Review: James Acaster’s 'Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999' is as funny and unpredictable as his earlier work


James Acaster has been in character in all of his previous comedy festival shows. Aren’t all comedians in character to a certain degree? Perhaps, but Acaster’s shows have centred on his experiences running a honey racket, being an undercover cop and entering into witness protection. In all his previous shows, he's masked his genuine thoughts and feelings under absurd pretences. 

The UK stand-up’s new show, Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, is more personal and revealing. The exaggerated delivery hasn’t changed much, however. It’s not a pleading monologue or a steady recount of things as they happened to him. It’s as funny and unpredictable as his fancifully skewed earlier work.

Cold Lasagne affirms Acaster’s intuitive flair for presentation. His routines tend to be so expertly composed that you can’t tell whether certain moments are impromptu outbursts or deliberate narrative disruptions. That said, Acaster has always displayed an inclination for castigating the audience, and tonight was no different.

He stuck the knife in early, underlining the sort of people he doesn’t want coming to his shows and delivering some sizzling burns to make sure the crowd wasn’t feeling too self-satisfied. “You only go to comedy for this one month of the year,” he snarled. “You’re not experts.”

He took it so far at one point that he made himself laugh, which might’ve been the only moment he properly broke out of his onstage persona. But the substance of the show felt entirely authentic.

Cold Lasagne focuses on the worst year of Acaster’s life. His girlfriend left him and his agent dropped him. He dips his toes into a serious discussion of mental health, but not in search of sympathy. As he pointed out early, if this stuff was still raw we certainly wouldn’t be the first people he turned to. “Stupidest country in the world, Australia,” he said. “You know it’s true.”

The year in question, 2017, hovers above the whole show, but Acaster deviates to relay a surreal run-in with a famous forebear, have a withering swipe at another big name British comedian and illuminate the odiousness of Britain’s crassest politician, Boris Johnson.

Cold Lasagne offers an honest depiction of Acaster’s emotional life and pulls no punches in regards to his political and social values. It’s also deeply funny, so basically the opposite of a Michael McIntyre show. I’d encourage everyone to buy tickets immediately, but unfortunately, the remaining shows are all sold out.

James Acaster's Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 runs until Sunday April 21 (bar Mondays) as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival.