James Acaster review: A witty and acerbic night of comedy

Hit UK comedian James Acaster is the master of deprecation (self and otherwise) bordering on cruelty, but his skill keeps the audience on side for the duration of his cuttingly funny set. 

James Acaster bounds across the stage in the exact same jacket he dons in the promo material for his show “Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999”, and also shades, but not, I think, the same shades. They’re shades nonetheless, providing a shield for the next hour of personal catastrophes, traumas, disasters et. al in which he spills his guts. I get it. You do kind of want a barrier between you and the windows to your soul as you’re making jokes out of the very worst moments of your life.

Acaster is performing 10 sold-out shows in Auckland, a crazy amount, but also not surprising that if it would happen to anyone, it’s Acaster: a straight white male comedian with a wheelhouse of Netflix comedy specials, shelves of awards and a lanky physicality which makes any joke he tells immediately funnier when punctured with a well-timed body lean.

And it helps that he is really very funny. After hearing he flopped during Thursday night’s Best Foods Comedy Gala, I came in tense. And my teeth didn’t unclench till about three minutes into the set, when he started getting into the groove: and by the groove, I mean started getting into the material in which he mines the misfortunes of his dating life. It feels particularly spoilery in this case to extend any further on this, and also he was really very rude to the whole audience about putting any of it on social media and I feel if I do say anything about it I may get a call from his agent, or his enforcer, or him.

Some of the biggest laughs of the night come when he self-interrupts himself to roundly insult audience members in the front row and come after the New Zealand nation as a whole, and then pausing to laugh at his own observational brilliance. I’ve got to give it to James: he really tapped into the New Zealand psyche, in that we all kind of hate ourselves and love nothing more than a well-pointed barb at what huge piles of shit we are. I say that with almost utmost sincerity, because, again, it was all really very funny.

Every word of Acaster’s routine is deliberate and mulled over; it’s polished in a way you would expect of any well-established comedian. But he executes it all with such timing, a bona fide master of the very-important-pause, that we the audience feel he’s very much here, in the moment, not just running lines.

Long story short: if you’ve got a ticket to one of Acaster’s 10 sold-out shows, you can go with my reassurance you’ll have a pretty good night.