Ed Byrne: Me Again, Soho Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

It is ironic that one of the attractions of stand-up comedy to its practitioners is its flexibility and its distance from the corporate, suited and booted world.

It is ironic that one of the attractions of stand-up comedy to its practitioners is its flexibility and its distance from the corporate, suited and booted world. Yet punctuality and presentation are both key to the art form. That timing is crucial is a given, presentation in its widest sense too, but then there's the sartorial elegance aspect of that. To reject the nine-to-five routine and still end up in a suit might seem anathema to some, but to others, such as Jack Dee, sharp suits equate to sharp minds. That was certainly the case for Ed Byrne tonight.

The last time I saw this show, when it was admittedly in its infancy, I was disappointed not so much by the baggy attire that Byrne was sporting but by the rather-too-casual nature of his delivery. Of course, part of Byrne's charm is that he is at ease with himself and the audience, but he still has to carry the audience when he confesses to being a misery and embarking on a half-rant about smoking bans or a full-on rant about his ex-girlfriend.

And carry them he did on this occasion. Appearing like a rougher-edged version of Nigel Havers (though he looks uncannily like Jimmy White on his tour poster), Byrne went briskly through an adequate preamble about the aforementioned smoking bans and George Bush's imaginary ninja bodyguards into a tirade about booking a last-minute holiday. The latter grew slowly but benefited from some new material that Byrne had garnered from a winter holiday to Tunisia, where "in the morning it rained left to right and in the afternoon from right to left", and where his camel tour was about as exciting as a pony ride on Brighton beach.

With some sections squeezed and others expanded from the last time I saw it, the act was now hitting the right notes. Byrne, power-dressed, was tight with his links and asides. His regional skits on Glaswegians and Cockneys were fully three-dimensional, and where he required himself to mime or dance, in the case of celebrating a joke about his ex-girlfriend, there was a real energy there.

This section is very much the high note - Byrne shows some sharper teeth, slapping down men for the blind veneration of beautiful women and arguing that a reputation for sexual conquests by a man is looked on more favourably than for a woman "because it's more difficult for us".

Though much of Byrne's material isn't what you would call challenging or up-to-the minute topical, the lighter side of everyday life is deftly released, and you can't fault his delivery when he is on this form. Brief observations on idiot-proof instructions (ie, that Pop-Tarts may be hot from the toaster, "you ee-jit") and modern manners don't interrupt the rhythm of the show, and everything, including the audience, is reined in rather nicely.

A good day at the office for the smart and punctual Byrne.

Touring to 1 May ( www.edbyrne.com)

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