Loathing for laughs (so very British)

An open-mic stand-up comedy session at the Metropolitan Room in New York, February 14, 2017. (Photo: NYTimes)
In his superb new stand-up special, “Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999”, James Acaster describes the worst year of his life: After a shattering breakup, suicidal thoughts, and a mental breakdown, he started seeing a therapist for the first time. “Because I’m British and that’s what it takes,” he says. “My whole life had to fall apart before I’d talk about my feelings.”اضافة اعلان

Acaster’s show, which toured New York several years ago but only became available for purchase on Vimeo recently, takes aim at England’s stiff upper lip. The theme that emerges after two sprawling, ticklishly funny hours of his new show is not just the challenge of talking about mental health but also the perils of stoicism.

There’s nothing worse than sweeping generalizations about the difference between US and British comedy, which is my way of excusing myself for making one: There’s a narrative and thematic ambition that you find in British comics like Daniel Kitson, Josie Long, and Acaster that is less common among comics here. Perhaps it’s because they cut their teeth putting on hourlong shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as opposed to doing short club sets. In any event, Acaster packs his jokes into a tricky structure of digressions.

Muffled anger is sometimes a setup, other times a punchline, but always essential to this show.