Ed Byrne digresses from his main subject matter in this show, a reflection on the death of his younger brother Paul, who directed live comedy shows, including many that took place at the Fringe. But he feels he has to, because one can’t talk about bereavement and nothing else for an hour and call it a comedy show. At last year’s Fringe I saw Sarah Keyworth’s show, Lost Boy, which was also about Paul Byrne, but it was nonetheless interesting to hear from someone who was even closer to him than any of the acts he directed and supported.
Paul died of liver failure, and as Byrne puts it, “there was a fair amount of user error” involved. Now, he won’t like this, having torn into a five-star review in a different publication that described him as “sprightly”, but I can see where that reviewer is coming from. He’s fifty-one, but I only know that because he said so, and he does indeed move around the stage like a man in his twenties, with seemingly boundless energy.
His systematic takedown of Covid deniers and conspiracy theorists is so good that I find myself very strongly resisting the urge to regurgitate his punchlines. I also count myself amongst those who have heard sufficient comedy material from him about parenting and family life, and a complete change of topics was hugely refreshing. He can’t resist, however, a few periodically name-dropping them – as uncle Paul was so busy, he wasn’t exactly a huge presence in Ed Byrne’s children’s lives, so him dying before his time wasn’t as horrifying traumatic on them as it might have been.
The takeaway message is that it is worth keeping lines of communication open with people we know and love, because we just never know if a quick catch-up with someone could well be our last. A full range of human emotions, from rage to dark humour to poignancy, and back again, is felt during this magnificent comedy hour in which there was never a dull nanosecond. Ed Byrne has already succeeded in his aim of getting people to reconnect (for twelve out of Paul’s last sixteen months, the brothers weren’t on speaking terms) – as we were filing out of the venue, I heard someone say, “I need to call my mum”. And I don’t think it was to give them a lift.
Review by Chris Omaweng
From the quote attributed to Mark Twain, humour is defined as Tragedy Plus Time. Come and join one of our leading laugh specialists as he tests that formula by mining the most tragic event in his life for laughs.
TRAGEDY PLUS TIME
Music Hall- Assembly George Street, 54 George Street, EH2 2LR
DATES: Thurs 3rd – Sun 27th August
https://edbyrne.com / TWITTER: @MrEdByrne
Ed Byrne: Tragedy Plus Time at Granville Theatre on Sunday 19th May 2024 at 19:30.