Why funnyman Jason Byrne loves comedy festival

Jason Byrne is at Southport Comedy Festival
Jason Byrne is at Southport Comedy Festival
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Irish comedian’s Jason Byrne's Man With Three Brains show is set to rock Southport Comedy Festival and he tells MALCOLM WYATT he can’t wait to be back in the north west

When I tracked down Jason Byrne, he was on his way back across the Irish border towards his Dublin base, telling me ‘you’re interviewing me in two countries’.

I was lucky to get him, with so many live and TV engagements. In fact, he’s so often across the Irish Sea he reckons it might be easier to live here.

“I could have lived in Britain, could have lived in Scotland, could have lived in f**** France. Comics live in France and fly in at the weekend to do the Comedy Store, then back to France. How good is that?”

He was at Croke Park recently, wearing his Dublin jersey, supporting his Gaelic football side, who saw off rivals Mayo for a third successive All-Ireland Final win.

“That’s a sore point. I was at Croke Park, but beforehand, doing a charity gig. That night I had to fly out and do Sunday ‘Bloody’ Brunch on Channel 4!

“I’m flying over, and who’s going the other way? John Bishop! ‘John, you don’t even know GAA’.

“The plane landed in Dublin and I could just hear everyone around me going, ‘Yeah!’”

You’ll know Jason from Live at the Apollo (BBC1), The John Bishop Show (BBC1), Father Figure (BBC1) or maybe his award-winning BBC Radio 2 show, a comedy chat show in Ireland, Sky’s Wild Things, or a past role on Father Ted. More recently he landed Ireland’s Got Talent and Dave show, Don’t Say it, Bring It.

“I got loads of congratulations for the new shows from family, friends and colleagues, then got a text from my wife, and all it said was, ‘You could have put that f**** bin out before you left’.”

His long-suffering wife gets mentioned a lot. How does she put up with it?

“I’ve a fictional wife and my real wife. They kind of cross over. A lot of stories definitely come out of my wife. I just jazz it up.

“People say, ‘She doesn’t look like your wife. I imagined this very stout woman with really bad hair, waving her fingers’. But she comes out with some cracking lines.”

Is he looking forward to his Southport Comedy Festival return?

“That’s a great craic. A lot of time I’ll have a show in my head, and think I’ve got to do that and do this. At Southport I manage to get the whole gig and throw it out of the window!

“It’s too much fun talking to them. And they heckle … in a nice way. It’s one of those gigs I don’t have to worry about. It’s very much, ‘Off you go, Jason, let’s see what happens in the next two hours’.”

The show’s called The Man With Three Brains. What’s that about?

“You have to name a show in January that’s not even written so they can put it in the brochure at Edinburgh. Someone said it looks like I’ve got three different heads on my shoulders when I’m up there, because I do a lot of improv.

“Someone said, ‘You don’t have three brains, just different streams of consciousness’. I said, ‘I’m not putting that on a poster! No one will go!’”

While Jason’s at the Ramada Plaza, Robin Ince’s at the Little Theatre, Hoghton Street with his Pragmatic Sanity show, his first new stand-up show in three years.

It’s described as a ‘joyous romp through his favourite artists and strangest scientific ideas’ in a set ‘fizzing with ideas about creativity in science and art’, following his 70-date tour with Professor Brian Cox, with more dates to come in Australia.

You may know him from award-winning BBC Radio 4 show Infinite Monkey Cage and ‘psychological profiling’ stints on Steve Lamacq’s BBC 6 Music show.

He was off to the Tate Modern when we spoke, saying, ‘My life’s filled with strange opportunities, very few of them in any way financially viable’. How do Brian Cox and further occasional stage partner Josie Long compare?

“Well, I don’t have to interrupt Josie because I think the audience are no longer understanding her. As long as you have your ego under control … it’s the antithesis of the Mick Fleetwood/Samantha Fox Brits relationship. You can get away with impromptu if you’re united by fascination.

“Brian is far smarter than me but we’re united by certain kinds of philosophical ideas about how the earth should be.”

And his solo shows?

“I get quite a broad audience. People imagine a Radio 4 audience - people who’ve just taken off their Marigolds and mowed their croquet lawns, but I get a lot of teenagers in the audience and quite a few elderly people.

“And I happen to like most of my audience.

“I love Southport – so interesting. I first went there for the Lawnmower Museum, doing a piece for the Richard and Judy show. Those sort of seaside towns have an interesting history when you scrape the surface.”

* Jason Byrne is at Ramada Plaza Hotel, Southport Promenade on October 18. Tickets are priced £16.50 from www.southportcomedyfestival.com