The NN Cafe has come back to life in Northampton’s Guildhall Road and James Acaster, who usually treats his home county to a few intimate Christmas gigs, is bringing the treat forward performing there this weekend.
The show is called Move On and comes in the wake of what many would assume has been a breakthrough period in his career.
He has had four specials on Netflix and is a regular on a number of comedy panel shows, pulling off the none too easy feat of avoiding mean spirited humour on Mock the Week.
So did last night’s show reflect a man who might justifiably be leaning back on his laurels?
Far from it, James stepped on stage announcing that his hitherto nice guy image has been attracting the wrong kind of audiences and unleashed an X-rated tirade aimed at weeding out the old people and ‘Chrissos’ (Christians).
He then painted a picture of what has really been going on behind the scenes in his life for the past couple of years – the specific content I won’t touch on in deference to his plea for it not to be shared on social media – but represented his finely crafted trademark quirkiness finding the funny in a time of considerable emotional turmoil.
At one stage the audience was moved to an ‘ahhhh’ of sympathy but he immediately put us in our place for – in effect – pitying him.
The thrill of any small venue performance is that sense of interaction between the performer and the audience and there was an audience member who had, as James put it, “too much confidence for his own good”.
The exchange was a demonstration of James’ ability to own the room like a stand-up with ten years gigging under his belt but also not drop out of the persona of being an ordinary guy assaulted by surreal problems.
If he is wondering whether he can bring an edge into his comedy and still retain that likeable awkwardness that has brought him so far I would say he can. Looking vulnerable and then revealing himself to be not as vulnerable as he looks suits his offbeat but still-in-rhythm groove.
We loved it. He’s still doing good work and he’s from Northamptonshire. There are a few standing room tickets for tonight’s two shows still left.