Ed Byrne: Different Class

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

In his show, Ed Byrne accepts that he’s gone from comedy’s ‘next big thing’ to ‘that bloke’ – a person who’s sometimes recognised, but not quite famous. He occupies a similar middle-ground in the Edinburgh universe, too, selling out big venues but not necessarily generating huge excitement. After all, he’s been here often, it’s been a decade since he was nominated for the Perrier, and he deals in that most mainstream of genres: straightforward observational comedy.

But just because he doesn’t attract the hype, doesn’t mean he’s not delivering the comedy goods. Watching him hold the Assembly Hall audience with his relaxed, affable-but-spikey conversation is an object lesson in natural delivery, and he’s got some pretty good material to boot.

Yes, sometimes he’s talking very generally, about things you’re likely to have noticed yourself. But just when the set is simmering along these familiar lines, he’ll blindside you with a sneaky joke right you never saw coming. Thus seeing an 11-year-old girl inappropriately dressed with ‘gorgeous’ emblazoned on the arse of her tracksuit, or a long-standing grip with a militant feminist poster lead to impressive routines that extract every last laugh out of the situation.

One theme of the show is esprit d’escalier, or staircase wit, the witty comebacks you come up with long after the event, which Byrne uses to very sly effect. Elsewhere, he’s got superlative gags on Michael Jackson (with not a lazy kiddy-fiddling reference in sight), the anti-piracy message on DVDs and emo kids.

As well as being ‘not quite famous’, Byrne ponders being not manly, not quite middle-class, as his humble roots always betray him, and not quite as popular as the WAGs’ Workouts, when it comes to DVD sales.

But the big thing that obsesses him is his recent wedding, and no wonder. It’s been so long in the planning that he’s probably thought of little else for the past year. The expense and extravagance – and how it’s justified – are perfect targets for this easily-irritated man. He likes a good old whinge, does Ed, and there’s a lot of fodder in this costly charade.

Different Class is Byrne’s usual mix of effortless charm and biting sarcasm, but why change a winning formula when it hits the mark as easily as this?

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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