Acaster, beginning the show on his knees, talks us through his love of loopholes – and how this opening was inspired by the ice-skating duo Torvill and Dean, who famously used the same device to ease into the show before it officially starts.
Tonight is a confessional as much as anything. In his now-trademark droll style, Acaster takes us through an encounter with a member of staff in a French high street sandwich shop over the availability of a banana, and his plan to exact revenge.
But sure enough, we soon veer away from the real-life anecdotes you’ll hear so many of this August, and move onto the crux of his show. Acaster comes clean about his double life as an undercover cop. The stand-up comedian thing was a necessary masquerade, he explains, in order to infiltrate the seedy underworld of the UK comedy circuit. And the show from here on out becomes a mix of pin-point observation, and tangents on matters such as the difficulty of leading a conga line – all mixed in with a warped reality, and all perfectly deadpanned.
There may be a true but possibly less interesting story behind the cop disguise, but Acaster never drops the front, determined to take the act to new refreshing levels. So we’re not listening to a comedian moan about how hard or crazy the world is, but instead we’re hearing stories from behind the scenes at police meetings and how life has been for him since the comedy really started taking off.
By making up his life, Acaster proves his worth as a talented writer and performer – not relying on things happening to him to fill out his set, but actively using his imagination. It’s an approach that’s sometimes strangely overlooked. And while I appreciate that comedians can be brutally honest and personal, I can’t help but wish more of them took a risk, and delved into fiction with equal conviction.
Recognise, like Acaster’s previous material, is off-beat and imaginative, engaging and believable (well, in the context of the show, I mean). Is it about identity? Perhaps. Can you over-analyse something like this? Probably. But enjoyed at face value, it is simply a really well-honed and consistently funny hour.
Yet there’s still a point to it all. As the narrative reaches its parody of a poignant climax, and Acaster tries to describe those “pictures you put your head in” at the seaside, there is a knowing nod to how far you can go with a double life before it all becomes a blur – how long you can keep the pretence up without alienating those closest to you. And we have a glimpse, though just a glimpse, of the inspiration, the reality, behind this show.