Theatre Review – Ed Byrne | Living North

Theatre Review – Ed Byrne

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Ed Byrne
TV stand-up comedian Ed Byrne played a gig at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House on Wednesday as part of his national tour, Outside, Looking In. Our Arts Editor went along

My fiancé is a sucker for online videos. You know the type – you see them on the bus or in the corner of a café chuckling away to themselves and they’re constantly clogging up your social media with “hilarious” videos of practical jokes, experiments gone wrong and what the kids call vlogs (video blogs). So before Christmas I found him laughing so uncontrollably that I was forced to intervene and remind him to breathe. After checking all his vital signs (all okay), I thought I’d better find out what had reduced him to this state... Step forward Ed Byrne.

At that point the extent of my knowledge of Ed Byrne stretched to, that panelist of Mock the Week?, and I have to admit that I am fairly opinionated about television panel shows. Generally male dominated (with the occasional token woman), I find they tend to be filled with a whole heap of peacocking as the comedians try to insult and outdo each other. Yes they’re entertaining if there isn’t anything else on the box, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for a great night out.

Sorry Ed, I did you a disservice. As I sat down at the computer to watch the videos that had sent my fiancé into a near anaphylactic shock, I found that Ed’s stand-up was altogether more clever, liberal and entertaining than I’d given him credit for. So when I realised that he would be visiting Newcastle on his latest tour, I jumped at the chance to go along.

He arrived on stage with his characteristically messy mop, dressed in black jeans, a tour T-shirt and a black blazer, and immediately came across as genuine, if not a little self deprecating. His opening gambit was about his worst ever gigs or moments when he’d ‘died’ on stage, which swiftly moved into a discussion of the worst first dates and a list of his dislikes (journalists, bankers and Audi drivers).

He played off the audience, asking them specific questions like ‘when did you know the date was going wrong?’, offering smart quips to their answers and then providing his own anecdotes. It was a great style. The audience immediately warmed to him and the laughter only grew as the show went on.

There was something for everyone, from toilet humour (a detailed description of a recent bout of diarrhoea) and childish comebacks to political commentary (it’s fair to say he’s not the biggest UKIP fan) and some astute social commentary – he explained early on that the tour is called Outside, Looking In because he’s spent his entire life observing people for his routines rather than living his own life.

But what was particularly refreshing about Ed was his liberal attitude towards gender and sexuality. Although he maintained a sense of bravado by repeatedly asserting ‘I’m not just a leftie, liberal comedian’ throughout the course of the evening, he complained about the injustice that sexual promiscuous men are celebrated, while similar women are chastised, challenged anybody who objects to breastfeeding in public and proudly boasted that his four-year-old son wears pink trainers despite being criticised by the other children for wearing ‘girl’s shoes’. Hopefully with a few more comedians like Ed doing the circuit, we will finally see the end of the male-dominated TV panel show.

So whether you’re a firm fan or a little sceptical like I was, it is definitely worth catching up with Ed’s tour if you get the chance.

Published in: February 2016

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