Jason Byrne: Out Of The Box

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Judging by his stage act, Jason Byrne lives his life in a perpetual state of agitated incredulity. ‘Youse all fucking mental,’ he exaggeratedly reacts each time he encounters anything in the slightest bit unusual.

This brilliant knack of presenting the mundane as if it were the most unimaginably bizarre thing he’d ever witnessed allows him to construct hugely elaborate stories about any seemingly innocent situation. Two teenagers sitting in the front, several rows ahead of their parents, gives him licence to spin off into a fantasy in which the boys – one of whom is inexplicably assumed to be immensely posh – have been deliberately disowned.

No one dare interrupt his ceaseless tide of groundless supposition to spoil the appealing illusion, and so a good half of Byrne’s show is surrendered to this freewheeling improvisation. The audience, knowing they’re witnessing a genuinely never-to-be-repeated performance, cannot help but be swept away in the moment.

His inexhaustible well of manic energy proves simply irresistible. When he finally gets around to his prepared material, his portrayal of women as grasping, vicious harpies who such the very life out of men, could be unpleasantly misogynistic in the wrong hands. But with Byrne, you know it’s just his hyperactive exasperation playing up again. And, for balance, men are portrayed as hapless, insensitive halfwits.

Equally, he can be surprisingly filthy but he’s got the charm and honesty to get away with it; not to mention his cheeky, playful urge forever threatening - and often succeeding – in taking the gig into unchartered territory. Where else would you see a comedian swaddling a punter in a towel and rocking him in his arms for no other reason than it seemed like a funny idea at the time? Nowhere except in Byrne’s show here and now – the only state in which he lives.

For all his own reckless stupidity, Byrne is easily oudone by his five-year-old son, who so obviously follows in his father’s footsteps. Stories of his ‘mental’ behaviour are legion and hilarious… especially the incident involving the King Charles spaniel and the Batmobile.

But it’s the flying without a safety net spontaneity that makes Byrne’s act, and show, so appealing. Few are in his league.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
May 2006

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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