After major heart surgery comedian Jason Byrne is heading to Yorkshire

Comedian Jason Byrne has named his new tour which comes to Yorkshire in October Unblocked – and the name has a very personal significance, as Catherine Scott discovers.

Jason Byrne
Jason Byrne

There aren’t that many people who will make a joke about nearly having a heart attack but Jason Byrne is one of them. Byrne fell ill while out running and was found to have three blocked arteries and underwent heart surgery to fit five stents to unblock them. He is now back on the road with a new tour aptly name Unblocked. “Part of that is due to the fact I have literally been totally unblocked and my heart is working fine again and then the other angle is that we are no longer under Covid restrictions and can do a full show so we are all really fully unblocked.”

Byrne said he knew something was amiss when he was out jogging and “I felt a pain on my left side like a bit of pressure and that didn’t feel right so I went straight to my doctor.”

After undergoing several tests, he was told that he needed to have five stents implanted to open up his arteries.

Jason Byrne Picture :Steve Ullathorne

“It came completely out of the blue. I’m a runner, I cycle, I walk, I have a good diet. I was so shocked,” says the 50-year-old who is known for his physical and interactive comedy.

While he didn’t go into cardiac arrest during the run, he said the pain he felt was a warning sign and doctors said he had to stop doing the physical side of his comedy immediately.

“It was almost like someone pushing a finger into my chest,” he said. “It was a nightmare as we’d just come out of lockdown and I was back out with live audiences and then this happened.”

He later learned that cholesterol was building up over many years and he later learned that his high cholesterol levels are hereditary – both of his parents had heart disease.

Yet because he didn’t know it and was feeling fit and healthy, he never got his cholesterol levels or other risk factors for heart disease checked out.

“People like me are the people who don’t get checked out,” he said.

Sadly his father died just before the pandemic hit.

“Over two days I watched his life slip away and it made me realise we really have to enjoy every minute of life.”

He says his own experience just a few years later emphasised this to him.

“I now try to live life more positively but at not such a hectic pace. I did have some therapy after my dad died after it all got a bit much,” he says. “And it was the best money I have spent – I would recommend it to anyone even if you feel you don’t need it.”

And while his comedy has always relied on audience participation, he feels it is needed more than ever at the moment.

“I have people come up to me after the shows and say I have brought happiness to their lives which is all I ever really want to do.”

But Byrne very nearly didn’t become a comedian at all.

“What I really wanted to do was be a hotel manager in America,” he reveals. “I’d worked my way through different aspects of hospitality and was nearly ready to head over to the States.

“But then me and a mate went to a comedy night and there was a joke competition which I entered for a bit of a laugh and my joke won. The club owner took my name and two weeks later he offered me five nights of stand up.” He never made it to America and instead embarked on his comedy career, aged 23.

Byrne’s very own brand of organised chaos and near legendary stock-in-trade audience participation has seen him coined “the outright king of live comedy” by The Times. It is no surprise that he is the biggest selling comedian at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

His career has seen him awarded the UK Radio industry’s prestigious Sony Radio Gold Award for his Radio 2 show. He has hosted his own chat show Jason Byrne’s Snaptastic Show’for TV3 in Ireland and co-presented Wild Things’on Sky One.

TV appearances include the Royal Variety Performance, The Graham Norton Show, Live

at the Apollo (BBC One), his own show,

Anonymous in Ireland and John Bishop Christmas Show (BBC One). Byrne is also a TV regular in Australia.

He has appeared on the Melbourne International Comedy Festival televised galas and The Great Debate as well as Network Ten’s The Project and New Zealand’s top-rating 7Days.

And he is also an author. In 2018, he published The Accidental Adventures of Onion O’Brien, a series of books about a young boy growing up in Ireland who has constant bad luck.

The book is based on Byrne’s childhood. He plans to do more writing and he works on getting a better work life balance.

“It’s all about planning,” he says. “It is a big tour I am doing but it is carefully planned so that we aren’t doing too many each week and they are all close together to reduce the time travelling between gigs. I also like to take some time to visit the places I am appearing in rather than just the inside of a hotel room.”

He says he is looking forward to coming to Yorkshire in October and November when he plays Harrogate, Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield.

He describes his physical comedy as “play, although some people say it’s more like assault”.

“Audience participation is a massive part of it but I never pick on anyone who looks like they don’t want me too – I also don’t pick people that look too keen – it tends to be people who catch my eye who look up for it,” says Byrne.

“But the main thing is to make people laugh, especially in these post-Covid times.”

Jason Byrne’s Unblocked tour will be visting various locations throughout Yorkshire from October including

October 7: Harrogate Theatre

October 16: Huddersfield: Lawrence Batley Theatre

November 5: Leeds: City Varieties

November 6: Sheffield: Memorial Hall

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