Star Q&A: Ed Byrne

Round & About

Ed Byrne

Liz Nicholls talks about life, laughs & lockdown saviours with comedian & dad Ed Byrne, 49, ahead of his live shows in September, including Oxford, Newbury, High Wycombe, Farnham, Camberley & Dorking

Q. Hello! Which comedians did you like when you were young? “I always liked Dave Allen. My brother had a 12-inch album The Pick of Billy Connollly which I remember laughing at with my Ma & Da. And then repeating the jokes (that I didn’t really f***** get but were still funny), to other kids who also didn’t get it, in a bad Glaswegian accent.”

Q. Have you had to rewrite material for your new show If I’m Being Honest? “I’ve done a few outdoor & drive-in shows, so I’ve been able to tinker as I go, see what works and what doesn’t. Now I am making jokes about the fact that jokes in the show are a couple of years old which really changes the joke. It demonstrates that life has been in suspended animation for two years.”

Q. What were your lockdown saviours? “I had visions of having a nice break, then taking myself off to the Scottish Highlands when the kids went back to school…but no! I did manage to film a show interviewing celebrities while hill walking but people love to accuse you of breaking the rules. At home we did a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and Pokemon battles. We divided and conquered in this house, and I was banished to the garden. I dug a vegetable patch, made raised beds, I laid a patio… all in the first flush of lockdown, obviously, before my get up and go got up and went. I taught myself via YouTube. When it comes to practical stuff it’s better to watch someone who’s only slightly more qualified than you cackhandedly find their own way through it first.”

Q. Is it true you shook hands with David Bowie? “It was more than that! I was in Adelaide and was invited on to an evening TV chat show. It was live, and as I was doing my bit, Bowie and his band gathered opposite me next to the cameras and audience. Then he did his interview & he was easily as funny as I was. We had a chat and, despite the enormous disparity in our standing, he spoke to me like we were contemporaries, like equals, which was very sweet, if mad! The following day Steven K Amos did the same TV show and he got to meet… The Wiggles. So I won that one.”

Q. What’s your most memorable heckle? “To this day the most devastating heckle I ever had was in Sydney when woman just stood up and shouted [adopts drunken Aussie accent] BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! That really was all she was hearing.”

Q. You’re a humanist, right? “Yes. Humanists help people organise things differently. A lot of the big things in life; how we mark marriage, babies, death, used to be controlled by religion but now there’s choice. You can be altruistic and an atheist.”

Q. Any up-and-coming comedians worth a shout-out? “When work was scarce, I watched a lot of short videos. I do think it’s fitting that I’m made to feel old by the app TikTok, which sounds like someone pointing at their watch counting my career down. I have enjoyed Alistair Green, Tom Little and Naomi Cooper who are all very funny.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world what would it be? “Wow; big question! That it be disease free. And if we can’t go for disease-free, can we just make the diseases we have slightly less contagious?”

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Feel the Byrne

Round & About

Ed Byrne

Jonathan Lovett chats to comedian, actor, writer and dad of two Ed Byrne, 45, who has just embarked on his biggest ever tour to date, Spoiler Alert, following a sell-out success at this year’s Edinburgh Festival

Q. What is Spoiler Alert about…or is answering that a bit of a spoiler in itself?!
“Well, I called it that partly because if there were any bad reviews people wouldn’t read them because it would say ‘Spoiler Alert’ at the top! But it’s mainly because the theme of the show is the notion of how spoilt we are in general and how we’ve become quite mollycoddled as a nation. Stuff like having to push a button to start a car rather than turn a key because it’s such a great drudgery to turn a key these days. And how it’s the trivia stuff we act really spoiled about, whereas with the big stuff, such as politics, we seem to just accept how bad things are. There was a big women’s march after Trump was elected and some people were like ‘Uhhh. What are they complaining about? We don’t live in Saudi Arabia,’ with the implication being ‘Shut up, luv. We’re not stoning you to death, what are you bothered about?!’”

Q. If you had the opportunity to say something to Donald Trump what would it be?
“If I ever did have such a marvellous opportunity I’d have to look him straight in the eye and say, ‘You really are an awful person, aren’t you?’ or maybe I would just scream ‘STOP PAINTING YOURSELF ORANGE…YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS!’”

Q. You’ve just begun an epic tour. Do you love touring this much, Ed?
“If you are really famous you can just go and play the main cities and people from little towns will come into the big cities to come and see you. Whereas if you are just ‘that bloke on Mock the Week’ you have to go to those small towns. People from Evesham can’t be bothered to go to Birmingham to see me. So I have to go to Evesham.”

Q. What was your worst gig ever done and does it still haunt you? “I’m sometimes hired to do corporate gigs and now and it can be a real struggle. On occasions there is just no laughter at all and you’re up there in front of an audience who are just there for their own thing and perhaps you’re just not the right comedian for that particular crowd. I mean, Metallica are a great band, but if I booked them to play at my in-laws’ golden wedding anniversary it might not go down particularly well. I have been on stage in the past and just wished ‘God. I wish I was a stripper’ because I would’ve got a far better response from that audience then I ever would as a comedian!”

Q. I can testify you are very funny on stage. Were you the funniest kid in your class?
“I was the classic case of having to be funny to avoid being bullied, but even at school it was bigger, louder kids that were considered funnier. My humour was a bit nerdier. So at school I would be reciting Monty Python sketches and I would be met with a kind of, ‘What the flip are you on about?’ I was probably a little more ‘niche’ as a school kid than I am now and I used to play Dungeons & Dragons even as a teenager. My cousin and I were proper little geeks and I would go into school with a spring in my stride on a Monday morning having got my wizard to Level 14 the night before.”

Q. We’ve just seen you and best mate Dara O Briain on TV in Dara & Ed’s Road to Mandalay, a follow-up to Dara & Ed’s Great Big Adventure in which you travelled the Pan-American Highway. Where next for the intrepid duo?
“Well, if they do ask us to do another one, we are both quite keen on travelling through the Nordic countries. I think there will be a lot of mileage in that. We have a tendency to think of everyone up there as Swedish but it would be really interesting to get under the skin of these places and go, ‘Swedes are like this, and Danes like this, and the Finnish do this etc’… And, if we could get Abba to reunite, that would be good. I was talking to this guy in New Zealand who reckons he saw them all living and working together in this house in New Zealand and I was like ‘Really?!’”

Q. What’s the best thing or worst thing about Dara?
“I tell you what the most interesting thing is about Dara… he doesn’t know about spoons! If you showed him a spoon and said, ‘Now, is that a soup spoon or a dessert spoon?’ he’d be like, ‘It’s a bloody spoon!’ He knows big spoons and small spoons but in-between he doesn’t know anything about them! He only knows ‘spoon’ or ‘not spoon’.”