James Acaster @ Sands Centre, Carlisle

Everyone loves a bad boy. We're just surprised that James Acaster now qualifies as one.

Review by Johnny Owens | 20 Jun 2019
  • James Acaster

What would you do if you’d made a name for yourself as a comedian by cloaking your act in densely packed and whimsical metaphors, and then, one day, your actual life became so astoundingly fucking weird that there was honestly no way you could make it up any more? Well, you’d reinvent yourself, wouldn’t you? That’s what James Acaster decided was his best move when putting together COLD LASAGNE HATE MYSELF 1999, his finest work to date.

Acaster’s here to make a statement. He strides on stage adorned in the most vile jacket known to man and ridiculous mirrored aviators. No ‘Hello’, no polite greeting, just a stream of swear words. That’s right, he swears now: this, we’re told, was the first move in his ‘reinvention’.

Of course it’s all bullshit posturing and, as is always the case with Acaster’s jokes, this act of reinvention serves a number of purposes. Firstly, it gives Acaster a chance to openly mock other ‘edgy’ comedians who aren’t really edgy, just intolerant dicks. Secondly, this new, arrogant Acaster serves to help define the crux of the entire show.

Heads up: there’s nothing in this show about cold lasagne, and there’s actually very little about the year 1999. There’s a lot about hating yourself though, and somehow these stories about Acaster being profoundly unhappy with who he was/is are more ludicrously entertaining than anything he’s put out before now. 

On the surface, COLD LASAGNE is a deftly-timed, neatly structured bit of comedy by a professional at the top of his game. But at its core, the show is a poignant meditation on the lies we tell ourselves almost constantly in a futile attempt to become our ‘best selves’. It's about the perpetual concerns that bump around our heads as to whether we’re a good, or even tolerable, person. And it’s about accepting that, in the end, you can only ever be whoever it is you happen to be.

James Acaster is on tour with Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 across the UK until December