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This is an article from the Fest 2011 archive
James Acaster
Image: Idil Sukan

With his fresh face, fluffy hair and a clean style almost completely devoid of swearing, you’d be forgiven for underestimating James Acaster. This, however, would a mistake: despite his sweetly awkward opening gambit, Acaster has almost perfected a persona that should be coming from a comedian much older than his 26 years.

From lightly teasing audience members to energetically demonstrating metaphors for relationships, he switches from deadpan to zeal and glee to withering sarcasm with little warning. One minute he’s the awkward geeky teen, all arms, legs and sharp angles. The next he’s flirting outrageously with the audience, with saucy winks and eyebrow waggles reminiscent of a camp, slightly mad uncle. All it takes is the slightest gesture to render even the most mundane anecdote painfully funny.

Rarely has a gag so seemingly one-dimensional as his piece about doughnuts been drawn out quite so successfully and with such conviction, elevated thanks to his malleable face and immaculate timing. His interaction with the audience reveals an intelligence made all the more interesting by the fact that his arms often appear unattached to his shoulders. This doesn’t mask a lack of material, but strengthens a clever and confident—if sometimes bemusing—hour.

There are moments of bewilderment, where you’re not quite sure he’s going to pull it off. But Acaster never falters, riding towards a payoff that, when delivered, almost always hits the mark. It’s a method that works only if you’re funny enough – which, thankfully, he is. Regardless of his age, Acaster is an undeniable and wickedly original talent.