Ed Byrne: Different Class
DVD review by Steve Bennett
Ed Byrne’s second DVD missed our pre-Christmas reviews, but it turns out to have been one of the season’s finer offerings.
An extended version of his 2008 Edinburgh routine, this accomplished show broadly takes its theme from Byrne’s feeling of being between categories: neither posh nor ‘pikey’, neither young nor old, neither famous nor obscure.
It’s surely only down to the immeasurable vagaries of celebrity that he’s not as well-known as the Michael McIntyres of this world. Byrne’s observational shtick is undoubtedly mainstream enough to have a wide appeal, though his gags have bite, originality and technical merit, too. It seems he may have fallen into another gap: between broad-but-bland appeal and an edgy cult status. Though in truth, this slick but easy-going show could easily satisfy both mass audiences and comedy die-hards alike.
Ostensibly, class is the issue in hand, although that’s really only a starting point. The son of a professional father and working-class dad, he ponders what camp he belongs in, and the trappings associated with each. Why is a SodaStream considered middle-class? And why do only Ireland’s very rich and very poor have horses…
But there’s also segments about Michael Jackson (when he was still alive), about watching horror films on DVD – including one of the best lines about the ubiquitous anti-piracy messages out there – and about those ‘esprit d’escalier’ moments when you think of the perfect putdown, but way too late. Byrne offers an apparently contradictory blend of good-natured cynicism, portraying himself as a laddish layabout who gets mildly irate at anything that stops him enjoying the easy life.
And top of that list is his wedding. Much of the second half of the show is taken with tales of the lavish expense of the big day – and why it doesn’t really matter. Again, he’s hit on the most accessible of subjects, but he’s personalised it expertly, making it a consistently funny yarn.
The show is a masterclass in construction, with the topics running seamlessly together, with well-judged use of callbacks as the grouting between the sections. There are inventive tag-lines to most of his devastatingly accurate observations, and a very nice running joke subverting the language of stand-up explicitly acknowledging the artifice of many of his ‘true’ stories that all happened ‘the other day’.
This is the sort of technique some of the elevated ‘comics’ comics’ might used – but applied to a more broad-based show. Stand-up’s equivalent to when designer’s clothes start influencing the High Street, which would put Byrne at more at the fashionable end of the mass-market scale. This DVD captures him on top form and is, for want of a better word, class.
Running time: 107mins
Extras: DVD commentary with Jimmy Carr (‘It’s not exactly laugh-a-minute but it’s kinda funny’ is Byrne’s own comment on that). Fake Orgasm, four-minute clip from a very young Byrne on the Comedy Network from the mid-Nineties
Released by: Spirit Entertainment, November 23, 2009
Price: £19.99. Click here to buy from Amazon for £6.98
Posted: 11 Jan 2010