Cbr13bingo Free! Bingo #2 – diagonal
I received this book as a gift from my husband last year because we are big fans of British panel shows and comedian James Acaster, who is all over them.
Look at me reading another memoir, my fourth in a row!! This one is clearly different from the previous three in that it is by a male and it is comedic. James Acaster is a thirty-something British comedian, perhaps not terribly well known in the US but a popular and hilarious addition to panel shows in the UK. I recommend “TaskMaster” series 8 (2018), in which he was a contestant or any of his appearances on “Would I Lie to You?”. Classic Scrapes is a collection of stories Acaster told on Josh Widdicombe’s Saturday morning radio show. Widdicombe has written the Foreword to the book, which is a chronicle of Acaster’s “scrapes” starting from when he was born and peed into his own mouth until his adulthood as a successful comedian locked in a battle of wits with a nine-year-old. Even if you don’t know Acaster, his stories of growing up and trying to pursue his changing interests are entertaining and funny.
Since these stories are about “scrapes,” they center on episodes of Acaster’s life that involved problems and/or failures Acaster endured, some quite silly, others involving a bit of danger but funny as he tells them. On the purely silly end of the scale are things like the time he wiped his wet hands on a classmate’s coat, or the time he collected enormous W’s for his band the Wow! Scenario, or the time he borrowed a “strimmer” (aka weed whacker) from school and accidentally cut through the cord. A number of stories from Acaster’s teenaged years and 20s are a little more concerning. For example, he describes three terrible car accidents he has been in. After the first, he made a decision that since life was short he should try to do more things he hasn’t done before. This leads to some hilarious attempts at line dancing and going to a board gaming group that wasn’t exactly welcoming. He also writes about his various attempts at a music career and several bands he joined, their experiences performing, and his move away from music and in to comedy.
Several of these “scrapes” were already familiar to me because I had heard Acaster tell them on various TV programs, but reading them in more detail was great fun. One story, “Basingstoke,” is about the time Acaster missed the final train of the evening and, without money or phone, decided to hide in a bush outside the train station while wearing a red dress to keep warm and putting a bag over his head to hide from a couple of thugs looking for a fight. The other is the story (“Cabadged”) of 9 year-old Mick, the son of a friend, who pranked Acaster repeatedly and was able to draw others into the game, which involved cabbages. You can hear Acaster talk about it here, but the written story is full of hilarious details.
As I was reading this collection of stories, I couldn’t help but think of PG Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster. Acaster is a little bit like Bertie at times, and his writing is witty and engaging. He is self-deprecating, able to wield sarcasm deftly, and at heart, a decent person who will be the first to admit that his initial choices on how to address the problems in his life have not been the best or most logical choices to make. A good illustration of this is the story called “Shame,” which might be my favorite in the entire collection. It starts with Acaster confessing a childhood embarrassment that caused him to feel shame and segues to a story of adult shame involving his voice teacher and an urgent need for a restroom. I laughed out loud reading this one.
Even if you haven’t heard of James Acaster, this is an enjoyable collection of humorous stories. Look him up on YouTube and Netflix while you’re at it!