How We Met: Ed Byrne & Andrew Maxwell

'We were exotic strangers competing for notches on the bedpost'

Ed Byrne, 39

After earning acclaim on the Dublin stand-up circuit in the early 1990s, Byrne successfully crossed over to the UK market, selling out three tours. He has also become a panel-show regular. He lives in Essex with his wife and young son.

We met at an awful talent competition, the Hackney Empire All-Comers Talent Quest, in 1994. We were the only two comedians; the others included an eight-year-old doing a rap and a five-year-old doing "Baggy Trousers". I won; Maxwell came fourth, with an impression of a didgeridoo. It was early in our careers, we were both broke and we bonded.

I didn't hugely rate his comedy back then. It seemed like he was just gassing, but he went through a spell in the early 2000s where he clicked: he even won an award as the most-underrated comedian.

Maxwell has a swagger on stage that I've never been one to adopt. I'm very pacy and I talk at a fast rate – I don't like silences – while Maxwell just stands there and goes: "Ugghh... [pause] Jesus..."

Our early friendship was competitive. Once we were both up for an audition for a TV-presenting role and he said to me, "Hope you don't get it!" That year we toured the circuit in Australia, and that competitiveness raged on through our skills with women – two single Irishmen, suddenly seen as exotic strangers – and we competed for notches on the bedpost.

Back then we were both utterly useless as grown-ups; we both knew that if we weren't comedians, god knows how either of us would make a living.

When you have an argument with Maxwell, what's most annoying is that he won't listen. As soon as you speak, he'll relentlessly badger you with his point. Yesterday we were arguing about Koran-burning: we agreed it was a bad move for Americans to burn Korans, but my point was that people were putting too much store in symbols – but he was far too interested in making his point about American imperialism to listen to me.

Maxwell is still friends with people from when he was a kid in Dublin, while I left home when I was 18 and all my friends are comics. Yet he thinks that any friends you have in showbusiness are not real. He'll talk at length about how he's going on a stag do with his electrician mate. Yes, well done, Maxwell, you are friends with someone who has a real job.

Andrew Maxwell, 37

An Irish comedian known for his political stand-up, Maxwell is also co-founder of the Austrian comedy/music festival Altitude. He lives in London.

What amazes me about Ed is how he's alive right now at all. When we first met he used to be a chain-smoker, he never ate fruit or veg and all I ever saw him eat was pork ribs, like some old jazz singer.

I was first aware of Ed when he started on the Irish alternative-comedy scene, in Dublin. We used to call him Wonderboy, as he came out the box ready-made, while a lot of other acts, such as Eddie Izzard, were terrible for a long time.

We met at a talent competition in London in 1994. He had that sensational long hair, those glasses, and looked like a very dashing, moody young lesbian. He subsequently had a meteoric rise, while I bubbled along the bottom for a very long time. Though I now have my own comedy fest in the Alps, and he's having to promote my comedy festival. Ha!

We first bonded over a mutual love of comedy and debate – from my side – and petulant argument from his. He is the world's greatest alcohol-fuelled pedant and you'll see it in his stand-up. When I'm drunk I speak with an uncontrolled scatter-gun effect; a smorgasbord of argument, opinion and impression; while Ed has to see a golden thread of logic running through a conversation, and if I try to drag him into a different conversation, it infuriates him.

He almost ruined our Sunday lunch the other day by being so ardent about sticking to the topic of Koran burning. I said, "You're not taking any of the cultural perspective about this." I had to go for a piss to end the conversation, as he was starting to raise his voice about Koran burning, in a restaurant.

Ed's thing in stand-up is taking apart logical flaws in things; he's like a bloody Vulcan. Mine is more like a Jackson Pollock; I throw everything at you; some shouting, some opinion and impressions.

He can be an annoying super-logical stick monster, but he's also a doting man, and Ed's been an incredible benefactor to his fellow comedians. He's always had an open-door policy to let people stay at his house – including me for several years. You might remember those animated Carphone Warehouse ads he did the voiceovers for a few years ago. Well [his money from] those ads kept me afloat through [difficult] years, when I was staying with Ed, and it kept me in the drink, too. But don't get me wrong, I still took the piss out of him for doing them.

Ed Byrne and Andrew Maxwell will be performing at the Altitude Comedy Festival from 26 to 31 March in Mayrhofen, Austria (

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star