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?”
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.
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.