Foodie funnies: James Acaster and Ed Gamble’s podcast Off Menu goes on the road

‘I can’t believe this many people like your podcast!” That’s Elis James talking, as he and his pals James Acaster and Ed Gamble take a selfie, with the Royal Albert Hall crowd as a backdrop, at the end of this show. That air of not quite believing their luck is ever-present at this live outing, part of a first UK and Ireland tour for Acaster and Gamble’s Off Menu; the jokes about the mismatch between material and stately venue just keep coming. That their guest tonight is one of their longtime comedy pals, and another prolific podcaster to boot, only adds to the sense that this – a show in which guests select and discuss their favourite foods – is a larky conversation among friends that’s gotten out of control.

Nothing wrong with that, mind you – and the same could be said about many a podcast. At least in this case, the larky conversation clearly connects far beyond the inner circle of Gamble and Acaster’s comedy bros – 120m downloads beyond, at last count. Why? Well, an ingredients list in this instance would have to include James Acaster’s angular comic gift and off-the-cuff flair – to which Gamble, the straighter but not entirely straight man, is a fine foil. Then there’s the subject matter, food, about which almost all of us have strong feelings – feelings as intense as they are arbitrary (which is inherently amusing) and that had seldom been given public vent until Off Menu came along.

It helps that, as well as being funny, Acaster and Gamble take a detailed and sincere interest in their guests’ dinner choices – and in the autobiographical anecdotes those choices tend to prompt. Take tonight: on the palate-cleansing course of Elis James’s dinner alone, we’re back in a supermarket in 1980s Carmarthen, where infant Elis is sat in a shopping trolley, gouging the dough out from inside a baguette. His later choice of a plate of sausages for hors d’oeuvre prompts reminiscences of the TV cartoon Fireman Sam, while his ruminations on overeating lead to an intimate recollection of his 10th anniversary meal with his partner, the comic Isy Suttie.

Related: Ed Gamble and James Acaster: ‘Food is the ultimate topic. But famous people rarely talk about it

James chuckles along throughout, and makes the hosts chuckle too, particularly when revealing that Gamble sets hearts a-flutter in his nine-year-old daughter’s Brownies group. None of this makes for riveting stage viewing: it’s a baggy evening, that brings home the differences between an audio experience (something you can engage in while washing the dishes) and a live performance, to which we give our undivided attention – and which needs to reward that. The first half in particular, when Acaster and Gamble read out and critique food selections submitted by the crowd, is thin gruel: a dish that appears on no one’s dream menu.

But fair enough: events like this are as much communion as comedy. To encounter in-person the people we spend happy hours with each week as, essentially, voices in our head – well, that can be a thrill, as I’m sure it was here for the man who told us all, from the sky-high balcony of the Albert Hall, about his granny’s “wet meat”, or the man whom Acaster berated for expressing his preference for a cheeseboard over pudding. A meandering live event Off Menu may be, but I ended it well-stuffed with good humour and in hearty agreement with Elis James’s closing sentiment. “Food,” he rhapsodised: “it’s fantastic!”