Ed Byrne: ‘I find the idea of walking a long way very attractive’

Ed Byrne
Ed Byrne
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Irish funnyman Ed Byrne has been making people laugh for more than 20 years, ever since his first gig at Strathclyde University.

He recalls: ‘Working for the university gave me a feel for talking in front of crowds, hosting karaoke and pub quizzes and things like that.’

‘Then I ran for election for vice-president so that meant doing more speeches.

‘I didn’t think seriously about stand-up comedy until there was a guy I used to work with who was determined I was funny.

‘He used to write down funny things I’d say and present me with a list of them at the end of the month and go “Look! These are all the funny things you’ve said, you are funny enough to be a stand-up comic.”’

Ed adds: ‘At the time I did consider myself funny, but I had never thought of myself as stand-up comedy funny.’

Thanks to the dedicated approach of Ed’s first fan, the former horticulture student set up his own comedy night, The Comedy Cellar, in Glasgow and appeared in its opening show.

Ed’s observational comedy stylings developed and in 1998 he was nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Ed’s first live DVD, Pedantic and Whimsical, was released in 2006 and fans will not be surprised to discover which one of those qualities Ed identifies most closely with.

‘I’m definitely more pedantic than whimsical.

‘I’m very picky and I like to be precise.

‘A lot of my comedy comes from my Vulcan-like ruthless application of logic to a situation.

‘It makes me a very annoying person!’

A self-confessed ‘miserable old git’ since he was 23, Ed’s new tour Ed Byrne: Roaring Forties sees the comic getting to grips with middle age without the urge to buy a brand new sports car.

‘I don’t feel like I’m slowing down. There are a few jokes about getting old but I’m still very much a kid.

‘Really my shows, every time I do them, are just a precis of what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years.

‘Recently I have hit my 40s and there are a few other things that go along with that that I talk about.

‘There are probably four big subjects that come up in the show. I went for a vasectomy operation and didn’t have it done – the reason for that is revealed in the show. I’ve also had a hernia operation and been on a driver awareness course for speeding and I’ve had a second child.

‘It can be hard balancing work as a comedian with a family, but to be honest with you I have friends that work nine to five and I probably see my kids more than they do.

‘I’ll have stretches where I don’t see them for a few days, but by and large I get to spend more time with them than a nine-to-five dad.’

Having toured widely across countries such as America, Canada and France, Ed’s comedy career has also helped him to indulge some of his personal passions too.

‘I really like New Zealand, Wellington particularly. It’s a beautiful country and the audiences are great.

‘I’ve been to Australia quite a few times and really liked that too, but then you take a few years off from touring and you go back to Australia and they have forgotten you. But you can go back to New Zealand and they haven’t!’

‘I have also had the time to do some hiking in New Zealand just outside Napier and near the Taupo area and I spent some time hill walking in Arthur’s Pass outside Christchurch.

‘ I’d also like to walk Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Fuji and the Pacific Coast Trail along the west coast of America. There are a lot of long-distance hikes internationally that I’d like to do.

‘Britain is nice, particularly Scotland, but it’s not great for long-distance wilderness hikes because it’s just too small a country.

‘The idea of walking a long way, of being up high and looking into the distance and knowing that’s where you’re going, I really find that very attractive.’

Ed’s passion for the great outdoors has led to him writing a regular column for TGO, a British hill walking and backpacking magazine in which Ed heads off on a variety of outdoor adventures.

‘One of the most interesting things I’ve done is barefoot hill walking.

‘I went with a woman called Alison O’Neill. She calls herself the barefoot shepherdess and she takes people hill walking without their shoes.

‘It’s not like you take off your shoes and carry them – she makes you leave them behind. You get to a bridge and you take your shoes off and cross the bridge and go walking without shoes.

‘She was quite interesting because she says “You see without shoes you can really feel the mountain” and I’m going “Yeah I know, that’s why I wear shoes!”’

‘What was funny about it particularly was that when you go hill walking you’ve got to park your car and walk for a bit until you get to the interesting bit of the walk, you know what I mean?

‘You’ve got to walk along a path or a 4x4 track or something like that before you get to the climbing.

‘And the walk back from the climb is always much longer than the walk to the climb.

‘When you walk to the climb you’re full of energy and you’re excited and then when you walk back you go “I don’t remember the car being this far away”.

WHERE AND WHEN

Ed Byrne: Roaring Forties comes to the Kings Theatre, Southsea on Sunday, February 23. The show starts at 8pm. Tickets: £22.50. Call (023) 9282 8282 or visit kings-southsea.com for more details.