Comedian James Acaster reveals why he bombed at the London Palladium

Jayne Cherrington-Cook
·4 mins read
James Acaster said a gig he did at the Palladium was pure career suicide (Image: Getty Images)
James Acaster said a gig he did at the Palladium was pure career suicide (Image: Getty Images)

For many comedians, being invited to do a spot at the London Palladium means they’ve made it especially when it’s being broadcast on ITV. However, for James Acaster, it was quite possibly the worst gig of his life.

Recalling the event on White Wine Question Time, Acaster told Kate Thornton trying out new material on Tonight At The London Palladium in 2017 probably wasn’t his best idea.

He said: “I went on a show called Live At The Palladium [sic] on ITV and decided to try out new material, instead of doing tried and tested stuff that I knew worked in the past. I clearly had no respect for the show.”

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To make things worse, Acaster followed a special section of the show where they made one viewer’s greatest dream – to sit in the Royal Box at the Palladium – come true.

Listen: James Acaster and Ed Gamble talk best man speeches and why they hate Simon Cowell

“They had a chat with her before bringing me on and it was a really sweet chat,” he told Thornton.

“They covered the fact that basically, throughout her life, she had given most of her income to charities, so she was like the best person in the world.”

So far, so good, but emotions starting to run high when they then awarded the lady in question – Joan – a £10,000 cheque.

“They bought this big charity cheque and gave it to her,” he recalled.

“They said, 'What you going to do with the money Joan?' And she said, 'I'm going to donate it to the children's hospital'. Then they started crying – and then they bought me on, with no buffer in between.”

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He continued: “They just went 'Now welcome James Acaster', which is not how you do it.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 08: James Acaster attends special preview screening of Stan & Ollie at Soho Hotel on January 08, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for eONE)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 08: James Acaster attends special preview screening of Stan & Ollie at Soho Hotel on January 08, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for eONE)

While he’s been nominated for many awards – and won a fair few – for his live shows, Acaster reveals that his opening line for this prestigious TV show was perhaps slightly off the mark.

He said: “My opening line – and I stand by this being funny – but I went on and said something like, 'Oh great! Now I've got to follow that. Everyone's just seen the sweetest thing ever and now I've gotta be funny. Thanks very much, Joan!' No one liked that!”

Many famous comedians have performed at the London Palladium over the years (Image: Getty Images)
Many famous comedians have performed at the London Palladium over the years (Image: Getty Images)

Talking about the moment as “career suicide” the 35-year-old said that even when he realised that things were going wrong, he just couldn’t stop himself.

“I knew in the moment that every decision I was making was the wrong decision and made it anyway,” he laughed.

And those bad decisions involved doing a routine about squash. Yes, that’s right Acaster waxed lyrical about the drink for five whole minutes.

James Acaster- Lawnmower, a finalist in the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards, Edinburgh.
James Acaster- Lawnmower, a finalist in the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards, Edinburgh.

“When they didn't go for the first joke about squash, I immediately told them, ‘Bad news - it's this for five minutes now!” he told Thornton. “The only person laughing at me was Jordan Banjo and his mates!”

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Despite the new material bombing, Acaster said he ultimately blamed the crowd for his terrible performance that night

“I'm not used to performing in front of this crowd,” he declared.

He continued: “They were just a very grisly audience physically – mainly composed of gristle. Arms folded, very much enjoyed being in the company of Joe Pasquale and Bradley Walsh and were not happy with this young buck walking on, and immediately, sarcastically thanking an old lady who is officially at that point their favourite person in the world.”

Hear James Acaster and Ed Gamble talk about the best man speeches they’d give at each other’s wedding on this week’s episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.

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