Ed Byrne says he’s a miserable old git. He didn’t celebrate his 40th birthday last year and his new show, Roaring Forties, is partly about the many things in life that annoy him.
However, in the flesh he’s smart and funny. And, as for being a party pooper... Well, not really. He’s planning a celebration in November when his tour reaches Glasgow, the city where his career began 20 years ago after he had studied horticulture at the University of Strathclyde.
The Irish observational comic, who grew up in Dublin, started re-evaluating his life after that landmark birthday, as you do, and it gave him the idea for Roaring Forties, which is his trademark mix of one-liners and extended anecdotes, and covers a range of subjects from fatherhood and friendships to vasectomies and driving-awareness courses.
“It’s about getting older,” Ed said, “about being at an age where you’re not really old but no one thinks you’re trendy anymore.”
Ed, who lives in Essex, has embraced middle age and reached the conclusion that, on the whole, people annoy him.
“It’s like a spring-clean of my life,” he said, “I’ve come up with reasons why you can’t be my friend. There are seven billion people on the planet and I only have the time to be friends with 10 of them and so I have to choose carefully.”
What are his rules?
“It’s the little things that annoy me,” he added. Such as? “People who don’t indicate on roundabouts, people who uses the phrase ‘Touched a nerve there’ or ‘I’m just making conversation’...” The list runs on.
Being the married with two young sons (with his publicist wife, Claire) has given him lots of new things to talk about on stage, but do Claire and his family, who often appear in his material, ever object?
“It’s something most comics experience,” Ed replies. “People know what you do for a living and then they complain when you mention them in the act. I’ve certainly had at least one girlfriend in the past who objected.
“As for the kids, any stuff I do about them, I seriously doubt in years to come they’ll hate me for and make me pay for their therapy,” he said with a laugh.
As he is about to mark 20 years in the business, has he noticed any differences in his performances over that time?
“One thing that has changed is that I now don’t pretend to think something for the sake of a joke. I mean there’s always comic exaggeration and embroidering a story to make it funnier, but it’s more true to my life now.”
His fan base is, he says, “pretty broad” – people of his own age and above, teenagers who know him from Mock the Week, and those drawn by his TV ads and occasional acting roles.
Ed may do more acting as he has some ideas bubbling away for a sitcom – no doubt one about a miserable middle-aged git. Who knows if we’ll lose him to TV? Catch him live while you can.