Despite his regular appearences on television programmes like ‘Mock the Week’ and ‘Live at the Apollo’, and the fact that those paying to see him presumably knew who he was, Ed Byrne opened his show with a self-deprecating joke on how the audience may mistake him for Vicky Pryce, ex-wife of disgraced politician Chris Huhne.
This modest mocking of himself set the tone of Roaring Forties, with the main thread of the Irish comedian’s jokes being how his life has changed since turning 40. He let the point that those of his age start to lose muscle definition hang in the air and receive knowing laughter, before delivering the killer punchline that: “The closest I’ve got to muscle definition is looking it up in the dictionary.”
By this method Byrne immediately got the audience on his side, and took us through a series of funny and often extremely personal anecdotes involving his health, family and career. Even when a couple of jokes failed to hit the mark, due to their obscure pop culture references, he demonstrated his skill in winning over the crowd to ensure every story still ended in laughter.
Moreover he used these moments to reflect on the nature of comedy itself, taking time out of his tale on the comically hostile environment of a speed awareness course to tell a classic ‘rule of three’ joke. By tying this into the increasingly popular observational style of comedy, Byrne showed that he is a dab hand at many forms of humour.
As someone who hasn’t yet reached their forties, my one sense of trepidation prior to the show was that I wouldn’t identify with the main theme. However Byrne had clearly accounted for younger attendees, as seen in how he developed his discussion on the trials of parenthood by finding a teenage audience member who is that noticably less photographed second child and telling her to pose the awkward question to her parents.
Indeed Byrne’s use of audience participation led to some of the biggest laughs of the night, as he managed to coax some hernia related revelations as personal as his own, proving that Grantham had taken him in as someone with whom they could share a good joke.
The second half in particular was an expertly crafted set which roared its way to the air-guitar strumming conclusion, highlighting that Byrne is not only a young at heart 41-year-old but an old pro when it comes to stand-up comedy.