Ed Byrne Interview
It’s been a few years since Irish comedian Ed Byrne was in Australia, and he’s looking to make up for lost time. Geoff Bartlett reports.
Ed Byrne’s arrival last week in Melbourne to perform at the comedy festival coincided with his birthday. But Byrne says the real milestone for him will be later in the year, when he celebrates the anniversary of his comedy debut. ‘It’ll be 10 years in October. I’m looking forward to it. After 10 years, I think you can finally call yourself a veteran. I still feel myself as being this young, new comic – still doing my apprenticeship. But now, I can sit at the table and tell all the younger comics what I think and they’ll have to listen.’
Back when he was just starting out, Byrne admits he was inspired by the work of several comedians, one of whom was Australian. ‘At the time before I became a comic, I saw Anthony Morgan perform in Edinburgh. As I wrote material, I tried to imagine him saying it. Then I met him at the Adelaide festival and I said “You were one of the people that made me want to be a comic.” And Morgan said ‘That’s really not much of a compliment. That you saw me perform, and thought “Well, I can do this”.’
The Melbourne comedy festival typically boasts a healthy complement of Irish comedians. But this isn’t something that surprises Byrne. ‘We’ve always, historically, done well over here. The Irish and Australian senses of humour are quite similar.’ We have a lot of the same reference points compared with the USA, where you have to completely overhaul your act and change the timing of it and the intonation so it suits an American audience.’
American translations aside, Byrne claims to have made for himself a life he not only enjoys, but one that also treats him well. ‘If you’d told me at the age of 12, that by the time I was 25, I’d have bought a house just from telling jokes, I’d have said “That’s bollocks”.’
And for Byrne, there is no stronger sign of his joke pleasing his audience than the high frequency of occasions where people swipe his material. ‘People have come up to me after a show and said “A mate of mine at work has passed your routine off as his own”.’ Byrne however, prefers to look at it as a back handed compliment. ‘I’d to think that there are actually people out there who are managing to get laid by using my jokes. That somewhere, there’s a bloke who managed to chat up woman who thinks that he’s really funny, when he’s purely using my act’.
Another motivating factor in this line of work, says Byrne, is the international travel. ‘Comedy is a great way to see the world. And it’s not limited to the English speaking countries either. Because there are now so many expat communities all over the world. Wherever English speaking people are, you can go and entertain them. I entertained some NATO troops in Bosnia. There’s a gig you can do in Saudi Arabia for the oil workers, and there’s now even a gig in Shanghai too. It’s nice when people ask you to come all that way to entertain them. It’s like you’ve become an export.’
For Byrne, the realisation that he can be viewed as a marketable commodity has come at just the right time. ‘For tax reasons, I’ve just become a Limited Company. So now I’m thinking that I might float myself on the stock exchange.’
This piece first appeared in Drum Media.