Ed Byrne interview

Ed Byrne interview

The comedian is drawing on the darkest time in his life for his latest show…Ellie Holmes finds out more…

Img @ Roslyn Gaunt

Top comedian Ed Byrne is to return to the stage with a brand-new show, which will debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer, and tour local venues in south west London and Surrey in the autumn. Ed is known for bringing deeply personal tales in to his routines but this tour is set to be his most candid yet.

The tour is called Tragedy Plus Time – a famous notion that you can define comedy with this formula. And Ed is testing out the theory by basing his show on the most tragic event of his life, the death of his brother.

His trauma is palpable when we speak: “My brother died from liver failure. He had always liked a drink, but had managed to get clean, but then when lockdown came he fell back into old habits.

“He was so unlucky in so many ways, as he caught Covid, he was drinking and his life spiralled out of control. Lockdown wasn’t the easiest time to find an organ donor, and time wasn’t on his side.”

Tragedy Plus Time has the theme of grief interspersed throughout the show. Anger is a major factor and Byrne weaves in that frustration.

“I am like an angry Nigel Farage at Glastonbury. I am angry with the GP receptionist, angry about the man that gave my brother Covid, angry at the chain of events that then occurred.”

Of course, his work moves away from his grief at points, and other topics such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James Corden are included.

“I digress from the grief at times” he reflects, “otherwise it could be a bit relentless.”

“But I wanted to create a show where people come away saying I laughed, I cried and then I laughed again.”

Byrne’s TV career is now in its third decade and he has regularly appeared on the likes of QI, Mock The Week and Alan Davies As Yet Untitled.

It all started during his college years at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, where, as student welfare officer, he would MC events. “I had to make speeches and would enjoy putting in a joke and things escalated from there.” He went on to perform at other venues and then quit his studies to start a comedy club.

When he describes how he comes across material for his shows, he says that when bad things happen, the silver lining is the fact they can be turned into something for his show.

“I always recall the time when I had my car broken into and my Ipad stolen, in less than 24 hours I was on stage and it was my opening anecdote for my show.

“When unfortunate things happen, in a way I can turn it into a positive by using it in my sketch. “My shows are all about documenting life and picking up on incidents and events that we all encounter things which people can relate to… which is essentially what makes them laugh.

I’m also not afraid to integrate other people’s stories… I did a sketch once about a guy having a vasectomy, and it was definitely an amalgamation of my own experience and a mate of mine.”

His previous show, If I’m Honest, received rapturous reviews – “As sarcastic, caustic and self-deprecating as ever,” The ArtsDesk commented.

Ed, who was born in County Dublin, lives in Essex with his wife, two children and their cat. He loves coming to London venues – one of his favourites being Banana Cabaret in Balham. He says: “I regularly take my shows to Balham Comedy Festival. I love playing to a Banana Cabaret audience in their fantastic round room.”

His tour will take in the Kingston’s Rose Theatre on 3 September, Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on 6 September, Epsom Playhouse on 11 September and Redhill’s Harlequin on the 22 September.

When I ask him whether he thinks his work is part of the healing process, he is typically dry. “I don’t know yet, I’ll have to do the shows and I’ll let you know.” But something tells me that the juxtaposition of humour and tragedy will be an outlet for all that watch and, one hopes, will channel the grief for the talented comedian.

Tour dates

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