes, good taste) but it’s rare you’ll notice something when it’s present, unless it’s particularly exciting or new. You get this in James Acaster’s show.

james acaster

Completely deadpan and simultaneously baffled by and indignant about the world around him, Acaster has a talent for picking minute details from his day-to-day and focusing in on them with Seinfeld-level attention and outrage, pushing us down extended acts of logic that are both delightfully absurd (if only for the amount of time that’s been spent overanalysing them) yet wonderfully rational and relatable.

Idle thoughts, overheard passing comments and fleeting ambitions become topics and situations that require serious unpicking: we encounter a checkout operator muttering snarkily that he’s too good for a free banana (actually, yes, he is too good for a free banana) and childhood dreams of wanting to become an undercover cop (“But I didn’t tell anyone, because I didn’t want to grow up, become an undercover cop. First day on the job, already blown my cover, running my mouth all round town as a child.”)

He creates unexpected pairings that bring real delight (leaders of gangs and leaders of congo lines) but the most impressive element of the show is the way he plants and retrieves details like it’s Chekhov’s ultimate gun collection, each callback a cleverly repurposed reference casting the current gag in a new light and giving it new gravity. By the end it feels not unlike watching someone turn a really complicated string trick into a perfectly knitted sweater: Acaster weaves so many threads together, seamlessly transitioning from one disparate topic to the next, that the invisible choreography of his set is startlingly complex and the comedy it creates a total joy.

James Acaster performs at The Classic
as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival from
Mon 28 April - Sat 3 May & Mon 5 May - Sat 10 May at 7pm

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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