Last summer, Conan O’Brien introduced his audience to a young British comedian named James Acaster. Wearing a shirt to match his slightly unkempt red hair, the comic embraced his heritage (and thick accent) without a single measure of caution. “Good to see you all! My name is James. I’m from England,” he began. “So it won’t surprise you that this first joke is about apricots.” Of course, telling jokes about apricots is not exclusively a British thing, but Acaster managed to wittingly convince Conan‘s mostly American crowd that it was while simultaneously poking fun at himself for doing so.
Acaster is a comedy star over in the U.K., having appeared regularly on popular panel shows like Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats, as well as debuting multiple crowd-pleasing and critically-acclaimed shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the past few years. Over time, the “trilogy” of shows he performed across successive festivals — Recognise, Represent, and Reset — were combined into a much larger set piece that included a new fourth show, Recap. Acaster spent most of 2017 revising, performing, and perfecting this massive comedy project, which is now available to stream on Netflix as Repertoire.
Uproxx spoke to Acaster about the trials and tribulations of putting together what amounts to four hours of bingeable stand-up comedy, and whether or not he thinks viewers should watch it all in one go. “If you watched all four straight through in one viewing, then all the things that link the shows together would be a lot more apparent,” he says. Then again, he admits, “however they want to watch it is up to them.” Either way, Acaster explains, it all comes down to the brilliance of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and fan theory videos on YouTube. (We’re not kidding.)
Repertoire consists of shows you’ve workshopped and performed at Edinburgh and elsewhere for years. Was there a grand plan for bringing this all together, or were you doing this one show at a time?
I was just doing it one show at a time originally. Then the more shows I wrote to take to Edinburgh, the more I felt like they belonged together stylistically, and then I decided I was going to film them all at the same time. I actually was just going to film three of them. The first three, that is, but then I decided it was better to do all of them. I needed to relearn them all, figure them all out to get them looking as good as they could be. While I was doing that, I linked them together more — spotted more points where I could link them together — and then wrote the fourth one as a result of all that work. It helped tie them all together completely.
If I’m not mistaken, you filmed all of these in a single string of shows on one night, yes?
It was two days, but we filmed them all twice for safety. So I did them all in one day, yes. Then the next day, we did them all again. We started filming at like three o’clock in the afternoon and finished at about midnight.