After finishing He Said/She Said last week, I found myself in the middle of audiobook fever and decided I would try and get another finished before the end of the week. On Thursday morning, I started listening to James Acaster’s narration of his book Classic Scrapes. I was a little worried about listening to it at work because I don’t always find it easy to fight the giggles. I’ve listened to a fair few funny podcasts and struggled to hold in my laughter. It normally ends up with my laughing silently at my desk. So, picture the scene. I’m sat in front of my computer, headphones in, and shaking with laughter but not making any sounds. It must be super weird. I shouldn’t do it to myself but I never learn. Any episode of the Adam Buxton podcast that features Joe Cornish or Louis Thoreaux will do it. Or any episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno. I was absolutely convinced that listening to James Acaster recount the ridiculous tales of his past would get my laughing. So, the question is, was I stifling the giggles throughout Thursday and Friday last week?
Although, that question isn’t really a mystery considering the fact that my rating is above it in the post. I was surprised that I didn’t find this book funnier. I really expected it to be a laugh out loud situation. I’m a big fan of James Acaster. I really enjoy his really weird sense of humour and the way he delivers all of his jokes. He’s just a really funny guy. So, I decided to pick up his first book as an audiobook. After all, listening to somebody recount the funny situations they’ve found themselves in would be a much better experience than simply reading it. The only problem is, he never seemed comfortable telling the stories in that way. I guess there must be a massive difference telling the stories to an audience and sitting in a room reading them to a microphone.
Luckily for him, the book isn’t a long one. It consists of 41 scrapes in total and none of them really last a long time. Many of the scrapes will be familiar to people as they have been referred to do on various TV shows and, obviously, on Josh Widdicombe’s radio show. Although,, there are a few new ones that haven’t been heard before. The stories range from Acaster’s schooldays to the start of his comedy career. So, there are stories like wiping his hands on a fellow students coat and there are stories about sleeping in a bush on the way back from a gig.
These are the kind of stories that would sound so ridiculous and fake coming from anybody else. Yet Acaster has always presented himself as the kind of awkward person who often finds themselves in unusual situations. Many of the stories are really funny but I don’t think it helped that I’d heard the best ones before. Not only that but I’ve heard them told better. There’s a kind of awkwardness to Acaster’s writing and not the good kind. Parts of the book are written in a kind of rigid way that feels at odds with his comedy background. The guy can obviously set up a joke for his stage shows but, when it comes to writing a full book, it just doesn’t always flow right. It just needed some editing or tightening up to really make each story fly. There are often too many details or not enough details.
Maybe it is just the lack of live performance? So much of what makes Acaster funny is seeing him perform something. Watching him speak, seeing the insane facial expressions he’s making and following his random movements. It’s what brings his comedy to life. It’s what makes the unbelievable seem, somehow, believable. Just listening to him sitting in a room recounting the details doesn’t have the same effect. But, that said, I am glad I went with the audiobook because god knows how I’d have coped with the physical version.
Then again, there is something joyful about this book. It might not be the funniest thing I’ve ever read. I guess I have to blame Richard Ayoade for that. Still, Classic Scrapes does have something going for it. It’s like a weird memoir that manages to be the antithesis of the celebrity autobiography. He never really opens up about his personal life but manages to tell you so much about him. It also doesn’t reveal any dark hidden past. It’s just a book filled with charm and silliness. It might not have been the greatest piece of comedy ever but we could do with more books like this in the world.