Readers are going to think that writers at The Siren are obsessed with Irish comedians since we also saw/stalked Dylan Moran on back in June. Irish obsessives and partners in crime Sammy Siddique and Roisin O’Connor went to see the wonderful Ed Byrne in action at the Swansea Grand Theatre, where he talked about his family, Piers Morgan, and Lithuanian bouncers.
It’s definitely a good start to a show when you find that you’ve been given exactly the same seats as the last gig you went to. I’d like to think that this is because the Swansea Grand remembered me and Sammy from last time, and because The Siren is gaining a good reputation for reviewing/stalking Irish comedians.
Ed Byrne strolls on to the stage with a pint in his hand to huge applause and starts to speak to the audience… before realising he hasn’t turned his microphone on.
“The one thing I had to do, apart from tell jokes, and I fuck it up,” he says, fumbling with the buttons on the mic.
The man doesn’t appear to have aged in about ten years. His face still resembles that of a nerdy student, he can’t seem to stop grinning, and his hair is so long it doesn’t look like he’s cut it properly since he was at university. He starts off by complaining about how hard it was for him to find a place to park in Swansea; mainly because he kept going round in circles on the one-way streets, as well as a random moment where he points out the fact that Osama Bin Laden was alive at the start of his tour.
Five minutes into his rant about bendy buses and he suddenly notices there are two empty seats.
“What wankers,” he exclaims. “It’s bad enough not to fill seats, but for someone to buy tickets and then not turn up, that’s just taking the piss.”
Not even five seconds after this outburst, two guys walk through the door at the back and are escorted by an employee of the theatre to these very seats, to another huge round of applause and cheering from the audience.
“You’re going to think that was staged aren’t you?” Ed says, once he’s stopped laughing. “Well it wasn’t.”
He asks the guys where they came from, and they turn out to be students at Swansea University. Typical.
“What made you late?” Ed demands.
“We were eating dinner on campus,” is the reply, and Ed shakes his head and warns them that he’s going to refer to some of his previous jokes and they won’t understand what he’s talking about, before getting back into his routine.
Politics is a fairly typical subject for a comedian, and Ed Byrne breezes through the coalition government with practised ease. He can’t seem to stand still for more than a short moment, and darts around the stage like a hyperactive child.
“I don’t see how the news readers reporting on the coalition were so surprised by what happened,” he notes. “And the reaction to the whole thing was hilarious, like no one had ever seen a coalition government before. Ireland has one and we’re doing just fine…”
Immigration is another topic he wants to discuss, in particular how it’s caused him problems in the past.
“The Irish government has been complaining about it, but if there’s a country that doesn’t have the right to complain, it’s the Irish. They’ve been immigrating since they learned how to use a boat.”
He changes his mind slightly when telling us a story about how he was refused entry to a nightclub by a Lithuanian bouncer.
“That’s the only problem I have with immigration, when I’m acting like a dick because I’ve been on television and expect people to let me in everywhere for free,” he says. “This guy obviously didn’t watch Mock the Week. What do you mean you won’t let me in? We let you in!”
This leads on to a question for the audience: have any of us ever met a rude celebrity?
Someone shouts out Piers Morgan, whom Byrne mentioned earlier with a strong tone of dislike, and everyone cheers.
“Have you noticed that me saying Piers Morgan is a wanker got a bigger cheer than when I mentioned that Osama Bin Laden was dead?” he quips, making a brilliant “over your head” motion towards the two guys who were late in.
One guy speaks about a Canadian presenter for a children’s television show and Ed has a fairly hard time of it trying to encourage the poor sod to actually say something funny. I’m itching to throw in my example of an interview where the interviewee got tired of being asked questions after fifteen minutes and asked me if he could leave, but my “journalistic discretion”, or maybe just the fact that I’m a wimp, stops me from saying anything.
After the interval he talks about his family, which from the sounds of it has a serious problem with bodily functions.
“My 11 month old son is possibly the only person who can throw up and make it look like it was you who did it,” he says. “And living with my wife when she was pregnant was like living with an alcoholic for nine months, what with the swearing, throwing up, aggression, and snarling ‘you did this to me’ all the time.”
He starts to tell a joke that I’ve heard in one of his previous sets and for a moment I’m worried that he’s going to just recycle old material, but he makes sure to say it’s a point he’s made before and develops it, talking about a young teenage boy he saw wearing a t-shirt that bore the dubious legend: “I love pussy more than a fat girl love [sic] cake.” He then makes five very specific points for why he has a problem with this t-shirt, telling us beforehand how funny each point will be.
“At least the fat girl would know what to do with the cake,” he says dryly at point number five.
My favourite moment is when Ed talks about his views on religion. As a fellow atheist, he has the same problem as me. It isn’t actually people who have a faith that annoy him, it’s the agnostics.
“Stop sitting on the fence,” he yells at us. “It’s fine if you’re eighteen or nineteen and haven’t decided yet, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. But if you’re my age, thirty-nine, hitting forty-”
At this point he does a little dance. “Believe it,” he tells us gloatingly, and carries on.
“Allah isn’t going to jump out of a side dish of potatoes and knock the pork chop off your plate.”
Sammy explodes at this. I actually think she’s going to fall off her seat: she’s doubled over and actually can’t stop laughing until Ed moves on to another topic, and even then she bursts into the odd giggle.
After the show we keep up our tradition of racing round to the stage exit and hang around until he comes out. Ed Byrne seems a bit disconcerted as a crowd of people close around him from all sides.
“You’re not going to jump me are you?” he asks us.
We wait for everyone to get their tickets signed before Sammy jumps forward, pressing her phone into my hand. I get this increasing sense of dread every time someone asks me to take a photo with their phone since I’m basically just a repellent for technology. Sure enough, I fail at taking a photo, we hand it to someone else (Rosie Hunnam, who happened to be there as well!) who also fails, until we get it right on the third go. Unlike Dylan Moran, Ed Byrne is perfectly willing to be in a photo, though he balks a little when someone pulls a stack of merchandise out for him to write his name on.
I thank him and his wife/publicist who organised the review tickets for The Siren and then we leave him to it. Like another critic said, Crowd Pleaser is exactly what it says on the tin.
Ed Byrne was born in 1972 (believe it), and is a Perrier Award-nominated standup comedian, voice over artist, and actor. He studied horticulture at the University of Strathclyde, and currently lives in Essex with his wife and son.