Comedy R&R // James Acaster

If James Acaster were a fisherman, his audience would be the fly, twitching at the end of the line. Sometimes he catches laughs, sometimes he doesn’t, but like all true fishermen, it feels like he’s not really in it for the prize, he simply loves the game.

I think he is remarkable. His dorky, wordy, Englishness is an elaborate distraction that makes the ease with which he plays his audience a complete surprise. When I left The Classic after his Saturday night show, I did feel played, I also felt awed. Acaster is a comic who can bring an audience right into his pocket and then pitch them into an abyss, and then pull them back out again, just for the fun of it.

His new show, Reset, is based on the premise that we’d all secretly like to press reset on certain moments in our lives. We all have regrets we’d like to erase. Sometimes, things go wrong, and it would be lovely if we could push a button that meant a fresh start. Acaster’s jokes meander from hilarious cultural observations, to absurd and elaborate fiction. There are plenty of laughs to be had here, regardless of whether you pick up all of the references. You can’t help but be entertained.

Having seen him before, I know the truly masterful thing about Acaster’s style is the way his shows complete a neat, thematic circle. Every word he says is leading you somewhere, and the best part is that you often don’t realise where you’re going till you get there. This pre-existing belief about his writing is what left me so confused and amazed by Reset, because the entire show felt so natural, so open and honest, and occasionally, so raw, that I can’t believe it was planned. It can’t have been planned.

For me, it’s the sign of an absolute genius: whatever happens, James Acaster makes you feel as if this show, this audience, is unique and special – whether that be in a good or bad way – but he also makes you suspect that he might have manipulated you to respond exactly the way he wanted, encouraged you toward a preconceived conclusion that will leave your head spinning. I still don’t know. I want to go again just to see.

Reset is something of a rollercoaster, the laughs are only one part of it, it’s the overall sense of being taken for a ride that stays with you.

James Acaster’s Reset is playing at The Classic from 23 April – 6 May. Get tickets here >>

R&R: response and recommendation. We only write about shows we’d happily recommend to friends, because, let’s face it, you’re probably one of our friends.