Comedian Ed Byrne on gender politics and how his children have changed his act - plus all the venues and dates for his If I'm Honest tour
A TV household name, Ed has been seen on pretty much every TV program in the UK including Mock The Week, Top Gear, Have I Got News For You, The Graham Norton Show, Live At The Apollo (Host), The One Show, The World’s Most Dangerous Roads, Dara & Ed’s Big Adventure, Dara and Ed’s Road to Mandalay and most recently QI and The Pilgrimage.
A household name teetering on the brink of national treasure status, award-winning comedian Ed Byrne enjoys worldwide acclaim for his stand-up. With 25 years under his belt, Ed has parlayed his on-stage success into a variety of notable television appearances.
A regular on Mock The Week and The Graham Norton Show, Ed has recently co-presented Dara & Ed’s Big Adventure and its follow-up Dara & Ed’s Road To Mandalay, and managed not to disgrace himself on Top Gear or whilst tackling one of The World’s Most Dangerous Roads. As a semi-professional hill-walker himself and fully paid-up humanist, he also brought a refreshing warmth and honesty to BBC2’s recent hit The Pilgrimage.
But the Irishman is still best-known and best appreciated for his stand-up performances. A quarter of a century at the comedic coal-face has equipped Ed with a highly evolved story-telling ability and a silky mastery of his craft. Yet his wit, charm and self-deprecatory observational humour is often underpinned by a consistently hilarious vitriol and sense of injustice at a world that seems to be spinning ever more rapidly out of control.
Having recently hit a new peak with shows such as the sublime Spoiler Alert and reflective Outside, Looking In, which explored the minefield that is modern parenting and a generational sense of entitlement, Ed’s new show If I’m Honest digs ever deeper into a father’s sense of responsibility, what it means to be a man in 2019, and whether he possesses any qualities whatsoever worth passing on to his two sons. Occasionally accused of whimsy, If I’m Honest is a show with a seriously steely core.
Gender politics, for example, is something Ed readily engages with – deploying his customary comedic zeal.
"I’ll admit that there are things where men get a raw deal," he said. "We have higher suicide rates, and we tend not to do well in divorces, but representation in action movies is not something we have an issue with. It was Mad Max: Fury Road that kicked it all off, even though nobody complained about Ripley in Alien or Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. Of course, social media means this stuff gets broadcast far and wide in an instant, which emboldens people.
"The problem with men’s rights activists is that it’s not about speaking up for men’s rights, it’s about hating women. If you’re a men’s rights activist, you’re not going to care about the fact that there’s an all-female Ghostbusters remake. That’s nothing to do with men’s rights or female entitlement. That’s everything to do with being, well, a whiny baby."
As ever, Ed manages to provoke without being overly polemical, a balancing act that only someone of his huge experience can really pull off.
"I did stuff about Trump and the Pizzagate right wing conspiracy," he said, "and a couple of the reviewers said, “Oh, I would have liked to have watched a whole show of this”. And I think, ‘well you might have, but the average person who comes to see me would not like to see that’.
"I like to make a point or get something off my chest, or perhaps I’m talking about something that’s been on my mind, but the majority of stuff is just to get laughs.
"People who come to see me are not political activists necessarily, they’re regular folk. If you can make a point to them, in between talking about your struggles with aging, or discussing your hernia operation or whatever it is, you can toss in something that does give people pause as regards to how men should share the household chores.
"It’s not that I feel a responsibility, I think it just feels more satisfying when you’re doing it, and it feels more satisfying when people hear it. When a joke makes a good point, I think people enjoy it. It’s the difference between having a steak and eating a chocolate bar."
Ed, who broke through in the mid-1990s when the New Lad became a genuine cultural phenomenon, doesn’t want to submit to any unnecessary revisionism, but admits that if the times have changed, he has changed with them.
The new show also takes his natural tendency towards self-deprecation to unexpected extremes.
"I do genuinely annoy myself,’ Ed conceded. "But the thing of your children being a reflection of you, gives you an opportunity to build something out of the best of yourself only for you to then see flashes of the worst of yourself in them. It’s a wake-up call about your own behaviour."
Friday 11: Dunfermline, Alhambra Theatre
Saturday 12: Aberdeen Music Hall
Sunday 13: Inverness, Eden Court
Wednesday 16: Wimborne, Tivoli Theatre
Friday 18: Bridport Electric Palace
Saturday 19: Torquay, Babbacombe Theatre
Sunday 20: Bristol, Redgrave Theatre
Wednesday 23: The Camberley Theatre
Saturday 26: Cardiff, St David's Hall
Monday 28: The Courtyard - Herefordshire's Centre for the Arts
Thursday 31: Douglas, Villa Marina & Gaiety Theatre Complex
Friday 1: Dudley Town Hall
Saturday 2: Bromley, Churchill Theatre
Friday 8: Barnsley, The Civic
Wednesday 13: Hull City Hall
Thursday 21: Redhill, Harlequin Theatre
April 24: Blackpool, Grand Theatre
April 26: Northampton, Royal & Derngate Theatre
April 29: Redditch, Palace Theatre
Sunday 8: Bournemouth Pavilion
Tuesday 10: Billingham Forum Theatre
Thursday 12: Port Talbot, Princess Royal Theatre
Tuesday 17: Crawley, Hawth Theatre
Wednesday 18: Hastings, The White Rock Theatre
Thursday 19: Lowestoft, The Marina Theatre & Cinema
Saturday 21: Basingstoke, Anvil Arts
Wednesday 25: Sheffield City Hall and Memorial Hall
Friday 27: Bradford, St George's Hall
Wednesday 8: Hexham, Queens Hall Arts Centre
Thursday 9: Blackburn, King George's Hall
Friday 10: Scunthorpe, Baths Hall
Saturday 11: Walsall Arena & Arts Centre
Sunday 12: Leamington Spa, Royal Spa Centre
Wednesday 15: Telford, Oakengates Theatre (The Place)
Thursday 16: Crewe, Lyceum Theatre
Saturday 18: Bolton, The Albert Halls
Thursday 23: Blackwood Miners' Institute
Friday 24: Weston-super-Mare, The Playhouse Theatre
Wednesday 6: Croydon, Fairfield Halls
Thursday 7: Hayes, Beck Theatre
Saturday 9: Fleetwood, The Marine Hall
Wednesday 13: Dunstable, Grove Theatre
Thursday 14: Harrogate Theatre