My Comedy Hero: Rob Broderick on Jason Byrne
- Brian Donaldson
- 6 October 2017
As adlibbing rap duo Abandoman take their Life + Rhymes across the UK, Rob Broderick picks another Irish improviser as his comic idol
When I was 17 a friend and I got into live comedy. Because we were underage we overcompensated so he'd wear a huge woolly arran jumper and I'd wear a long trenchcoat: we looked like we were wearing the clothing of our grandfathers. Des Bishop and Dara Ó Briain would have been two of the first comics we'd have seen in the International, a tiny room in Dublin. Des and Dara were phenomenal at improvising. When Dara found out we were underage he riffed about A levels and leaving school and I was thinking 'this is just brilliant'.
About six months later, I went to a friend's university and saw Jason Byrne. I was aware of the name but nothing else. It feels like the show was about three hours long but with hindsight that makes no sense to me but that's how it's etched in my memory. Someone heckled him at the start; it didn't feel like an aggressive line and it did have some context but it was something like 'I'm richer than you'. What seemed like two hours later and not having mentioned the guy since, Jason was jumping around from desk to desk in this lecture theatre, and paused at this guy, spotted the Casio watch and said 'you're not that rich'. I remember being in awe about how so much had happened in between the heckle and the reincorporation; it took everyone unawares and was just beautiful.
I also loved the chaos and was really attracted to that. People had to leave for lectures and Jason would rugby-tackle them back into the show. I hadn't seen anything like that before: it was wild. And over the course of my years at uni, Jason would regularly come in and he always had that effect.
Now having done comedy myself, I can see some of the craft behind it. A few years ago he did a ten-minute spot at a charity gala in Edinburgh, went on and took the phone off someone who was trying to take a photo of him. The screensaver was of a cat sitting in this man's lap and the show spins for ten minutes and ends with Jason on this man's lap as though he's the cat. He's just the best I've seen.
Abandoman: Life + Rhymes is on tour until Fri 27 Oct; Jason Byrne: The Man With Three Brains is on tour until Sat 10 Mar.