Two hours is a lot to ask of an audience for a comedy special. Essentially you’re treating them to a feature length film—no B movie 90 minutes here, no sir, we’re going full Oscar bait or MCU addition. James Acaster’s celebrated special Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, released on Vimeo at the beginning of March, more than earns its two hour run time, though.
The English comedian will be a familiar face to any fans of British panel shows like Mock the Week and Taskmaster, but he’s also made his way to Netflix’s bloated comedy catalogue with the brilliant James Acaster: Repertoire. His latest special was recorded in December 2019 and still bears some of the topical hallmarks of that year—Acaster is trying to sort out Brexit with a second referendum—but most of his stand-up focuses on his own life as a comedian and his mental health.
Acaster plays with perspective throughout Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, arriving on stage in sunglasses and trying on a new persona that’s all bravado and four letter words—to get rid of the old people and “Chrizzos” (a term for Christians I’m tempted to start using). His switching of viewpoints for comedic effect and deconstruction of certain bits adds an extra dimension of cleverness to a show that was already good to begin with, elevating it to the next level.
He moves at lightning speed throughout most of the special—all the more impressive when you consider its length—but Acaster proves that he knows when and how to milk a moment. One moment he’ll be talking a mile a minute, whipping out delightful turns of phrase that are sure to stick with you, and the next he’s doing an extended physical gag to send a point home. Besides his impeccable comic timing, Acaster is also very conscious of the direction he’s punching in. He employs the only decent transgender related joke I’ve ever seen a cis person perform, primarily because the actual target is transphobes.
The real focus of the show is Acaster’s relationship with his mental health. Many of his stories center around being a relatively successful comedian, including his stint on The Great British Bake Off, but these bits remain relatable because he zeroes in on his human issues amidst the limelight. Acaster presents his own struggles as hilarious, but also holds up a necessary mirror to the audience as we laugh at situations with grim contexts. This isn’t to guilt us, but rather to remind us that behind every dark meme, there’s a real person going through some very real shit.
There’s plenty more to love about Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999, but far be it from us to spoil the fruits of Acaster’s genius. Just trust us when we say this isn’t a special to miss.
James Acaster’s Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 is now available through Vimeo.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast, hibernophile and contributing writer for Paste’s music and comedy sections. She also exercises her love for reality TV at HelloGiggles every now and then. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.