Tuesday 27, 2011
ED BYRNE INTERVIEW
By James Rampton
For nearly two decades now, the comedian Ed Byrne has been pleasing crowds up and down the country. So it is quite appropriate that his new show should be entitled, “Crowd Pleaser.” He will be touring the country and playing to your crowd very soon – so prepare to be pleased!
Ed is a coruscating comedian. A stand-up who always strikes up a terrific rapport with his audiences, he is a magnetic presence on stage. Whether discussing the difficulties of being a nerd or owning a cat, he is one of the finest – and funniest – comics currently at work in this country.
That’s not just my opinion. The critics have been lining up to lavish praise on a comic at the very top of his game. The Evening Standard raves that, “Ed Byrne is a class apart.” The Scotsman declares that, “It is rare for a comic to merit the word, ‘masterful’, but in this case it is no overstatement.” The Guardian enthuses that, “His wit won deafening cheers and feet stomping,” while The Observer, er, observes that Ed is, “At the height of his powers. It’s no wonder this is selling out nightly.” Phew!
Ed and I meet for a cup of tea in a central London cafe in the snowy run-up to the tour. You can take my word for it - he is just as compelling and comical off-stage. Possessed of an effortless natural wit, the lovable, shaggy-haired stand-up jokes for instance that, “I was going to be talking to the British Humanist Society this afternoon about being good without God, but they’ve had to cancel because of the snow. It’s hard not to think that there are forces at work here ...”
The comic says that he just can’t wait to hit the road with “Crowd Pleaser”. “You get this unrivalled buzz from playing live,” beams Ed, who had made a huge splash as a regular guest on TV panel games such as Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. “When you’re on stage, you keep finding new lines. You keep getting better and improving, which is, of course, the same thing!”
The comic, who was nominated for the coveted Perrier Award at the 1998 Edinburgh Festival, expands on the theme. “There is this brilliant speech in the film Mr Saturday Night, which Billy Crystal’s character gives about what stand-up is. He says, ‘When it’s good, when it’s cookin’, you got ‘em, they’re yours. You can take ‘em anywhere you want, you're powerful. You prowl the stage like a panther. It feels so good; the laughs go right into your blood. You can be a schmuck in the afternoon, but you’re the king of the night. And every woman wants to f*** you, and every man wants to know you.’ I don’t entirely go along with that last bit. If every woman wants to f*** you, then every man wants to punch you!”
So what can Ed’s myriad fans expect from “Crowd Pleaser”? The comedian discloses that he will be talking in this show about the recent arrival of his first child, a gorgeous baby boy, and seeing the funny side of his wife’s pregnancy. “I couldn’t wait to be a father,” deadpans the Irish comic, who has released two very successful live DVDS, “Pedantic and Whimsical” and “Different Class”. “I was desperate to get my wife back! The first three months of her pregnancy were like living with an alcoholic – ‘I feel sick, I need a wee, get out of my way!’
“She was also afflicted with pregnancy brain. She couldn’t remember the name for anything. It was funny when she met her father who has his own ‘senior moments’. Neither of them could remember the name for the hand of a clock. My mother-in-law and I bonded over the fact that we were shackled to a pair of idiots!”
Able brilliantly to mine his own life for laughs, Ed will also be discussing “coming out” as a nerd in “Crowd Pleaser.” “Judd Apatow movies and the popularity of Simon Pegg have made being a nerd far cooler,” reflects the comic, who will be supported on this tour by fellow Irish funny man Karl Spain.
“So now I’m enjoying letting my inner nerd come out to play a bit more. I’ll be happy to drop a few nerdy references into the show. Did you know, for example, that an anagram of Ed Byrne is ‘Be Nerdy’? That in itself doesn’t prove that I’m a nerd, but the fact that I worked it out does!”
In “Crowd Pleaser”, Ed will also be performing a typically hilarious routine about owning a cat. “We treat pets better than we do humans,” smiles the comic, who made a memorable appearance of BBC1’s Celebrity Mastermind. “We found this cat by the bins and fed it, and it ended up living with us.
“You’d never do that with a human being. If you saw a tramp, you wouldn’t say to him, ‘Come and live in our house. In exchange for food and lodging, just show us your arse occasionally! I’ve become a cat man without being bitten by a radioactive cat. There – that’s a real nerd’s joke for you!”
During the course of “Crowd Pleaser,” Ed will also be addressing such subjects as children wearing age-inappropriate clothing and how disappointing it can be to meet your heroes. In addition, he tackles the thorny topic of religion. But, in a characteristically imaginative move, he reveals, “I’m not going after the religious – I’m going after agnostics. They’re like people who smoke occasionally – make your minds up! It’s very easy to take the mick out of religion; attacking agnostics seems like more of a challenge!”
Finally, does Ed concur with Mr Saturday Night’s description of the stand-up as “The king of the night”? Absolutely. “There are moments where I feel the only time I’m completely at ease is on stage telling jokes,” affirms the comedian, who stormed it on BBC1’s Live at the Apollo. “It’s the only time when I feel I know what I’m doing and am in control of everything. Think of the way I put down hecklers on stage – I’d never talk to anyone like that in real life!
“I imagine it’s the same if you’re a champion skier bombing down the mountain at 100 miles an hour – everything else seems irrelevant. The comedian Adam Bloom calls it, ‘Life Fright’. That means you’re happy on stage, but everything else feels intimidating. That’s absolutely right. Live comedy feeds your soul.
“I just love doing stand-up.”
And we just love watching him do it!