01 May 2015

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne - Roaring Forties
Hannah Playhouse
Wellington
30 April 2015

Last night at the Hannah Playhouse (formerly Downstage), Irish comedian Ed Byrne harked back to his first gigs in Wellington way back in 1997... at Downstage. No-one was complaining about the proficiency and charm Byrne brings to his well-honed standup routine, even if he joked that he had reached his peak back in the late 20th century. (His famous Alanis Morissette-baiting routine on irony was an early highlight). Now 43, Byrne's material focuses on disgraceful middle-agedness, but without the dreary predictability that might suggest. He still takes a wry glee in juvenile idiocy, such as the sure-fire lady-repellent that is air guitar solos, and offers a deftly-told account of being forced to attend a four hour driving awareness course with a didactic instructor whose po-faced delivery demanded the silliest possible answers, despite the growing annoyance of his fellow classmates. Now with two children, Byrne's recounting of the effects of child-rearing on friendships and social lives also appealed: 'I have all these new friends just because their children know my children, and I don't have time to see the friends I actually like!' Two highlights of the set were clever pieces on his recent hernia (caused by lifting a semi-full compost bin) and the resulting surgery, and a marvelous retelling of a visit he and his wife took to an NHS doctor to discuss a vasectomy, which was full of bleak self-deprecating humour.

Throughout the gig an added dynamic was the presence of two young local women taking turns to perch at the edge of the stage and translate Byrne's material into sign language. They did a sterling job, but at one point as the material got rather 'boisterous' in discussing matters sexual and you had to feel sorry for them. (But at least we now know the sign language for 'erection'). Ever the gentleman, Byrne did pause to muse whether making them translate his comedy was in effect a form of sexual harassment. That, and the banter with a lady audience member who explained that her own hernia was brought on by being 'fat and pregnant', made for a highly appealing night of professional comedy in Wellington. Now all the capital would like, if you don't mind, is for Byrne to convince his mate Dara O'Briain to tour New Zealand too!

See also:
ComedyEddie Izzard, 15 February 2015
ComedyBill Bailey, 3 November 2014
ComedyJosie Long, 6 May 2013
ComedyDavid O'Doherty, 5 May 2012
Comedy: Ed Byrne / Steve Coogan, 17 May 2009

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