Ed Bryne 2002 tour

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Ed Byrne's a new man these days. With his cropped, styled hair and Harry Potter specs, he could pass down the street unnoticed. Which, as he concedes, may well be a good idea following the embarrassment of starring in the Davina McCall sitcom Sam's Game.

Though the aesthetics may have changed, the comedy certainly hasn't. In this mammoth new tour - more than 100 dates across the UK - Byrne is still cheerfully bemoaning the frustrations in his life with more than a touch of impish charm.

Those concerns may not always be ones we all share - keeping tropical fish and visiting low-rent strip joints in Canada's less glamorous outposts are hardly universal themes - but his chatty, descriptive style gets the picture across.

Not everything's so well-judged, though. References to a pop star whose name evades me went over the heads of most punters, who may have been that bit older than he expected.

Yet at other times, the observations are at the other extreme, and all-too familiar. There are only so many witty responses to the airport question 'did you pack your own luggage?,' and we have heard them all before. And the fact that women often get irritated by men, yet won't tell them what they did wrong, is hardly a revelation.

Like most comics, Byrne is at his best when spinning new thoughts out of everyday experiences, and at times he really flies. The opening routine about mobile phones, for example (appropriately enough for the voice of The Carphone Warehouse) is a gem, yielding fresh and funny material from the most mundane of items.

There's sometimes a more subtle undercurrent, too. Possibly the best of his material deals with the social politics of image and the allure of celebrity - not that you'd really notice among all the corking 'ugly' jokes. And talking of celebrity, he also has a few cracking off-colour Barrymore comments that appal and delight in equal measure.

Byrne's appeal often lies in his use of language, and there is a smattering of beautiful turns of phrase here. 'I make words dance for me like whores,' he boasts at one point. Well, a bit of an exaggeration, but he can certainly string a metaphor together.

Yet despite having so much going for him, Byrne never gathered enough momentum to really fire up this subdued but attentive audience. He never made that magical connection that elevates a bloke chatting amusingly into top-flight comedy, and the occassional humdrum segment kept also kept the atmosphere tethered.

Though lacking that spark, there is still plenty to enjoy here. The show will undoubtedly be refined as the tour progresses, but in these early days it still feels like a disparate collection of routines of varying quality.

Steve Bennett

Edmonton, North London

Sept 26, 2002

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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