in years to come, we may look back on the first decade of the second millennium as a golden age of stand-up comedy.
Playing sold-out stadium gigs used to be the preserve of rock stars and pop divas, but these days you’re as likely to find Michael McIntyre, Eddie Izzard and Jimmy Carr topping the bill as U2 or the Rolling Stones.
One comedian whose star is undeniably on the rise is Ed Byrne. He’s joined the big league in recent years on the back of regular appearances on the popular TV panel show Mock the Week and a string of successful stand-up tours.
Now he’s back on the road with his new show, Crowd Pleaser, in which he casts his curmudgeonly eye over everything from being a nerd, to owning a cat and becoming a father for the first time.
“It’s based on everyday things from trying to find a decent plumber and owning a cat, to the other end of the spectrum talking about atheism versus agnostics and becoming a dad. It’s big stuff and little stuff,” he says.
Stand-up used to be synonymous with alternative comedy but now it’s enjoying an unprecedented boom. “Stand-up has become mainstream entertainment now. The accepted wisdom used to be that it didn’t work on TV, but Live at the Apollo and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow have proved otherwise.”
Byrne first rose to prominence on the comedy circuit in the late-90s after proving a big hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, although he only got into comedy while he was a university student in Glasgow. “I worked in the students’ union where we used to have a battle of the bands competition and that’s where I got a taste for talking to crowds.” His subsequent rise up the comedy ladder has been steady, rather than spectacular. “There was no big break or anything like that, it’s been very incremental.”
Despite their success, Byrne believes his generation owes a debt to their predecessors. “I would say we are less innovative than people were 15, or 20 years ago. Other comics pushed back the barriers and we have all flooded through.”
As with many comedians he’s happiest when he’s performing. “I like being on stage because it’s the only time, apart from when I’m sitting at home watching TV, that I feel 100 per cent comfortable and in control. It’s called ‘life fright’ and it often happens to people when they’re good at just one thing, whether it’s climbing mountains, building model railways, or standing up and telling jokes.”
Byrne plays Hull City Hall on April 16, York Grand Opera House, on May 11, Sheffield City Hall on May 19 and the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, on May 25.
Ed Byrne: King of comedy
He made his TV debut on Jonathan Ross’s Big Big Talent Show.
Regular guest on TV panel shows including Mock the Week, Have I Got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
In 2006, his show Standing Up and Falling Down was the biggest-selling comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.