Fans of the award-wining Ed Byrne were treated last year to the sight of our favourite chirpy nerd-next-door cooking up a storm in Uganda in The Bake-Off for Comic Relief, before riding out on a 4,000-mile adventure down the Pan-American Highway with fellow comic Dara O’Briain in Dara and Ed’s Great Big Adventure.
On from this epic journey and following a masterful kick-off in Edinburgh last Summer, the rakish Dubliner has been no stranger to capacity audiences while blazing a trail across the UK with his sellout tour Outside Looking In, which sees Byrne bringing his breathless observational scattershot to bear on everything from life as a father and husband to feminist issues, transgenderism and more.
A solidly familiar face on Mock the Week, Have I Got News for You, and Live at The Apollo, the increasingly-prolific Byrne’s star continues to rise ever-higher after over twenty years in comedy.
After a couple of stellar years featuring breakouts into presenting for the BBC, a number of well-received stage and film appearances, a regular column for The Great Outdoors magazine and five unforgettable US appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, this was an unmissable opportunity to see the hysterical Byrne at the very top of his game.
Back in town to a rapturous Geordie reception, Ed completely commanded the crowd with his brilliant, always self-effacing brand of comedy, launching straight into mortifying detail about the overwhelming, existential horror of performing dreaded corporate gigs for identikit parades of barely-awake suits. Continuing to ride the cringe train, Ed plunged long and hard into the crushing world of worst dates, taking the time to tease some delicious real-life dating fails out of the crowd before the interval, working magic with his effortless, always teasing and never cruel crowd work.
completely hilarious and remaining not only brilliantly relevant but doing his best work yet
An exhilarating second half saw Ed smashing into pressing social issues of the day, highlighting the peculiar agony particular to a baffled dad bringing up a young child in a world run rampant with trigger warnings and identity politics.
Lampooning the worst excesses of both the progressive left and the far right, Ed stuck the landing by ending the show with not only a merciless, brilliant slam of a couple of box-bound hecklers, but a touching paean for his little boy to be allowed to wear the ‘girls’ shoes he chose, free of bullying and encouraged to do so because he loves them and, frankly, they’re fabulous.
Fizzing with boundless energy, bubbling over with charm, completely hilarious and remaining not only brilliantly relevant but doing his best work yet, Ed remains a grand master of his craft.
Leigh Venus at Tyne Theatre and Opera House, 24 February 2016
Originally published in two parts in Narc Magazine