Time for yet another in our series of seeing a comic on stage who we don’t really know that well. We’ve caught Ed Byrne occasionally on TV panel shows and he always seemed rather amusing, so we thought he was worth a punt – and we haven’t really been disappointed yet with this tactic. But in a tragic twist of fate, three days ago Mrs Chrisparkle discovered she had to fly to Zurich for the day to be hard-nosed with some business people and her flight wouldn’t get back in time for her to see the show. So she still doesn’t know for herself whether Ed Byrne is funny or not in the flesh (he is). I didn’t go to the show alone though, as my co-local blogger Mr Smallmind was up for the experience. He hadn’t seen a comic on the Derngate stage before so this would be an acid test to see if it worked for him. He also had a large glass of Shiraz before it started and I reckon he would have giggled at anything as a consequence.
Mr Byrne has a very amicable and affable style on the stage, naturally taking us into his confidence; you get the sense that every funny story he imparts about his own life and career is 100% true. You know it can’t be, and that things have to be embellished to make a good story, but nevertheless you believe him implicitly. Some comics stand stock still in the centre of the stage; others actively stride from side to side throughout their whole routine. Mr Byrne takes the middle path – I would classify his presentational style as mildly frantic. He does use a lot of bad language, but he gets away with it because it’s the bad language you would use between mates; in a strange way his F words and the one-off C word almost cemented your friendship with him.
There are two (as I see it) approaches to observational comedy – a scattergun method where you take a lot of subjects and dip into them quickly then move on, or a more concentrated style where you take fewer subjects but examine them closely. Mr Byrne is in the second category. I’ve seen some comics who take a subject, do it to death and you’re sitting there saying to yourself “FFS please let it go and talk about something else”. However, Mr Byrne doesn’t do that. He’ll take a subject like going on terrible dates and examine it thoroughly from many different angles, but always with a freshness that doesn’t give you any sense of repetition. Members of the audience were encouraged to confess their worst dating experiences – to which Terry and Rosaline were most obliging with their responses, thank you – and it was something everyone could relate to, everyone had an opinion on, and consequently everyone had their funnybone touched.
Other topics that were examined included the horrors of performing at a corporate gig, the horrors of the presence of children in Costa Coffee, and the horrors of seeing student doctors when you’ve got diarrhoea. Suffice to say, no one in that audience will ever look at oxtail soup in the same way again – don’t think about that for too long. Apart from discussing awful dates, where he can’t predict what curved balls people are going to throw at him, I got the sense that the show was fairly carefully scripted throughout. I rather enjoy it if a comic jumps on something the audience says and then spins off into a flight of fancy but that didn’t really happen here. However, Mr Byrne’s material is already bright and inventive enough for that not to matter.
He’s a naturally very funny man who delivers his material with confidence and a spark, but without ever becoming overpowering or hyper. He really enjoys his time on the stage and that enjoyment transmits effortlessly to the audience. I’d definitely want to see him again! There are still a few months to go of this rather intensive tour of the UK so there are loads of opportunities to catch him at your local theatre. Do it!