James Acaster has prepared one of Melbourne International Comedy Festival's most anticipated shows

"I just wanted to talk about this stuff that happened to me."

Not content with being a critically admired stand-up comedian and regular fan favourite at the Melbourne and Edinburgh comedy festivals, James Acaster started 2019 with his finger in many pies.

“I’ve been doing this new show on the West End [in London] and I’m writing a book at the minute about the music of 2016 and why I got so obsessed with it and also doing my podcast with Ed Gamble called Off Menu, which is all about food,” Acaster says. “Oh and there’s a show called Hypothetical that me and Josh Widdicombe have done together that’s on TV at the minute. So that’s what’s going on so far this year.”

Prior to emerging as a comedy star in the first half of this decade, Acaster was a committed musician. He remains an enormous music fan – his official website includes an archive of his favourite releases from 2016 and there are a heck of a lot of them. He’s also an avid film and television viewer and always eager to widen his perspective.

“With films and TV, I definitely want to broaden my horizons and watch different things and the same with music as well,” he says. “Even more so with music, I try to take in as much stuff as possible, different genres and stuff like that.

“It’s really fun to have a story told in a different way from a different perspective, which can happen in music as well as film. That always makes for a more enjoyable experience. Luckily you can go on Netflix now and the diversity on there has improved so much in recent years so you really can hear a whole range of different stories.”

Netflix is where you can find not one but four James Acaster comedy specials: Recognise, Represent, Reset and Recap. The former three were nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award for best show following the lead of Acaster’s earlier shows, Prompt and Lawnmower.

In contrast to the bizarre fictional narratives of his past work, however, Acaster’s new show, Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, offers a more honest depiction of the British comedian’s emotional life and the obstacles he’s faced.

“My previous three shows were all presented as fiction,” Acaster says. “People knew it was fictitious and my persona was a lot more heightened. With this it’s still a lot of the same delivery and stuff, but all the material’s more personal and more true and a bit more open.

“I tried doing stuff that was made up again and it just didn’t feel right. And a lot of the time I just wanted to talk about this stuff that happened to me. So I thought, they’re work in progress shows, if it doesn’t feel right I can just never do it again. And that was the stuff that I felt more comfortable with and it was fun to suddenly start doing something different that was a bit more out of my comfort zone.” 

Venues: ACMI – Beyond and Melbourne Town Hall – Main Hall
Dates: Tuesday April 9 – Sunday April 21 (bar Monday)
Price: $30 – $39