WHAT a start. Yes, that's what I'll take from Jason Byrne's latest show: the comedian who peaked too soon.
What else is there to do after you've just swung in on a mock wrecking ball a la Miley Cyrus? The Ballinteer man – dressed only in his undies, a white vest and black boots – outdid himself there. Like a pale, Irish Tarzan. With rope burn. Pity he performed the skit twice (a latecomer asked nicely). And that's Jason Byrne all over.
Currently adjusting to life in his forties (and probably a little bruised following the critical battering of his BBC sitcom, Father Figure), Jason still pulls some of the best faces in Irish stand-up. There are athletic performers, and then there's Jason Byrne, a comedian who approaches live comedy with all the subtlety of a child who has just downed a two-litre bottle of cola.
Halfway through the second half (130 minutes is far too long, Jason), he jokes about how Irish Mammies tend to repeat themselves when telling stories. Ironic, considering someone has yet to advise Jason that the best punchlines shouldn't have to be delivered twice. But off he goes, serving up tales of family life, getting sick Down Under and the effectiveness of window blinds. If a line or a movement gets a laugh, he'll use it again (alas, it ruins the blinds gag, which started out great).
He also drops more f-bombs than any other Irish comedian I've seen. Now, I quite like swearing with my comedy, but there's a fine line between a funnyman who uses it for effect and one who adopts it as a means to make up for a decent vocabulary.
All of this isn't to say that Jason isn't (potentially) a smart and capable performer. He's good with impressions, quick on his feet (sometimes saying whatever comes into his head works wonders), and even quicker with heckles. But he allows himself to get so swept up in the novelty of making fun of audience members that it often gets in the way of some actual material (did that Australian doctor yarn even come with an ending?). After all these years, Byrne is still winging it; a frighteningly energetic stand-up who, unfortunately, let the chaos take over. And the sex jokes are barely amusing. He'd be doing well to rein it in. But keep the funny faces... they're quite brilliant. HHIII