Exposed Meets Jason Byrne

“You know that film, Rocky 2, where he goes in that gym and comes out ready to fight? That pretty much sums up Edinburgh Festival for a comedian.”

Irish comedian Jason Byrne is in high spirits as we catch him ahead of his third weekend at the festival, so much so that he thanks us for distracting him for 20 minutes to talk about his up and coming ‘Propped Up’ tour. “You come out the other side of this festival a really good comedian. You know, you’re ready to fight the fookin’ Russians! Trained to fight!” he says.

Dubbed the king of live comedy by The Times, and a veteran of 21 years at the Edinburgh Festival, Jason knows all about coming out the other side of this festival a successful act – he’s sold 17,000 tickets for his upcoming tour. “Apparently it’s the most since the ‘60s, absolutely crazy!”

In terms of his live show, Jason’s stand up is a straight up, working class laugh a minute. “The kind of people who come to my shows are the butchers, the taxi drivers, the cobblers. They always say to me ‘I’ll bring my aunties, my uncles, my cousins, and we’ll be guaranteed a laugh’, that’s what it’s all about.”
At this point, we ask Jason about his hilarious Mammy Blinds gag, a nod to typical working class families.

“I remember that, it’s funny because I’ll be down in Brighton and I can tell the audience are thinking ‘why would your mam poke her head through the blinds and chase you round the garden with a slipper?’ But the further north I go on the tour, the more laughs it gets. By time I’m in Sheffield or Manchester, the crowd are pissing themselves. I’ve had people come up to me after shows in Ireland, and say the show was great but you didn’t do the blinds joke!”

Known for his audience participation and use of props, Jason reveals that his path down that road of comedy came about from a bad memory. “I actually forgot my material one night. I used to have a terrible memory, so I just got the audience involved and made it up on the spot. I think I do too much these days. From the first minute it’s madness.

“My favourite joke though – I have three boxes on stage, you know like the Deal or No Deal boxes? And one night, this woman was shouting my name for ages. The audience were telling her to shut up and I said ‘let’s all just be friends, right?’ I told her to pick a box, I opened it and it just said ‘c*nt’ and she didn’t say a word after that – the audience loved it.

“I’m really looking forward to the Sheffield show you know, I love the venue. The smaller room in City Hall is much easier for comedians because it’s so cosy.
“I have some great memories of Sheffield – once me and Ross Noble played at the same time and decided to switch rooms at the interval. Ross just walked on as I was introduced and he stood there and went, ‘Fuck!’ That was a really great moment; it’s always a great crowd in Sheffield too.”

Next we got Jason’s thoughts on:

Irish comedians:

“Around 96/97, people like Dara O’Brien, like Dylan Moran and Ed Byrne, Andrew Maxwell and Ardel O’Hanlon appeared on the scene. There’s never been anything like that since. As for the reason? I think it was a shift in the earth’s crust. A comic plate moved and revealed all these Irish comics.”

His family:

“My wife thinks I’m an arsehole. My teenage son says ‘I’m not even funny’. But the 8-year-old and the two dogs love my stuff.”

Modern comedy:

“Comedy is kind of going backwards again. People like comics in suits and they like clean material. You’ll hear people say, ‘Oh, he swears a lot.’ Where does that come from? Years ago, Kenny Everett was doing racy stuff; you’re not allowed do that now. They were more dangerous than we will ever be today.”

Jason Byrne plays the Memorial Hall in Sheffield on the 9th October. See www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk for tickets.

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