Ed Byrne: Standing Up, Falling Down

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett


This probably isn't the best place to see Ed Byrne. Not just the venue, a cavernous sports hall that nonetheless gets so hot he has to leave the huge loading door open, meaning people milling about outside are forever in the peripheral vision of around half the audience, but the Fringe itself.

Byrne's in the big league of International Stand-Up now, as proved by his expert appearance at Montreal's Just For Laughs Festival. But his impassioned observational shtick just isn't that adventurous in a festival where so much else is on offer, no matter how eloquent and amiable he is.

Tonight's gig was made all the stranger by audience interruptions, not so much heckling as fans wanting to engage in tangential conversations with Byrne from the back row. It's an indication of how well he's got that 'mates down the pub' style of casual delivery nailed that people genuinely think it's a two-way street, not a gig. The interruptions make it impossible to build up momentum, at least until Byrne silences them with typical good grace.

This show takes its loose structure from the Michael Douglas film Falling Down. It's no serious analysis or deconstruction, but a technique to provide milestones in Byrne's hour-long set. Since the theme is frustration ('no major diversion for comedians,' Byrne admits) the episodes in the film where Douglas's character loses his rag so spectacularly provide jumping-off points for various routines

What gets his goat are ticket touts, modern rap, James Blunt's You're Beautiful, lastminute.com, parents who use their children as a trump card in any argument. It's a mix of things everyone's got irate with, things that are just him and, unfortunately, things other comics have also become wound up by. He's certainly not the first comic to despise Blunt, or wonder if America's 'customer is always right' service ethos is linked to the fact that the customer may well be armed, however funny the riff is.

Byrne's grumpily despairing anger is best when it's pointed inwards at his own idiocy, rather than outwards at the world in general. The finest routine involves a disastrous trip to Tunisia, for which he's got no one else to blame but himself.

There's another strong segment about the American hate group God Hates Fags - an easy target, maybe, but none the less deserving for that.

It's fairly mainstream stuff, expertly delivered, but lacking that edge that would make it stand out in this overcrowded festival.

This show is touring in the autumn, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it when it's the only big comedy show passing through your town that week. But here, where there's 500 other more ambitious comedy shows vying for your attention, to see a big, safe show seems hardly in keeping with the Fringe spirit.

Steve Bennett


Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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