James Acaster has been nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award five times and has appeared on prime-time TV shows like Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo and Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central.
But behind the fame and critical acclaim is a man perpetually getting into trouble. Whether it’s disappointing a skydiving instructor mid-flight, hiding from thugs in a bush wearing a bright red dress, or annoying the Kettering Board Games club, a didgeridoo-playing conspiracy theorist and some bemused Christians, James is always finding new ways to embarrass himself.
Appearing on Josh Widdicombe’s radio show to recount these stories, the feature was christened ‘James Acaster’s classic scrapes’. Here, in his first book, James recounts these tales (including never-before-heard stories) along with self-penned drawings, in all their glorious stupidity.
I made a mental note to start wearing shoulder pads in the winter…If I became the shoulder pad guy my whole world could change: I could be a leader, a visionary, people would respect me. These were my thoughts as I sat in a bush wearing a dress, eating brioche and reading a novel. I’ll admit the whole thing felt a lot more decadent than I had expected, all things considered. I was eating French baked goods and had reading materials to hand, not to mention the killer dress I was sporting. This guy sleeps rough in style.
Let me start this by saying I love James Acaster. I recall first seeing him in 2011 on Russell Howard’s Good News and being an avid follower ever since. I will seriously watch anything he’s in. He might actually be my ultimate favourite comedian, which made picking up his memoir a no-brainer. 301 pages of Acaster hilarity? Yes, please.
Unfortunately, being such an Acaster fan meant that I was already familiar with a large bulk of the stories recounted in this book. Having binge-listened to Josh Widdicombe’s podcast on my morning commutes to college when studying A-Levels, I greatly enjoyed Acaster’s segment on it where he would recount an embarrassing anecdote dubbed by Widdicombe and listeners as ‘Classic Scrapes’. I’d often have to stifle in my laughter so as to not look absolutely crazy when out in public.
That being said, Acaster’s Classic Scrapes book does have a lot of new stories as well as old favourites he’s told on the podcast. It’s written in such an engaging tone that captures Acaster’s awkward appeal. There were so many times whilst reading that I would genuinely giggle out loud or face palm at Acaster’s terrible yet utterly hilarious life decisions. A personal favourite of mine is the story of how James jazzed up the old nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpy to the tune of the hit song ‘La Bamba’ in a music lesson and thus becoming a classroom popstar sensation.
I did really enjoy James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes, it reminded me just why I adore him. There’s quite honestly never a dull moment in the book, but it’s not one I would recommend devouring in one sitting. It’s a bit of a pick-me-up read that you come back to every so often for a good laugh. Some of the stories, whether you’ve heard them on Widdicombe’s podcast or not, are just sheer comedic genius that you just want to savour them.
However, I heartily recommend that you also purchase the book in audio format as I don’t think you can beat really listening to James tell them in his usual quirky, comedic manner. Or, alternatively, I believe a few of Acaster’s ‘scrapes’ have been ripped from Widdicombe’s podcast and exist on YouTube in audio format so maybe give them a listen there too if you’re tentative about investing in the book.
I’ll leave you with James telling his classic scrape about spending a night in a Basingstoke bush: