Funny Man

Siobhán Meehan talks to comedian Jason Byrne.

When he answers the phone his cheeky voice is  immediately recognisable. “Just before we start, can I just ask how long will you need me for? It’s just I’m taking my wife out for coffee and she’s waiting for me here.” After assuring him that I’d have everything wrapped up by 11am I have the perfect opportunity to question Byrne on his long suffering wife Brenda who has been the subject to much ridicule in his stand up. “Sometimes I mightn’t even mention my children or my wife in a show, but ya in the past they definitely have had a battle. But that wife and those children are fictional, no woman is really like that, that’s me basically animating females and children and that’s what comedy is, it’s just animated life you know? Even though we could be dealing with real topics we animate them. Like if I went up on stage and went ’I’ve a wife ya and am…sometimes gives out to me’ then that’s no good, that’s not going to entertain anybody!“

Jason brings his stand up show to Cork on December 10th and is especially excited about returning to “The good thing about going to Cork is that it has my favourite venue to play in Ireland because that Cork Opera House is just brilliant. Everyone is sitting in the chairs, they’re so comfortable and the sight lines are really nice and Cork audiences are just great craic! They’re brilliant, they’re not like ‘Come on now you better make us laugh’ they’re normally just well up for it.” Admitting that his style of stand up routine is hard to pin down unlike the punchy one liners of Jimmy Carr or the off the wall stream of conscience approach of Ross Noble, Byrnes approach is one mainly focused on audience participation and current issues. “I always do a show in two halves when it’s in a theatre. So I’ll always come out at the start and deal with stuff that’s been going on recently, you know like kinda topical stuff and involve the audience. I normally end up making up the first half most of the time because when I’m excited like that stuff just flies into my head.” And there’s been no shortage of material for Jason in recent weeks…”Last week when I went on stage I had so much to deal with because I had Mary Harney with the red paint thrown on her and I had poor old Neil with the Cara magazine…” On a recent appearance on The Late Late Show, Ryan Tubridy was greeted by Jason clutching a copy of Cara, the Aer Lingus in flight magazine, à la Neil Prendeville. “I know Neil, I’ve been interviewed by him before but at the same time I’m thinking ‘Jesus Neil, it’s me job I just have to do it!’ but I’m never vicious though.”

So will the IMF boys be making an appearance in future shows? “Well ya but only if it’s funny! I’ve been away in England so I’ve only read about it this morning, about who the IMF are why they are here and what thing they are up to. In Ireland it’s hilarious, they’ll tell you once on the news who or what they are, if you weren’t in that day then you lose out! Like people don’t know what NAMA stands for, they don’t know who they are! The IMF is em…eh…oh my god what is it again? (with a little help from yours truly)Yes! Monetary fund! which will never be said again! So I’ll have to Google it ‘cause now the news just say the IMF and if you want to find out what they actually do then you’re gonna have to Google that as well!” But it seems that Jason has grasped some understanding of the IMF and so explains to me his own take on the situation. “They’re a bit like the Cigire. Remember the Cigire? That’s who they are! And Brian Lenihan is like the teacher looking at Ireland going ‘Just buck up now lads and sit up straight, the IMF are coming in to see what we‘re up to!’”

Earlier this year Jason and fellow comedian Des Bishop teamed up while touring Australia. A country with a large population of young Irish emigrants, it wasn’t hard for Jason and Des to pick out the ‘lads’ from the locals. “They go over there and they’re travelling around with their Cork tops, their Dublin tops, their fucking Wexford tops and I’m going ’Lads, nobody fucking knows who they are! Change into your clothes will ye! Actually there were two lads from Cork in a place called St. Kilda, it’s a really beautiful seaside place. There were the two lads standing at a tram stop, with builders boots on, Cork jerseys and carrying their shopping. In the shopping they had the sliced pan and cereal. They were unshaven and they had only arrived in Australia! I was going ’Lads what are ye fucking doin’?’ And they were just going ‘Ah we’re just getting a bit of shopping, just arrived, great craic’ Fucking mental!”

As well as performing stand up and TV presenting Jason now has his own BBC Radio 2 show in the shape of The Jason Byrne Show which in previous episodes has discussed issues from fashion and marriage to strange fears and phobias with contributions from a live studio audience. “I’ve just finished the third series, it’s in front of a live audience, it’s not like a chat show. It’s on at 10 o clock on Saturday nights on BBC Radio 2 at the moment. Each episode has different a different theme. In this series we had technology, beauty and misery and happiness which is one to look out for cause the Irish kinda crop up one that one a lot! So ya it’s cool, it’s great fun and there are always lots of mad people who go to it and say mad shit!”

As we come to the end of our phone call it seems as though Jason is finished with preparation for his next show “So ya that’s great, I’ve got my stand up for tonight! What did I say? Inspector,  IMF, Cork Lads, done!”

Jason Byrne performs in Cork Opera House on December 10th Tickets: €26, €27.50, €29

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