Ed Byrne: Me Again, Riverside Studios, London

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The Independent Culture

Ed Byrne is something of a paradox, a fresh-faced old timer of the comedy circuit.

Ed Byrne is something of a paradox, a fresh-faced old timer of the comedy circuit. Though he is still only 32, it is nearly 10 years since his debut in Edinburgh. Byrne returns there next month with this show, his first Festival stand-up for four years.

Byrne has not been idle in the interim. There was a huge national tour two years ago, a role in the Brian McAvera play Kings of the Road, not to mention his TV appearances on Sam's Game (opposite Davina McCall) and the Irish TV sitcom The Cassidys. But even though his face is perhaps more suited to a period drama about Gothic poets, Byrne's talents have thus far been squeezed into sub-standard Neil Morrissey and Ardal O'Hanlon-type roles. Perhaps now that he's writing his own sitcom he will be able to cast himself more adroitly. Thus far, his most noted foray into television has been as the voice of a certain mobile phone company ­ an advertisement that made him a household voice if not yet a household name.

Byrne's material too has a familiar ring to it: smoking, snoring, girlfriends, pornography, sexual deviancy. At times, the familiarity of his material breeds contempt, as when he chides the Americans for their pronunciation of "aluminium". On yet another hackneyed subject (Armin Meiwes the German cannibal), he finds something he can really get his teeth into, explaining how, had he been the victim, he would have upset the proceedings with a torrent of knob gags.

There are only hints of future classics in this show, nothing perhaps to match his classic deconstruction of Alanis Morissette's "Isn't It Ironic?", which fuelled a thousand pedantic dinner-party conversations. Tonight's parting routine, which likened the cross-over between Big Brother contestants and celebrity game shows to a media BSE, was, however, almost worth a standing ovation for the sentiment alone.

Pacing the stage, smoking, wearing combats designed as plus-fours and an Amnesty International T-shirt under his jacket and sporting a tousled hairdo, Byrne has departed from his previous Harry Potter look to something altogether more unruly. Yet you still can't quite feel the full force of his rants. Despite the glimpses of passion, Byrne still comes over as a practised performer and a pair of safe hands. Of course, some of his best moments were off the cuff: for example, when his lighter repeatedly failed to spark, he was inspired in his comic pleadings with the audience for a replacement, fearing that he would never get to the end of his routine otherwise. At another point, he poked fun at his career with endearing self-deprecation.

A relatively early Assembly Rooms slot beckons for Byrne at the Festival as befitting his experience, but I can't help feeling that he would be better smouldering under the spotlight of a smoky, late night venue to find out what he could cook up from his well-thumbed comedy recipe book.