Kettering's James Acaster doesn't immediately come across like a star.
James Acaster, Lawnmower; London, Darlington & Edinburgh
A quiet, unassuming sort of comedian, he delivers his standup in a low-key, slightly nasal style; as if the demands of being a stage-dominating showman just don't gel with his natural modesty. But it's a classic case of appearances being deceptive, because what he offers is some of the most assured and effortless comedy around. Lawnmower is his third full-length Edinburgh show in as many years, and while there are plenty of comics hoping for a career leg-up as a result of a successful fringe, Acaster has the tools here to become a genuine breakout. He is adept at mixing inspired whimsy with straighter observational material, and presents nuggets of semi-scholarly pop-cultural theorising (including his original take on Yoko Ono's effect on the Beatles) alongside bits of bizarre, clearly fictionalised autobiography.
The Slug And Lettuce, SE1, Sat; Inside Out, Darlington, Sun; Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, Wed to 25 Aug
Henry Paker: Classic Paker; Brighton, London & Edinburgh
If there were a dictionary definition of "comedian's comedian" Henry Paker would fit the bill perfectly. Ask young stars such as Seann Walsh and Josh Widdicombe, and they'll tell you Paker is a genius, the funniest man they've ever met. Wider acclaim is surely only a matter of time. Spending an hour watching him on stage is like eavesdropping on a bizarre inner monologue, with a dizzying, eclectic mess of odd characters, peculiar catchphrases and wonderfully infectious nonsense. There's a touch of Eddie Izzard about his approach, but filtered through a very different sensibility. There's no dragging up here: Paker's a terribly cultivated gentleman who's more likely to be found smoking a pipe and wearing a perfectly blocked hat than putting on a pair of stockings.
Three And Ten, Brighton, Sat; The Queen's Head, W1, Downstairs At The King's Head, N8, Sun; Underbelly, Edinburgh, Wed to 26 Aug
Kunt And The Gang, Edinburgh
It seems completely redundant to say that Kunt And The Gang aren't for everyone. When you give your act a name like that, it's hard for the audience to complain they weren't warned. A one-man-band (the "Gang" being something of a misnomer), Kunt offers musical comedy containing minimal musical value (think keyboards on demo mode) and some of the rawest and delightfully filthy comedy around. With non-stop references to genitals, sexual intercourse and (mainly) wanking, this is all gutter stuff, but when you push this schoolboy humour far enough there's a kind of bizarre bleakness that comes through. It's absurdly pretentious to compare one of his c-bomb-dropping, offence-laden anthems to Beckett, but it certainly has the same obscenity-becomes-profundity quality as (say) Sadowitz or the best of Derek and Clive.
The Free Sisters, Fri to 25 Aug
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