Ed Byrne is a man in search of small victories, and being rewarded with big laughs.
Playing his 90-minute set to a near-capacity audience at Norwich Theatre Royal, Byrne’s main focus is his family life, and the search to identify positive traits to pass on to his children.
That he apparently regards being able to tell a good a story as a minor one is an undersell: while some of the material is built around cultural references that might appear past their sell by date, it is – to borrow from a definitely dated Irish comedian – the way he tells them that matters most. References to the 1950s Superman TV series and the 2016 Ghostbusters remake are hardly cutting edge, but Byrne makes them work through cleverly crafted routines.
Sharper, literally, is his happiness at cutting himself with a knife because he had previously sharpened it from blunt, and his subtle influencing of his wife’s friends to ensure positive comparisons with their partners. He also explores his own self-destructive impulses, from his wreckless choice of passwords to the temptation to self-sabotage on live TV. Byrne’s ability to treat potentially dark topics with a lightness of touch is not to be underestimated.
His frequent use of the comic’s tool of setup and call back was heavily exposed after the interval thanks to a front-row audience member who was too late for the first half; poor Karen had so many apologies for missed references that Byrne offered her a refund.
His If I’m Honest tour runs through to July, with several stops back in East Anglia. My advice would be to go see it, and make sure you’re on time.
Ed Byrne plays the Bury St Edmunds Apex on February 11, Cambridge Corn Exchange on March 7, Ipswich Regent on May 16, and Harlow Playhouse on June 25.