I challenge you to find a performer in Edinburgh with a more infectious personality than Ed Byrne. The show begins with a brilliantly Chaucerian take on the comedian’s time-honoured ‘welcome to stage’ introduction, delivered entirely in rhyme, and Byrne bounds on stage with the energy of a man thirty years his junior.
He tells us that he has been performing at the Fringe for twenty-six years and confesses to us that, despite initially believing that he would be less driven to perform after the birth of his two sons, he now needs this ‘more than ever’. If I’m Honest is a touching, acerbic and energetic tribute to his children, an ode to fatherhood and reflection on what he can pass on to them.
“Byrne is a comedian par excellence”
In particular, Byrne meditates on the complicated love parents have for their children, musing on ‘the feedback loop of hatred’ which emerges when a parent realises that what annoys them most about their offspring is indicative of their own personality traits. ‘Self-hatred flows through me like the fucking waters of Leith’ he quips at one point, with that trademark brand of biting humour which yet possesses a feather light touch.
The Dublin-born Byrne revels in Celtic gallows humour, joking about the pointlessness of buying elaborate gifts for elderly relatives, and shares a number of personal stories that have bled into his stand-up tours, such as a Norwegian crowd’s delight upon hearing that his youngest son is named Magnus. ‘They’d forged my axe in the car park’ he remarks, and this blend of mundane reality and surreal fantasy informs the latter part of the show, which strays into pop culture-influenced territory.
Byrne delivers a withering takedown of apocalyptic action film Mad Max: Fury Road worthy of Honest Trailers and, more importantly, the complaints of men’s rights activists which engulfed the movie, thanks to its prioritisation of a female character over the titular Max. He also appears to take an extended tangent – a favourite feature of Byrne’s stand-up routine – to remind us about Liam Neeson’s racist remarks and muses that, due to the constant news flow of scandals, it is too easy to forgive and forget utterances such as those which Neeson made about ‘black bastards’.
The show concludes with a shift away from Byrne’s hyperactive, technicolour approach to stand-up, which has had the audience grinning from ear to ear. He states simply and beautifully that ‘these boys are my world’ and reminds us of the central theme at the core of this show. Byrne is a comedian par excellence who remains at the top of his game and there are few who can match his energy levels and ability to engage directly with an audience in the manner of the very best entertainers.
Ed Byrne: If I’m Honest is running at the Assembly Rooms – Music Hall at 21:00 until Sunday 25th August.
Image: Idil Sukan