Glasgow Comedy Festival

Festival of laughs

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Ed Byrne

Irish comedian Ed Byrne began his career making people laugh in Glasgow, and now he’s back for the city’s Comedy Festival. David Pollock hears how life has changed since then, and where he gets his comedic inspiration

More than most of the big names appearing at this year’s Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Dublin-born Ed Byrne knows how to work a Glaswegian crowd. He did, after all, used to go to the University of Strathclyde in the city (to study horticulture, which is probably as random a training as is required to tell jokes for a living) before dropping out to run comedy nights. He put one on in the old 13th Note bar, amongst other places, and got his first paid gig at Glasgow Caledonian University.

‘There was a lot more material about students in my set,’ he has previously said of this time. ‘There wasn't a great deal about relationships - a lot of my stuff now is centred on love.’ Don’t be surprised if there’s even more of that at these shows - Byrne married his publicist Claire in June of last year and he’s been given a free pass to use wedded bliss as material in his shows.

‘The best comedy comes from a personal angle,’ he says. ‘Sometimes you hear a comedian on stage saying, “I’m single,” and you think, “no, you’re not, you’re married with kids!” I think it makes a great difference if, as a comic, you can take your own life and tell the truth about it. If it’s real it makes it so much better, it gives it more authenticity and has far greater punch.’

As we might expect from a guy who can hold his own on TV panel shows like Mock the Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Byrne’s thoughts on the matter of marriage are sharp and right to the point. ‘The best thing is that since I’ve been married,’ he says, ‘I haven’t had to plan a wedding! The guy who said the groom shouldn’t see the dress before the big day, I want to shake his hand for getting us out of that particular shopping expedition. “Honey, nothing would give me greater pleasure than watching you try on infinity wedding dresses!” I’m not slagging off my wife, I’m slagging off the wedding industry. Everyone can relate to the frustrations that a wedding involves, such as arguing about stuff you don’t really care about!’

Byrne’s personable and believable style of observational work has lent him success in all the areas you’d associate with someone whose name has been linked with the Perrier Award (now the if.comedy Award) at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Since being nominated in 1998, the television work and success around the world has followed.

Then, of course, there’s ‘Different Class’, the current show which he’ll be bringing to Glasgow. ‘I’ve been reliably informed that this is my best show yet,’ he says. ‘It’s partly down to experience, but more than anything, as mushy as it sounds, it’s down to the love of a good woman. That really helps my comedy because it means I’m freer to focus on it. In 2004 a lot of my show was centred on my bitterness about a previous girlfriend. It was cathartic, but at the same time it wasn’t very fair, as she wasn’t there to stand up for herself. That style didn’t suit me. I think what I’m doing now suits me much better.’

‘Of course, if my wife ever left me, I’d end up doing the divorce show, and it’s quite possible that wouldn’t go down very well at all! I think people prefer me when I’m happy.’ 

Ed Byrne plays the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Mon 23 & Tue 24 Mar, 8pm, £17.50 (£15); Glasgow International Comedy Festival, various venues around Glasgow, Thu 12-Sun 29 Mar, www.glasgowcomedyfestival.com

OTHER FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS

Rob Brydon
All over UK television as himself and in various comedy character roles (most notably in Gavin and Stacey of late), Brydon returns to stand-up for a pair of dates here.
Royal Concert Hall, 2 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow,(F3), Thu 12 & Wed 25 Mar, 0141 353 8000, 8pm, £19.50 (£17.50).

David O’Doherty: It’s David O’Doherty Time
Last year’s deserved if.comedy Award winner at the Edinburgh Fringe is a whirlwind of twee musical numbers and sharp, dynamic, off the wall humour.
The Stand, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, (C1), Fri 13 Mar, 0870 600 6055, www.thestand.co.uk, 8pm, £12 (£10).

Brendon Burns: Under Educated Aussie
‘Burnsy’s Fringe show last year was greeted with a mixed response, but he was the reining if.comedy Award holder at the time. Always a hot ticket, but maybe not if you’re easily offended.
Garage, 490 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, (D2), Fri 20 Mar, 8pm, £12 (£10).

Will & Greg: A Sketch Show
Will Andrews and Greg McHugh got their start playing shows in Scotland and working with the Comedy Unit in Glasgow. Now based in London, their eccentric sketch show makes a homecoming appearance here.
Oran Mor, Top of Byres Road, Glasgow, Fri 20 Mar, 8pm, £10.

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