Molly Stewart

Latitude Festival comedy review: Jason Byrne

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Jason Byrne bulleted through a visual gag-heavy forty five minute set, that featured a solid fifteen minutes with five amazingly precocious children, to an audience that no longer seemed to care how hot or dusty they were, as long as they were laughing: which they very much were.

Who cared if the children were precocious? They were laughing too.

Someone recently pressed on me that Byrne is someone to see live to fully appreciate. This makes sense: Byrne’s wildly energetic audience interaction can, on a screen, seem exclusive and confusion. With any stand-up who chooses build a show around bulging physicality on-stage and frequent ad-libbing with the crowd automatically prevents their comedy from being fully accessible to a television audience.

Byrne does excel with a crowd, and seemingly especially with a festival crowd – there are multiple audience members who feature as recurring references in his reactions to the festival around him.

There are a few occasions that seem to run on perhaps overly familiar tropes that belong to comedians making jokes about hack comedians, namely the standard The Wife/No Sex/Bad Moods classic. It seems slightly lazy, in particular coming from such an established act (though perversely they seem to be the ones getting away with it). However, with anecdotal comedy, what’s true is true (if it is true – and good comedy isn’t necessarily exclusive to the truth); and Byrne’s stories about where his tea is and his wife’s pyjamas get big laughs. To be fair, these are stories in which he comes across fairly badly on purpose; but perhaps it’s a little dull.

His animated delivery isn’t dull, however; and his penchant for exaggerated walks and flailing around finds laughs almost without trying to. For how boisterously physical Byrne can get on stage, he manages to stop short of being giddy, or even necessarily particularly likable. He’s almost darkly childish, which I like a lot.

So, it’s true that Jason Byrne is a live comedian – and we should all keep supporting live comedy, famously. More so, his bounding on-stage persona would perhaps fit better even in a smaller tent than in the Comedy Arena: Byrne more than commands the space, but if seeing his live is so much better, seeing him perform to a tightly packed intimate audience might be the ultimate win.

Date of live review: Sunday 19 July 2015 @ Henham Park, Suffolk.