Ed Byrne, If I’m Honest, York Barbican, December 13
FRIDAY the 13th is unlucky for some”, and certainly for those who missed out on Ed Byrne’s If I’m Honest show at a half-full York Barbican. An honest mistake, no doubt, that should be rectified next time.
Unlike our political parties in the General Election, 47-year-old Dubliner Byrne has decided honesty is the best policy, and while comedians are no less likely to exaggerate than politicians seeking the X factor at the ballot box, they do so with a silver, rather than forked, tongue.
Byrne headed to York, the lone red rash in deepest blue North Yorkshire, on the night after the nation had voted. Yet more politics was not for him, however. “I could talk about Brexit for 20 minutes, but I choose not to,” he said. Exit Brexit, stage hard right. Good call, Ed, judging that the party mood needed to be joyful, not political.
He was not one to massage figures, either, instead drawing attention immediately to the empty seats, making everyone there feel better for their impeccable judgement. Honesty, straightaway, was the best policy.
Byrne book-ended the show, providing the short opening and longer closing chapters, with Henley comedy pup Kieran Boyd let off his lead in between. While this can break the rhythm of the night, Byrne knows the importance of giving fledgling acts their wings. Nish Kumar, for example, played support slots in York several times before graduation to headline status at the Grand Opera House.
Rather too many comedians do material about their children; the equivalent of being passed endless pictures of little Johnny or Joanna at an inescapable party, but when Byrne, fast thinking and even faster talking, is making the observations, then fair children’s play to him.
In If I’m Honest, he “takes a long hard long hard look at himself and tries to decide if he has any traits that are worth passing on to his children”. On Friday, he did so self-deprecatingly, as he takes on parenthood in his forties with children named Cosmo and Magnus. And no, they were not named for comic effect.
Far from it. When he played Reykjavic, Byrne was greeted with an outpouring of Icelandic congratulations for choosing one of their own!
Byrne could laugh at how his young sons already were mirroring him and his mutually sarcastic exchanges with his wife, theatre publicist Claire Walker.
Byrne’s comedy is both mentally and physically energetic, even hyper, as well as laced with Irish storytelling lyricism and much mischief making, and not only children’s received behaviour was up for his honesty test.
So too were superdads and superheroes and the way superhero film titles have become so convoluted, as he yearned for the simplicity of old.
Byrne wore a shiny red jacket and tapered jeans that would not have looked out of place competing on Strictly Come Dancing, a show he revealed he had turned down, foregoing the chance for “Byrne the floor” headlines, much to his family’s disappointment. He could not trust himself with the dancers, said the Oti fan, honest to the end.