Byrne’s ageing process is a lesson in comedy

It may be a break with convention but Ed Byrne marched on stage at the Clickimin on Saturday to warm-up for his support act.

Unconventional yes, but it worked a treat as he mocked those in the crowd who had seen him before the show and not recognised him, and then forgave anyone for looking at him and thinking, “isn’t that the woman who went down for taking Chris Huhne’s speeding points?”

Ed Byrne gives his verdict on hitting 40. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Ed Byrne gives his verdict on hitting 40. Photo: Dave Donaldson

That introduction offered assurances that Byrne had lost neither his observational nor his self deprecatory humour since his last visit to Shetland.

But the real lesson in comedy was on the rule of three. The rule goes that two characters set a pattern only for the third to ridiculously break it. Think Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman gags. Byrne’s example included three ducks Huey, Lewie and … Puddles (the first two spent the day jumping in poor old Puddles).

If that was the first lesson, the rest of the course came from watching Byrne and support act Tiff Stevenson in action. The gig was part of Byrne’s Roaring Forties tour and the ageing theme ran through both acts.

I’d not been aware of Stevenson before the night, but she impressed enough that I, and plenty of others, left with one of her £5 CDs.

Early on she laughed about the “mixed ability crowd” (those who owned up to being working class and those who feared it), claimed that culture was something “that comes in a yoghurt pot” and hailed the virtues of Tesco’s Everyday vodka – the emphasis being on every day.

It was a clever performance sprinkled with references to a working class stereotype despite the fact that she now lives in a “bijou apartment”. But Stevenson was not afraid of delving into controversial territory with routines about suicide attempts and abortion, proving that humour can be found in the darkest of subject matters.

Tiff Stevenson's clever performance was well received. Photo: Dave Donaldson
Tiff Stevenson’s clever performance was well received. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Add to that some gentle ribbing of 17-year-old Drew on the front row and his “three haircuts on one head”. If that didn’t leave him blushing the announcement later that “I think I have given Drew an erection,” surely did.

When Byrne returned to the stage post-interval in his glossy suit it was back to the ageing process and the self deprecation. “I’m going to lose muscle definition,” he says before adding with a shrug, “you don’t miss what you never had.” And he endears himself to the Clickimin crowd with the line “I’m not a sporty person; just being in a gym is freaking me out”.

With sport in mind Byrne turns his eye to skiing, Olympic medallists (Rebecca Adlington in particular) and diving. It’s good stuff and the laughs are regular if not spectacular.

But the night really picks up when Byrne turns to comedy favourites like medical complaints politics and sex (albeit disguised as a family planning routine).

On the first he says a hernia is “your guts going for a party with your balls”.

On politics his rant about George Osborne is brilliant and the impression that taking austerity advice from the privileged chancellor is like “being told you need a liver transplant by Hannibal Lecter” touches home while his input to the independence debate is tailored to the crowd. “You all want to be part of Norway”.

The show reaches a crescendo as he tackles family planning starting with a Caesarean gag, takes in a 40-year-old’s erection that’s like a “squirrely beast”, and contraceptive methods.

The last routine was superb in its crudity and must have resonated with any parent in the room.

Byrne may have hit 40 but on this showing his comedy has come of age and there’s plenty of life in him yet.

Here’s hoping he’s happy to make a Shetland return.

Adam Civico


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • September 22nd, 2013 20:31

    Yet another big name act to play the clickimin. Now remind me again why did we build mareel? Oh yeah it was so the arty farty lot would have somewhere to drink strawberry lager and listen to crap poets slander Shetland shopkeepers.

  • Brydon Sinclair

    • September 23rd, 2013 9:30

    Ed Byrne was brilliant, as good as his first time in the isles (if not better). Laughing until my throat hurt and he just kept on going. It was a shame to see as many empty seats as there were though. Will be patiently waiting for his next trip to the isles!

  • Craig Birnie

    • September 23rd, 2013 10:22

    …and the pointless comment of the day award goes to Ali Inkster. Well done.

  • Ali Inkster

    • September 23rd, 2013 16:07

    I think you will find that it is mareel that is pointless when acts that are able to fill it to capacity choose to play at the clickimin.

  • ian tinkler

    • September 23rd, 2013 21:21

    Ali, those acts that haven’t yet made it, cut records at huge public expense in Mareel. I cannot find a single independent and intelligent positive review of anything recorded at Mareel, not even from the arty farty boys. Perhaps Craig knows better than us. Could be in time after another £13 million, some original Shetland talent will be found via Mareel. Otherwise look to the past, great music composed and performed pre dating “Shetland Arts” and the pretentious ones. Anyway good cinema, lousy bar and average café all for £14 million.

  • Colin Arthur

    • September 23rd, 2013 22:31

    2 of the best Shetland albums I’ve heard in ages were recorded in Mareel(Revellers and Wind Up Projectiles). Both were reviewed in the Shetland Times as far as I recall.

    Surely the event organiser chooses where to put on their event based on how many folk they expect. More folk expected = bigger venue = more cost to the organiser but more potential profit.

    Any chance you guys can make your points without slagging folk off?

  • Ali Inkster

    • September 23rd, 2013 23:05

    Have to disagree we you Ian, there has been at least one good album produced at mareel, but that’s irrelevant they are a talented group of lads and could of produced the album with the facilities already available in Shetland.

  • David Spence

    • September 24th, 2013 8:07

    Same old thing again and again, so might as well do the same.. As we all know, Mareel was never meant to replace Clickamin as the “Big Venue” for the Isles, but to provide (among many things) the mid-sized music venue so popular elsewhere yet glaringly missing here.

    But thats enough of rehashing what we have all known, literally, for decades.

    As for recordings, the ones I have heard have been excellent, as one would expect, but then I’m afraid I have this annoying tendancy to live in the real world. 🙂

  • ian tinkler

    • September 24th, 2013 10:19

    Ali, I was perhaps a little harsh. I still however have not read a review or heard anything remotely original from Mareel to compare with traditional Shetland music and artistry, which pre dates Mareel and “Shetland Arts”. Rather like the London South bank, of the 60s, millions of investment absolutely nothing original resulting. The great original music of that decade came from pubs, clubs and ghettos. The 1970s, perhaps one of the greatest times for UK original artistry owed absolutely nothing to the South Bank, BBC and career arties, the same is true of Shetland Arts highly expensive “professional and qualified promoters and PR, career arties, ”.

  • kim watt

    • September 24th, 2013 11:32

    i was at the gig on sat night and regardless of where it was held it was a brilliant gig once again really enjoyed both Ed Byrne and Tiff Stevenson. this article is about the artist not about where it was held. the organisers have done a wonderfull job again and hope there will be more comedians coming again. wether it is in Mareel or in the Clickamin i will be enjoying it no matter what. everybody needs to stop complaining about Mareel and enjoy what we cant change …

  • David Spence

    • September 24th, 2013 14:53

    I have to agree with Kim……..even if the Clickimin takes over from the Mareel as a venue, it doesn’t matter a jot as long as the people paying to see the act enjoy themselves, whether it be stand up comedy or music.

    Yes, Mareel was designed primarily as a venue where Shetland music, as well as other styles, could be be developed and grow as a place of learning and knowing the more technical side of music/film production and what is involved.

    I have always said the Mareel is a wonderful place in which to learn and enhance music, and should have been constructed years ago to promote, encourage and develop Shetland music.

    As a musician and video developer (documentaries and alike) I have used the facilities Mareel has at its disposal, and I cannot fault this at all…….albeit in some cases difficult to get access to the equipment due to it being booked prior……the staff at Mareel have been very helpful and cooperative in assisting me in doing my work.

    Although the Clickimin may takeover as a better venue due to it being a much larger place in which to hold the act, it does not and never takeover Mareel as a place in which to develop, encourage and teach music and what this means to Shetland and its people.


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