Highly acclaimed comedian Jason Byrne talks to Cornfield Magazine’s Content Editor about his upcoming UK tour The Man With Three Brains - featuring an inside look into performing at the Edinburgh Fringe, how to handle cringe-worthy heckles and what life is really like being hilarious, full-time. 

Words by Evie Kissack

As always, critics and audiences alike hugely praised Jason Byrne’s stand-up comedy show at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Jason’s 22nd year performing at the Fringe was once again a knockout, confirming his celebrated reputation as the king of live comedy. I caught up with Jason ahead of his UK tour, chatting about how the Fringe has become ingrained into his yearly schedule and discussing the many burdens of being blessed with such an impressively quick-wit. 

So how are you? I’ve heard you’ve been at the Edinburgh Fringe this week?

Well, being at the Edinburgh Fringe this week sounds like you’ve dropped in and had a look around. I’ve been at the Fringe since the 1st of f****** August and I leave on the 28th! I gig every night. But listen, I’ve been here for 22 years and I’m just waiting for the audience to go away so I don’t have to do it anymore. 

I actually feel institutionalised to the Fringe because without it I don’t know what I would do! My routine basically goes January, February, March, April, May, June, July, Edinburgh, September. I don’t remember what it would be like sitting at home looking at the garden instead, but I’m sure I would just feel odd.

(After problems with the telephone connection, Jason answered my returning call with an impression of Pixar’s Wall-E calling out “Evieeee”. I hope this is how everyone greets me from now on.)

And we’re back… 

Have you seen the film Wall-E?

I have! Great film. So I wanted to talk about your new show The Man With Three Brains, I know it features a lot of improvisation, written stand up and audience participation as well. Is interaction with the crowd an important feature in your gigs?

Some nights I wish it wasn’t because I go out and don’t want to talk to anybody. It’s like the way you and me are talking right now - sometimes I go off on a tangent. My brain never stops. I have to constantly entertain it. Even when I’m doing stand up sketches, the improv part of my brain is literally going “Do something else!”

In your last tour Propped Up, you used some bizarre and hilarious props. Can we expect any weird and wonderful objects in your new tour?

Well I have a new magic trick, and it’s so bad. It’s supposed to be bad though! I’ve gone for a magic trick called metamorphosis - that’s where the magician stands on a box and an assistant gets inside the box and a cloth is dropped and they change places within seconds, have you ever seen that?

Yeah, I know the one!

So, I do that with the punters and it’s so f****** funny. We’ve had the box fall apart too. I got one guy the other night who was 6“7 and I didn’t realise he was so big and when he got on stage he didn’t fit in the box so the whole thing fell apart…

How do you find long-haul tours? For your upcoming tour you have 37 different dates and many on consecutive nights – is that something you find creatively demanding?

The thing that’s demanding for me is that I have to dip into the culture of a town and each audience is very oddly jealous of other audiences – they want to know that you’ve made the effort in their town the most. So I have to do that 37 times. Other comics would go on, tell their stories and go off…but I’ve learnt over the years that audiences do like to make a connection and want to see a bit of effort from the comic.

Different audiences must react in different ways too – what’s been the best heckle you’ve ever had?

Well I wonder if this was even a heckle? You won’t be able to publish this…

I had these Deal or No Deal-type boxes on stage for hecklers and they were all numbered and had a (very rude word) printed on the inside and I’d ask the heckler to pick a number, lift the lid, and there you go. So one guy was annoying me in Sterling and I kept flipping the lid at him throughout the gig. He looked at me and said “I don’t know what you’re saying” and I thought he was just taking the mickey out of my accent. Turns out he was actually deaf, and needed to lip-read what I was saying. I didn’t realise the whole show. At the end he said to me “I was wondering why you were calling me a (very rude word) all evening!”

His first line on the night was “Sorry I don’t have my Irish hearing aid in” and we just thought he was being a d***. But he genuinely meant it. So I opened the box towards myself a few times, to keep him happy. That was a hell of a show.

It’s been a really busy few years for you! In-between writing new material you’ve co-hosted TV shows and created a new series for Dave – when you’re not working what can you be found doing?

Serial killer. Comedians make great serial killers; we are always out at night and always have an alibi. 

I actually train a lot, and run and stuff. I have a trainer, as my show is quite physical. I have to be constantly doing something – so I go out and cycle. My trainer teaches me a thing called ‘Body Flow’ which is hilarious; it’s like really hard yoga. So basically try it if you want to lose your temper in a real intense, quiet way. But I do this to avoid any major injury because I’m always jumping around on stage. 

Your stand up is so energetic! Keeping active must be really important.

If you’re fit you’re more awake and if you’re more awake you’re brain has more stuff going on and you can write more and do more gigs. The stress is that we have to keep coming up with new stuff. Us comedians are looking at bands thinking ‘f*** off bands’ because they have songs for years whilst people come back to us only a year later and go “Oh no I think I heard that before, can you do something different”. These are routines that we’ve worked on and written – they’re like songs. They have beats, lyrics, have to be said in a certain way, and order. And people just say “Yeah you can put that in the bin”. Imagine if people did that to the Beatles – “Come on John, we’ve heard that before!”

Where do you draw inspiration for your material?

Stupid s*** happening all day – that’s what I use. Basically as a comic (and god help our families) no matter what they do we just take it and bring it on stage. Comedians are able to exaggerate life, ham it up and as I said, make it into a song. 

Do you think your Irish upbringing has had a big influence on your comedy? 

What helped me was my bad upbringing. My parents were out socialising all the time and we had to look after ourselves and that’s where I got my confidence from – we were injected with masses of confidence because you had to have confidence to survive. I listened to my uncles and my dad telling stories, and with Irish people it’s their job to make people laugh. Constant f****** madness. Although, you have to be funny as well…you can’t just come on stage and say “Hey I’m Irish!”

If you could sum up your new tour in 3 words for our readers, what would they be?

Total utter madness.                                           

Jason will be heading to Birmingham Town Hall Friday 3rd November. For tickets visit www.ticketmaster.co.uk or www.jasonbyrne.ie.

Trust me, it’ll be the best £19.50 you ever spend.


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