By Jason Barlow
A HOUSEHOLD name and award-winning comedian Ed Byrne is on his way to Southport Comedy Festival this October.
With 25 years under his belt, Ed has parlayed his on-stage success into a variety of notable television appearances. A regular on Mock The Week and The Graham Norton Show, Ed has recently co-presented Dara & Ed’s Big Adventure and its follow-up Dara & Ed’s Road To Mandalay, and managed not to disgrace himself on Top Gear or whilst tackling one of The World’s Most Dangerous Roads.
As a semi-professional hill-walker himself and fully paid-up humanist, he also brought a refreshing warmth and honesty to BBC2’s recent hit The Pilgrimage. But the Irishman is still best-known and best appreciated for his stand-up performances.
After months of missing live comedy due to the coronavirus pandemic, people will be able to see this world class comedian back on stage in a Best of the Fest double header with Hal Cruttenden.
The pair are performing on Friday, October 9 on the second night of an event which runs October 8-18.
Fans at Southport Comedy Festival, in association with Anthony James Estate Agents, can also see comedians including Jason Manford, Reginald D Hunter, Andy Parsons, Russell Kane, Rich Hall, Ed Byrne and Jo Caulfield. The event takes place at Victoria Park, home of Southport Flower Show, in a stylish marquee provided by Elite Marquees.
Ed Byrne is looking forward to being back on the road and performing live shows again. A quarter of a century at the comedic coal-face has equipped him with a highly evolved story-telling ability and a silky mastery of his craft. Yet his wit, charm and self-deprecatory observational humour is often underpinned by a consistently hilarious vitriol and sense of injustice at a world that seems to be spinning ever more rapidly out of control.
Having recently hit a new peak with shows such as the sublime Spoiler Alert and reflective Outside, Looking In, which explored the minefield that is modern parenting and a generational sense of entitlement, Ed’s new show If I’m Honest digs ever deeper into a father’s sense of responsibility, what it means to be a man in 2020, and whether he possesses any qualities whatsoever worth passing on to his two sons. Occasionally accused of whimsy, If I’m Honest is a show with a seriously steely core.
Gender politics, for example, is something Ed readily engages with – deploying his customary comedic zeal.
“I’ll admit that there are things where men get a raw deal,” he says. “We have higher suicide rates, and we tend not to do well in divorces, but representation in action movies is not something we have an issue with.
“It was Mad Max: Fury Road that kicked it all off, even though nobody complained about Ripley in Alien or Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Of course, social media means this stuff gets broadcast far and wide in an instant, which emboldens people.
“The problem with men’s rights activists is that it’s not about speaking up for men’s rights, it’s about hating women. If you’re a men’s rights activist, you’re not going to care about the fact that there’s an all-female Ghostbusters remake. That’s nothing to do with men’s rights or female entitlement. That’s everything to do with being, well, a whiny baby.”
As ever, Ed manages to provoke without being overly polemical, a balancing act that only someone of his huge experience can really pull off.
“I did stuff about Trump and the Pizzagate right wing conspiracy,” he says, “and a couple of the reviewers said,’“Oh, I would have liked to have watched a whole show of this’. And I think, “well you might have, but the average person who comes to see me would not like to see that”. I like to make a point or get something off my chest, or perhaps I’m talking about something that’s been on my mind, but the majority of stuff is just to get laughs.
“People who come to see me are not political activists necessarily, they’re regular folk. If you can make a point to them, in between talking about your struggles with ageing, or discussing your hernia operation or whatever it is, you can toss in something that does give people pause as regards to how men should share the household chores.
“It’s not that I feel a responsibility, I think it just feels more satisfying when you’re doing it, and it feels more satisfying when people hear it. When a joke makes a good point, I think people enjoy it. It’s the difference between having a steak and eating a chocolate bar.”
The new show also takes his natural tendency towards self-deprecation to unexpected extremes. “I do genuinely annoy myself,” Ed concedes. “But the thing of your children being a reflection of you, gives you an opportunity to build something out of the best of yourself only for you to then see flashes of the worst of yourself in them. It’s a wake-up call about your own behaviour.