Fringe Comedy Reviews: Nish Kumar & James Acaster
Between appearances on The Now Show and Newsjack, Nish Kumar has been doing his homework. A show whose philosophical and political backbone has been crafted as much as its callbacks and slow-burners, the sarcastically-titled Long Word... Long Word... Blah Blah Blah... I’m so Clever [★★★★☆] brings us through economics, Islamophobia and misogyny with a couple of stops along the way for James Bond, board games and a Kafka-esque railway ordeal.
Seamlessly making the personal political and vice versa, he turns observational, anecdotal comedy into criticisms of privatisation of public services, or the casting of the aforementioned spy films. Kumar appears almost self-consciously aware of how he fits into the comedy landscape, and is adamant that we should keep the conversation going, letting more and more people of diverse backgrounds speak out. When expounding on these ideas, Kumar is calm and thoughtful, but at times his delivery switches to breathlessly, frantically angry as he tries to explain the relatively simple concept of just being nice to people.
Meanwhile, James Acaster's Represent [★★★☆☆] uses the tale of a stint in jury duty as a starting point. Acaster has a more rambling, surreal style than Kumar, and paints with broader, more wildly colourful strokes. Though he overlays his show with something of the style of a cultural or lifestyle blogger, the central themes of power, relationships and adulthood holding Represent together are all discernible.
At times, we’re left nervously tittering at a drawn-out silence rather than giggling at a structured gag, but this comes as part of Acaster’s self-assured, almost childlike delivery. As the show continues, we have insights into the existential questions which come with this childishness, and rage against having to grow up in the world we currently have. Acaster has created a great first impression of a different world in which we all of course know the same obscure fables, and where the merely annoying is elevated to the dizzying heights of calamity. He nonetheless relies a little too much on those long silences for comedy – he may be able to do a lot more with his show if he wasn’t pausing for effect quite so much.
James Acaster: Represent, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 8.30pm, £12
Nish Kumar: Long Word... Long Word... Blah Blah... I'm so Clever, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 7.15pm, £10