James Acaster is a comedian who, for many, requires no introduction. He has achieved enormous success at the Fringe, with the shows he has brought to Edinburgh over the last five years earning a record-breaking five consecutive nominations for ‘Best Comedy Show’. He has become a regular face on television on comedy panel shows such as
An animated stand-alone hour of stand up comedy from a titan of the Fringe.
Recognise (2014), Represent (2015) and Reset (2016) make up 2017’s The Trelogy, performed on consecutive nights. The first of these, Recognise is delivered in the character of Pat Springleaf: a man whose wife has just left him and who believes he is an undercover cop currently posing as a member of a drug ring.
Acaster’s comic charm is based in the persona he inhabits onstage. Here, I don't mean Pat Springleaf specifically, but a version of James Acaster that he has cultivated for comedy: gawky, characteristically dressed in slacks, and reminiscent of a collection of the nation’s geography teachers. It gave him a unique style when he broke into the comedy scene, and is undoubtedly still a key selling point of his act.
His material itself is consistently hilarious, too, particularly in the unexpected nature of its humour, often generated from almost nothing. Seemingly insignificant everyday things like buying a banana in Prêt à Manger are made side-splittingly funny, over-analysed to the point of spoof. Still, it's chiefly something about his delivery, his distinctive rhotacism and deadpan facial expressions perhaps, that has so captured the attention of the British public. There is a danger of Acaster as a performer slipping into a parody of his onstage self, of pushing the initially original persona beyond believability and into gimmick. However, there is still enough Recognise-able truth behind his observations to feel relatable, and the fictitious nature and wacky ingenuity of his stand-up allow for a slightly heightened performance state.
Individually, Recognise is an animated stand-alone hour of stand up comedy from a titan of the Fringe. In combination with the rest of The Trelogy Acaster’s shows Represent the evolution of his stand up from 2014 to 2016, and Reset the clock on his material. An excuse to retell old jokes perhaps, but his are, after all, pretty good ones.