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Jason Byrne 2010

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Jay Richardson

For added high-jinks, I caught Jason Byrne’s Midnight Show this year, the Irishman bewailing the attendant drunks and the fact that ‘It’s tomorrow, it’s tomorrow!"

We’re a full 25 minutes in before he unveils anything that could reasonably be described as material, such is his peerless capacity for banter, transplanting audience members from their seats and matchmaking after a fashion, screwing up his gurning face in incredulity at the blurted, occasionally terrified responses he receives.

The practised ad-libs are all in place and seasoned Byrne-watchers smile wryly when he maintains we’re the maddest show of his festival, appreciating he’s bullshitted as much to all his crowds. Cynicism is entirely misplaced in his company, though, and you forgive the empty platitude, Byrne’s joyous capacity to forge endlessly inventive, surreal scenarios from disparate responses, even if wilfully mishearing them, as sharp as ever.

To assist him this year, he’s purchased a pair of giant hands on poles, microphones in each, ensuring that even greater numbers of punters are within reach of his playful interrogation. Used sparingly, they nevertheless quickly become long-range mauling devices.

You marvel that anyone can earn a living from so aggressively fondling a man over distance and be encouraged in the practice. Byrne’s assured physical tomfoolery scarcely needs the augmentation, but they’re fun props nonetheless.

Eventually settling down, he returns to a recurring preoccupation of his career – his freakish childhood appearance, specifically but not exclusively the inward eye caused by his mother dropping him as a two-year-old. For all the subtextual meaning of this incident for his development into a slightly twisted clown, it’s made manifest by a photo slideshow of the wretched young Byrne. A ‘ginger Ronnie Corbett"’, garbed in the most embarrassing clothes, the snaps convince you he must have had to work so hard to be accepted, a shunned, eager-to-please kid that begat the child-man capering on stage.

Even though this is his second show of the night, Byrne’s energy levels and those in the room never drop once.

Typically, he evokes the shrewish spectre of his wife, howling at him for eating while she’s on a diet. He has the last laugh though when he skullduggerously manoeuvres her into his preferred sex position, a routine that might seem gratuitously dirty had he not already established himself as the under-the-thumb buffoon in their relationship – effectively achieved by characterising himself, like all heterosexual men, as a slavering horndog for the briefest flash of nipple. If such a pervy routine can be delivered with panache, Byrne pulls it off.

Business as usual then, for as reliable a Fringe comedian as you’ll find.

Review date: 22 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

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