Anyone who isn’t familiar with Jason Byrne ought to be.
The Dublin-born, floppy red-haired funnyman is a regular on the UK and Irish comedy circuit and has sold more tickets than any other comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – an achievement in itself at the esteemed event.
Taking up his post at The Baggot in McGettigan’s JLT – adjacent to Almas Tower where he last performed in 2012 – Byrne is set to bring his brand of humour to these shores on Thursday April 23. Using a mix of props and audience interaction, Byrne can win over a room from the moment he sets foot on stage – often wearing an outlandish costume; he arrived dressed as a circus master on his previous visit to the emirate.
The father of two is popular from Ireland to Australia and everywhere in between. Speaking to us fresh from a performance in Melbourne, his mischievous and lively personality is so infectious it’s hard not to like him from the moment he says hello. During our conversation, the 43-year-old tells us he’s watching a documentary about Elvis, the king of rock ’n’ roll, and quizzes us about any and everything. Here, Byrne shares his thoughts on his story so far and how getting into comedy was just an accident – so is The Luck of the Irish.
On British comics
‘My earliest comedy memories would have to be TV in the ’80s. We used to watch Tommy Cooper [British prop comedian] all the time. He was my hero, as were the two Ronnies [Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett]. The great thing about those comedians is they would go on and do whatever they wanted. They weren’t bothered about TV executives telling them what to do.’
On growing up in Ireland
‘I only ever tell British people that I grew up in a ‘lively’ family. All you really have to say is, it’s an Irish household [laughs]. It was mayhem because I lived on a housing estate so people just came in and out of the house all the time. As a kid I told my sister once that the grease behind the cooker – you know how it gathers on the wall behind it – well I told her that was how my mum made caramel. So she put her finger on it and ate it.’
On being a stand-up
‘I still don’t think I belong. I didn’t go pursuing this job, I had a job [working for a lighting company]. Comedy clubs just kept giving me gigs and I didn’t want them. But they kept telling me I was good at it so they all pushed me and so I kept going. I was always destined to do stand-up without even knowing it.’
On why comedy suits him
‘I could never do a desk job. A lot of comics can see through humans like X-ray machines. So we can’t stand in front of a boss, because we know what they’re trying to do. We literally look at them and think, “You’re saying that because of this, and you are doing that because of this”. And so on… so we tell them, “You can just get lost”. I think comedians make really good bosses, we are good at controlling crowds. We have to be in control because we never do what we are told.’
‘People who know me would say that I don’t crave attention at all [laughs]. I don’t give a toss. I just love doing stand-up and I have a really good connection with the crowd. We all become like one unit in my shows.’
‘I don’t care what other comics say.
I mean, one of my favourite shows is Family Guy and that is horrendous carry-on. The stuff that they get up to. I think people these days get offended too easily. Years ago, offending people in comedy was kind of the thing you did.’
‘Everything in Dubai is the biggest in the world. All you have to do is say, “Bla bla… biggest in the world”. It’s a city that’s obsessed with being bigger.’
Dhs120. Thu April 23, 9pm. The Baggot at McGettigan’s JLT, Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Cluster J, JLT (04 378 0800).