Ed Byrne: Spoiler Alert | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Camberley Theatre

Ed Byrne: Spoiler Alert

Note: This review is from 2017

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Camberley Theatre

‘Spoiler alert’ is a phrase that was once on the zeitgeist, now in the mainstream – a perfect title for a show from a man who is himself slipping into middle-aged, middle-class conformity.

It’s a actually a reference to how spoiled his two sons are. Magnus and Cosmo’s young lives are a world away from the parenting Byrne received in the 1970s, when ‘quality time’ meant sitting in the car outside the pub until dad staggered out. 

Instead for his kids it’s all giant trampolines in the back garden, pricey trips to Lapland to see the ‘real’ Santa Claus and a taste for pesto that shows up the comedian’s own palate as unsophisticated. He is, to his surprise, raising English ponces-in-waiting despite his own working-class Irish roots.

Such ‘kids today’ commentary is common territory for many a comic of his fortysomething vintage, but Byrne makes this his own, thanks largely for the unfiltered contempt for his offspring, who he paints as cosseted ingrates with the demands of the average Roman emperor.  

Expressing thoughts that that polite society would normally suppress, however secretly widespread, is a cornerstone of comedy – and Byrne nails them. He hurtles out of the gates and headlong into this strong material, liberally peppered with hearty, slightly transgressive laughs

However he takes his foot off the gas for later routines including – aptly enough for that metaphor – the story of him running out of petrol and ending up with his needlessly massive 4x4 rammed up against a stranger’s front door.

His vehicle is a giveaway to the fact Byrne is pretty spoiled himself: happily married, paid to make travel films with his BFF Dara O Briain and in a wealth bracket that makes an Aga a viable purchase… though he decided against it in the end, with a mini-rant describing why. The hot young comic of the late 1990s probably never foresaw himself doing angry routines about stoves.

Happiness isn’t always such fertile comic land, however, and some of these segments rely on his keen delivery and timing, both innate and honed over 25 years in comedy, more than they do on material that is more workmanlike – and that includes the obligatory Donald Trump chunk. But the routines certainly strike a chord with the demographic that go to the theatre in a Surrey commuter-belt town on a Monday night.

Yet there are also flecks of smart insight, such as the pithy aphorism that ‘facts have become bespoke’ which sums up so much that’s wrong with the world. But he wears the smarts lightly in favour of personal anecdotes, never warming to his theme quite so much as when he’s talking about his passion for hill walking – including a run-out of the much-publicised story of how he aided a fellow walker in the Cairngorms, with the additional joke of how he reluctantly felt compelled to help.

The show runs effortlessly smoothly, without any sense of being too slick and polished, thanks to Byrne’s easy way with his material, his audience, and himself. He’s taken to this spoiled life, and it’s fun to hear him entertainingly shoot the breeze about it.

Mention also must be made of support act, Paul Myrehaug. Usually such slots are given to comics who are solid rather than brilliant for fear of overshadowing the main event, but Myrehaug could give Byrne a run for his money.

His hard-hitting set features the likes of testicular cancer scares and bestiality (although that joke got derailed by a bit of audience interaction that took a bizarre turn)… and while this commanding Canadian is not obviously eager to please, there’s an playfulness underpinning his punchy routines,  his wilful mispronunciation of  the supermarket as Sainsberry’s touching a particular nerve.

With the stage mastery that 15 years as a road comic instil, Myrehaug is strong, original and edgy without being too overtly close to the knuckle. He surely deserves to be famous enough to go on a tour of his own. 

Ed Byrne: Spoiler Alert is on tour until June 2018. Dates.

Review date: 17 Oct 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Camberley Theatre

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