Ed Byrne - pic credit Roslyn Gaunt
Comedian Ed Byrne has been making us laugh for more than 20 years both on stage and on TV shows such as Mock The Week.
The Dublin-born father of two is well known for his genial manner with a delightful bonhomie that has endeared him to millions.
So it comes as somewhat of a shock to see him suited and booted whilst brandishing a chainsaw. Fortunately it transpires he’s not branching out to play the villain in the new James Bond film but rather it’s part of the promotional material for the second leg of his latest tour.
Entitled Spoiler Alert it sees Ed bring his unique blend of gentle wit and observational humour to audiences across the country including Bromley’s Churchill Theatre on April 10 and Wimbledon Theatre on April 21.
In a chat ahead of the gigs he tells me the premis of the show will be exploring the thin line between righteous complaining and brat like whining.
“It’s the little things in life,” he muses. “Do we have too much choice and why are things so much easier these days? It makes us lazy - why do we now start a car by pressing a button? What’s wrong with turning a key for goodness sake!
“Then there are the days when the online banking is down so I can’t pay the bills, or when Netflix doesn’t work, or when the room isn’t ready in my hotel.
“It’s about me asking if we are right to be fed up or are we spoiled? And on the flip side whether we are not spoiled enough, which I would suggest in terms of politics we aren’t and so should act a bit more entitled.
“It’s a bit more flippant than what I normally do and a bit more complainey.”
To his credit Ed admits he may be part of the problem, and within the act he references his children who he acknowledges have much more than he did when he was a child.
“Of course the other side is how I’m contributing to it all,” he says. “I compare my own childhood with that of my children and I realise I’m totally spoiling them.
“I grew up in the 1970s and 80s in an aspirational but working class background whereas my kids are resoundingly middle class.
“It’s not so much about them complaining when the iPad has run out of charge or they’ve had their allotted time on it as that’s progress and I’m happy for them to have these things. But it’s when they ask for stuff that I’ve never heard of - like elderflower cordial and pesto - how do they even know about these things!” he asks in mock astonishment.
As well as anecdotes about his two sons, Ed’s routine includes a neat way of bringing Brexit into the conversation.
He tells the story about the time one of his sons wanted to touch an electric fence while Ed was warning him of the dangers of doing so.
“It occurred to me that it was a bit like the Brexit decision,” he says. “I couldn’t not reference Brexit but at the same time it’s a very divisive subject and you never know how an audience will react. Just like the electric fence, we were all told what a terrible idea Brexit was but people went and voted for it anyway.”
Spoiler Alert started life at the Edinburgh Fringe last year where it won critical acclaim. Ed then took it out on the road for a few months before a well-earned Christmas break. Now refreshed and on the road again, I ask if it’s evolved since the early days.
“Oh yes,” he says. “I’m constantly tweaking and updating it. It also started out as a one hour show with a support act. Then it was about an hour and 15 and now with this second leg it’s just me on stage for about 90 to 100 minutes.
“It gets funnier too,” he adds with a chuckle.
“The stuff about Donald Trump, well that just grows and the punchlines just get better and better.
“Also, some jokes work better depending on where I am in the country of course. Agas go down better in more well healed spots whereas talking about how I spent my childhood sitting outside pubs eating crisps and drinking lemonade work better in others.”
Although he admits it can be tiring criss crossing the country he says he’s looking forward to bringing the show to South London. Indeed when I ask him about the two theatres he will be visiting he immediately consults his diary that is his constant companion when touring.
“This is the third tour where I have packed a diary,” he explains. “I like to be reminded of what the audiences were like, the theatre and the dressing room so I write notes after each show. Some places are more fun than others.
“Sometimes I rock up to a venue and it’s freezing cold and only 60 per cent of the tickets have been sold and I grumble about it, but when I look in my notes I find the audience last time was brilliant.”
So what about Bromley and Wimbledon? After some frantic flicking through his oracle he tells me he’s got fond memories of Wimbledon but admits he can’t find a reference to Bromley.
“I am going to assume I said nice things about Bromley because otherwise I wouldn’t be coming back!” he laughs.
“Wimbledon was lovely last time I was here so I imagine we will have fun in both places.”
Stand up he adds is where he feels most at home.
“I am myself on stage,” he says. “I feel in control in front of an audience and it’s a great feeling when you walk out on stage.
“TV is great but it’s about reminding myself that I’m still alive. TV is also heavily edited which I don’t have control of whereas the stand up show is just me and the audience.
“There is nothing like it and I try and tour every two years or so although the downside is being away from home quite a bit. On balance though over the course of the year I see more of my family than many of those who work a 9 to 5 job - some only see their kids at weekends so I can’t really complain.
“With any tour I have to do a photo to publicise it - but I never have any idea at that point what the show will be about. This time I wanted to do a homage to Very Bad Things, a film with Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz, so that’s why this one features me with a dinner suit and a chainsaw - which is mine by the way.
“It’s a sign of my moving into the middle class,” he chuckles. “I’m not really channeling my inner James Bond… but it looks good!”
Ed Byrne, Spoiler Alert, is on at the Churchill Theatre Bromley on Tuesday, April 10 and at Wimbledon Theatre on Saturday, April 21. Call Bromley 020 3285 6000 or Wimbledon 0844 871 7646 for tickets.