James Acaster and Bo Burnham: A thread published on Twitter on 5/21/22
Updated: Nov 8
With James and his fantastic special Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 trending due to recent events (which I am NOT touching on), I thought it would be fun to explore the similarities between my two favorite comics!
I also wrote about James and Bo in March of 2021 before Inside was even announced. You can read it here!
In addition, Collider published an article after Inside premiered that was entitled "If You Love Bo Burnham, You Should Be Watching James Acaster."
I couldn't possibly agree more, and here are some reasons why I consider James to be the British Bo!
1. Both have specials on Netflix
We all know that Bo's trilogy (what., Make Happy, and Inside) currently lives on Netflix—watch all of them in order if you haven't yet!
This was my profile on Netflix recently...lots of Bo!
But if you're looking for another intelligent theatrical comedian who uses props, music, and lighting in innovative ways, James Acaster's special, Repertoire, will be right up your alley.
This comedy special is broken up into four episodes: Recognise, Represent, Reset, and Recap.
My Redbubble Repertoire shirt...do you recognize the jokes? ;)
All of them are well-crafted, meticulous, and demand a rewatch to catch every reference and callback.
Where James goes above and beyond, imo, is his exquisite attention to detail.
Like Bo's shows, every detail is planned and executed perfectly, right down to James's CLOTHES matching his backgrounds.
And all of the episodes are interwoven, ending with a moment that makes you want to start the whole show over again—just brilliant and what I would liken to what. most closely (dissecting and deconstructing the concept of comedy).
Fun fact: Repertoire is the one time Netflix's algorithm worked for me!
It came up as a 97% match based on my interests (Bo and Demetri Martin), so I watched the preview, saw the notepad of duck research, and I KNEW I would love this man!
2. James's newest special is all about mental health
A subject near and dear to Bo's heart, discussions of anxiety and depression dominate Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 as James reckons with becoming an Internet meme among other things.
This meme was even used for a popular post on the Bo subreddit, further solidifying their similarities!
Here's the clip where he discusses why he was such a trainwreck on that baking program (jet lag is the WORST...poor James!)
And the special is similar to Make Happy, in that James opens up about his fears and even discusses audience interaction in a manner similar to Bo.
So here he is, stuck at the center of this inescapable morass that is also fantastic joke fodder in a hilarious routine. He needs his audience, he hates himself for needing them, and he is filled with self-loathing about the whole giant mess.
And The Guardian calls out a section in the show that could easily fit in with Bo's theme of parasocial relationships.
There’s a moment, too, when he berates his audience for tweeting about his shows, which is amusingly brusque, and just that bit too close to the bone.
For all that it’s a fantastic example of the art form, Cold Lasagne doesn’t leave you with the impression of a man thrilled to be performing standup comedy.
Finally, of course, James calls out Ricky Gervais being transphobic at the start of Cold Lasagne in much the way Bo would.
3. James knows of Bo and his works
While I can find no evidence of Bo talking about James, there have been a few recent instances of James discussing Bo's comedy specials.
First, James mentions watching Make Happy during quarantine in this Good One podcast episode (fantastic interview as well—highly recommended!).
And, most recently, the two were up against each other at this year's Critics' Choice Awards for Best Comedy Special (Bo won!).
Speaking of which, James had nothing but praise for Inside during this Seth Meyers interview in which he points out Bo is a genius.
James also said he has the bad luck of putting out specials the same year comics are changing the genre (Repertoire lost to Nanette in 2017).
For those interested, here's the Conan gig he did before the "incident" occurred.
In conclusion, Bo and James are both comedic geniuses and well worth your attention!
And while Bo's future is unknown aside from the Sesame Street movie, James announced a new book coming out in August 2022! [Update: I now have the audiobook and a physical copy, and both are excellent. Highly recommended!]
I hope you've enjoyed this deep-dive thread.
UPDATE: I was lucky enough to see James in person for his Hecklers Welcome tour in November 2022. The NYC show was incredible, and my friends and I got some great photos since James let us do whatever we wanted with our phones during his set (a nice change of pace from Yondr pouches with Mulaney and Jerrod haha).
As a final treat, here is one of my favorite James Acaster videos: His parody of a TED Talk where he explains how people are NOT a fruit.
I'll be sharing more about Bo's relationships and collaborations with famous comedians in future posts, so stay tuned!