Book Review: James Acaster's Classic Scrapes

At 32 James Acaster does seem a trifle young to be writing his autobiography – not that that has stopped various footballers, pop stars and deluded reality TV stars – but he has found a neat way here of writing an autobiography that initially doesn’t seem like an autobiography, hence circumventing accusations that he is cashing in early.

As listeners to Josh Widdicombe’s XFM/Radio X show will probably work out, the book is based on Acaster’s “Scrapes” slot on Widdicombe’s show. Each week the Kettering comic would pop in and recall an incident in his life that was awkward but very funny. 

This meant that by putting the incidents down in print in chronological order and adding a few more he had the story of his life and something of an explanation of the way he is today - creative thoughtful, pedantic, thorough and, yes, very funny. 

The book takes us from his very earliest scrape, smearing soap on a schoolgirl’s coat to more recent scrapes during his comedy career, building up to an ongoing cabbage-prank feud/war he is having with fellow comic David Trent’s son. You’ll have to read the book to find out the precise details.

Along the way there are some pivotal moments. Most notably three dramatic car crashes, one when he was driving to a gig with Josie Long. Acaster walked away physically unscathed but you feel they had an effect on his seize-the-day sensibility. You might as well do your best in life and follow your dreams, you don’t know how long you will be here. 

It probably helps if you read the stories while imagining Acaster’s voice – there is, of course, the audiobook option if you can’t manage that – but some of the scrapes here are universal. Or when not universal still pretty hilarious. Who hasn’t roamed the streets late at night trying to buy condoms off strangers?

Acaster told me that the difference between this book and his live gigs is that whereas the stage material is largely fictional, the book is true. Yet there are similarities. Classic Scrapes manages to be both very idiosyncratic and yet, thanks to his instinct for what makes a good yarn, very relatable. In fact rather like Acaster’s stand-up shows. 

Buy James Acaster's Classic Scrapes here.


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