James Acaster: Repertoire

⭐⭐½ averaged across 1 films.

tl;dr: A comedy mini-series that loosely ties together a collection of bizarre tales into a single whole.


Standup Comedy

James Acaster: Represent

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

We accidentally watched the second part of this comedy mini-series first, but I don't think it overly matters (though I'll update this if I find out it does when we watch part one).

Or should I say, if we watch part one. I'm a huge fan of James Acaster when he appears on shows like Mock the Week or the Big Fat Quiz. Watching his clips from talk and panel shows on YouTube is a guilty pleasure of mine. And yet I've never seen any of his actual standup before this. That means I had a vague idea of what to expect, but it turns out my expectations were about as wrong as they were right.

There are moments throughout Represent when his sheer chaotic, imaginative humour breaks through and dominates the stage. These are the moments in which the show truly shines. Chief amongst them is the brilliantly contrary parable of the sloth and the goose, which had both of us in stitches. However, the majority of the dialogue is focused around a fictional period of jury duty, as well as interspersed musings on religion and various other day-to-day activities. For the most part, Acaster's observational humour is excellent. Gags about amateur massage sessions and the absurdity of Christingles were excellent. On top of which, I was surprised at how well he wove running jokes throughout the set, with some genuinely clever callbacks.

Unfortunately, this was all offset by a disappointingly slow method of delivery and a slightly lacklustre ending. Despite all of his energy and whimsy, Acaster holds lengthy pauses throughout his set, allowing the laughter to subside entirely. Combined with an overuse of repetition in some skits, it means a rolling laugh falls flat and has to build anew entirely every ten minutes or so. Rather than slowly edging the wave closer and closer to a crescendo, he flattens it repeatedly. Perhaps, in person, this creates a kind of nervous excitement and energy, but through a TV it just feels like everything is dragging on. That's the opposite of what I expected from someone as quick-witted and energetic, but there you go.

And yes, the ending has a brilliant dialogue that neatly ties back together a whole bunch of gags from earlier in the show and ultimately lands on a genuinely funny moment surrounding log flume tickets, the rules of secret santa, and his nemesis on the jury but. But the whole lot is undermined my those same lengthy pauses, the ending lacks a final flourish so it took us a second to realise that it was actually done, and the entire piece is distracted from by his dismantling of the set which goes.... nowhere at all. Oh, and then there's the Christingle eating. Which is funny. But also quite flat and self-indulgent. If the crescendo had logically led to him holding a Christingle in the dark, slowly eating dolly mix, fine. But he just walks off and walks on again. 🤷‍♂️

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