Friday 19 January 2018

Snapchat: Byrning those cringey pics

Bowl haircuts, wonky glasses, horror orthodontics: who would have known they'd make such good telly? Jason Byrne had an inkling that they might, simply because his own childhood snaps were so hilariously awful.

At his show at the Edinburgh festival several years ago, the Dublin-born comedian began facing up to his own embarrassing past, using school snaps as props. The audience ate it up. "I had this picture of me on my first day of school and my glasses are bent and my eye is kind of turned in" he recalls. "The photographer didn't even brush my hair and [the audience] just started laughing. I just thought, wouldn't it be great if we did a show like this but got celebrities to bring in their worst photos."

Byrne pitched the idea to TV3, who got on board and, together with comedy writer and ex-Republic Of Telly producer Shane Mulvey, Byrne filmed six episodes of Snaptastic, roping several of his celebrity friends into the fun. "People enjoy laughing at themselves", he says.

So far he's had Ray D'Arcy showing photos which were shot "at the end of a field through his father's telescope", and his old friend PJ Gallagher in a fetching white jumpsuit ("that's when I was a girl in Marino"). The trick, Byrne says, is to "go about it in a nice way. Nobody's photos are quite as embarrassing as my own, so the joke's on me in a way."

If Byrne is adept at making light of the past, it might be because he still cringes when he looks back on his first fresh-faced foray into the public eye. He was trying to make a name for himself as a comedian, and had just done his first show at the Cat Laughs festival in Kilkenny when he popped up on television as an audience member on the Late Late Show, red hair slicked down, wearing his father's shirt and tie. The guest was Ghostbusters star Bill Murray, and the actor looked on, bemused, as Jason recounted how he and his friends had set up an Irish Ghostbusters, and asked Bill had he ever met a ghost.

"Oh, so embarrassing," he laughs, "when you look back on it, though I am a bit impressed at my own neck in risking asking Murray a question like that. I'd be too scared to do something like that now. Just like a lot of the people on Snaptastic would be too scared to have those haircuts again. Youth is about being brave and taking risks. I look like a child in the clip, even though I'm 24, I'm trying to be confident but when he starts to answer I go all red and put my head to the side, like "oh, thanks Bill, I was only messin." He says he'd still like to remake Ghostbusters with "two northsiders and two southsiders."

Byrne grew up in Ballinteer, on Dublin's southside, and worked part time in the Braemor Rooms where he saw comedians ply their trade with mixed success. After finishing school, he would go on to make a name for himself on the UK and Irish comedy circuits, selling more tickets at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival than any other comic, and winning a Sony Radio Award for his BBC work in 2011.

He's married to Brenda and they have two boys, aged 15 and 7, who keep him on his toes. "Seven-year-olds are like labradors, they're always happy and making you feel good. The older one is like the man of the house now. He's the funny one." Byrne's career continues to go from strength to strength - an Australian tour will take place later this year and he has another new show in development but he says you can never rest on your laurels. "My seven-year-old asked me recently, 'Dad, you know the way there's loads of young comedians coming up now, do you have to be scared of them? Like, will they take your job?'

"And they might", he laughs. "But it's good to know he's got my back."

Jason Byrne's 'Snaptastic Show' begins on Thursday at 9pm on TV3

Sunday Independent

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