REVIEW: “James Acaster: Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999”

TL;DR: Watch this special, it’s less than US$15 on Vimeo. Maximal marks. [1] If you’re reading this through RSS or elsewhere, there are a LOT of links and embeds, including this one to get the special: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/coldlasagne

I knew James Acaster was funny after seeing some of his Netflix specials, then later seeing him on various shows like Taskmaster, Hypothetical, and Mock the Week (each title is linked to relevant clips on YouTube) really show how quick and funny he is..

I also knew that James could sometimes be a bit of a jerk for a laugh. There was a running gag during his time on Taskmaster where he chose to not acknowledge one of the hosts throughout, and he could sometimes be a bit abrasive.

I also knew, five minutes into this special, that it was something different.

In part, it’s because even though he’s talking about Ricky Gervais, it applies just as well to the stuff around Dave Chappelle this month.

And there’s the simple fact that he’s right. The bigoted and bullying “edgy” comedy is not just morally repugnant…. it’s bad comedy. It’s just repeated hacky schlock. The fact that you could literally substitute Chappelle’s name for Gervais in this routine (or in Nish Kumar’s It’s In Your Nature To Destroy Yourselves, also highly recommended!) shows exactly how hacky and lazy that kind of joke is.

And for the rest of the show, Acaster is exactly the opposite of hacky and lazy.

Blending a British/European “personality” style of standup (e.g. Eddie Izzard) with the American “storytelling” style (see: Steve Hofstetter, Mark Birbiglia), Acaster takes you on a wild ride for a full two hours (with intermission).

The special is exquisitely crafted, yet honest and spontaneous. James knows when and where to apply sarcasm, and just how far to push it [2]. And as James talks about the best – and the worst – year of his life, his skill is on full display. As the special continues, the public persona of “awkward bad boy” falls away and we see more and more of the person behind the persona. You can even see this transition begin in the five minute clip embedded below (WHICH IS COMPLETELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK DUE TO LANGUAGE).

I thoroughly enjoyed this special, and highly recommend it (even to “chrizzos and old people”, lol [2]). Acaster can be a very funny guy off the cuff.

Here, he’s crafted a masterpiece.

REMEMBER, THE AUDIO IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK.

Featured photo from James’ website, which

[1] American audiences, there is a bit about Brexit and Boris Johnson here, but the summaries on Wikipedia should get you up to speed if you’re not already.
[2] I was worried about the opening “chrizzos and old people” bit – but hang on until 2’00”. Trust me.

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2 Comments

  1. Alexander Awesome
    November 6, 2021

    Incidentally, the American “storytelling” style is often referred, by British comedians, as an “Edinburgh Hour” or “Edinburgh Set” derived from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, an annual art festival in Scotland of which comedy features a major part. What sets it apart from a more traditional “club set” is the focus on a stronger narrative structure as opposed to a series of jokes or stories which may or may not be connected. This style developed independently in the 80s during the rise of the British alternative comedians encouraged by the freedom given by the Edinburgh Fringe. James Acaster was nominated 4 or 5 times for an Endinburgh Comedy Award.

    • November 6, 2021

      That I did not know! Thank you for the info!

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