JFL42 review: James Acaster at the Garrison

JAMES ACASTER at JFL42 on Saturday (September 22), 7 pm, at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West). Rating: NNNNNJames Acaster understands.

JAMES ACASTER at JFL42 on Saturday (September 22), 7 pm, at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West). Rating: NNNNN

James Acaster understands that laughter gets us over even the most painful things: asshole soccer fans, annoying audience members in your peripheral vision, being dumped by your girlfriend for a famous, if ridiculous, movie star nearly twice your age.

All of these things came up during his stellar set last night at the Garrison.

Acaster is a big deal in the UK, and he’s been nominated several years running for best comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s less well-known in North America, of course, but that’s starting to change, especially after his four-part Netflix series Repertoire.

Tall, pale and lanky, looking like he could be part of Ron Weasley’s ginger brood (he’s got a very funny bit about Harry Potter in the act, by the way), Ancaster has a loose conversational style that belies his act’s careful craft.

An early routine about the syncing of women’s menstrual cycles is a fine bit of comic storytelling, and the physicality he uses to illustrate the joke is superb. Then he upends the gag by suggesting that men can also be in sync with their balls, and the result is brilliantly absurd.

He’s got a likeability and charm even as he tackles the most serious subjects, such as the difference between racism and xenophobia.

And he demonstrates great lateral thinking in a joke that compares the skills needed to listen to a Discman in 1999 in a car to being a doctor performing an emergency operation in an airplane.

The brilliance of his act is in his writing’s details: how readers mispronounced Hermione’s name from the Harry Potter books before the movies and audiobooks came out and how “Chrizzoes” his word for Christians enjoy comedy if there are no curse words.

Understandably, he devotes a big chunk of his act to the fact that his girlfriend left him for a certain slapstick movie star. This material is solid and Acaster’s anger is palpable but the best joke in the hour-long act concerns his description of a song that, at least on first listen, unites everyone.

The way that he connects this inspired observation with a brutal encounter with an offensive Manchester United fan is, frankly, genius.

Acaster performs again tonight (September 23) and tomorrow (September 24).

Brand Voices

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