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Theatre Review – Ed Byrne: Tragedy Plus Time

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Imagine for a minute that you are in an awful situation. How awful? How about switching off the life support for your younger brother.  This would be the brother who, a little over a year earlier, you had had a stupid argument with and not spoken to for half of that year. The argument was, indeed, stupid (whether to use Google Maps or Apple Maps on your phone’s satnav) and it was only your brother getting so severely ill that you knew there wasn’t a lot of time left to reconcile. To make it worse you are there with your mother who has to watch her youngest child die. 

So you are in an unbelievably awful situation like that…now turn that story into an hour long comedy routine. Impossible? Not for Ed Byrne. The Tragedy Plus Time show is, obviously, based on the Mark Twain aphorism that humour is tragedy plus time and how we can find the funny side of most situations given long enough to reflect and recuperate. I suppose it helps that Ed’s brother, Paul, also worked in the comedy business and would have approved of the show; he had, after all, arranged to have The Trammps’ hit Disco Inferno (Burn Baby Burn) played as his coffin went off to be cremated.  The man had style!

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I Have Two Boys, Five And Six…

This evening we made a night of it with old style fish and chips…eaten from the paper while sitting on the prom before we turned up and took our usual seats. I knew it would be a good show as I’ve never seen Ed Byrne manage to not be funny. Admittedly I’ve only ever seen him on comedy panels shows but he was always reliably funny. The lights dimmed and he bounced onto the stage full of vim, vigour, impish panache, and not in the slightest bit sprightly. I’ve included that last bit on the off chance that he gets to read this; it’ll make bugger all sense to anyone else! This surprised me a bit. 

Usually a stand up comedian will have a support act; partly to pad out the evening and partly to act as a warm up for the headliner. But no, Ed Byrne himself came out and did a ten minute introduction to the show and his support. Make no mistake he is funny. Straight off the mark he was getting laughs…big laughs! I felt a bit sorry for Sam See having to come on and do half an hour after that. But he did, and he was good. I’d never heard of Sam See before but that’s not too surprising seeing as how he is a Singaporean stand up who is just starting to perform over here. Regardless, he was funny and saw us through to the interval.

…We’re No Good At Naming Things In Our House

After the interval it was into the reason we were all there… Ed Byrne: Tragedy Plus Time. As I said, I’ve never seen Ed Byrne doing anything other than panel shows before and wasn’t sure what to expect from his show. I’ll be honest though, it wasn’t what I had been expecting! Previous stand up shows I’d been to had been made up of a continuous stream of jokes. Some, like Gary Delaney, are renowned for their one liners; he can deliver around 200 jokes in an hour. This show started with Ed mentioning that Mark Twain said that humour is tragedy plus time. When something bad happens it hurts at first but eventually you can laugh about it.

The worse it is, the longer it might take. To make this point he talked for a bit about his car being broken into. But then for an hour he talked about when, in February 2022, his younger brother died of liver failure and he and his mother were at his side. This led up to the darkest joke he’s ever told. All this sounds desperately grim but he had the entire theatre in stitches. An Irish comedian from the seventies called Frank Carson used to say “It’s the way I tell ‘em” and that came across tonight. This shouldn’t have been funny but it was. Both funny and heartwarming. The show is touring until December this year, if you get the chance go and see it.

Grade: A+

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