Let’s shatter a myth – interviewing comedians isn’t always a good laugh. Onstage they may be gregarious, hilarious and so very charismatic you’re just dying to take them for a coffee and a natter. But corner a comic for a formal magazine interview and it’s often a different story entirely. You approach the interview expecting a raft of rabble-rousing anecdotes and bountiful energy and to be made the side-splitting butt of a few brand new jokes thought up just for you. Instead you often meet short, sly, guarded and never entirely comfortable responses. It’s as if they save up all their wit, verve and best jokes for the stage, leaving interviewers with short shrift.
One such case study is Jason Byrne; onstage he can be side-splitting, spending much of his shows engaging with the audience in elaborate interaction. In our interview he seems ever-so-slightly absent – although that’s not to say he isn’t funny. In a dead-pan delivery, it’s not always clear where the jokes start and the confessions begin. We’re convinced the Irish comic is saving all his wit for his appearance in the UAE, where over two nights he will perform his new Cirque du Byrne show, which sees the 40-year-old comic take on the role of ringmaster, conducting onstage volunteers in wacky comedic circus spectacles. Debuted at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – where, over 12 years, Jason has become the festival’s best-selling artist ever – it’s picked up cracking reviews.
So, what’s the Cirque du Byrne tour all about?
It’s about the audience getting up to do stuff with me, funny stories, funny props and a monkey with a limp.
Sounds interesting. If there was a dictionary definition of Jason Byrne, it would be...?
Red, tall, hilarious, and keep out of sunlight.
When was the last time you bombed on stage?
I never bomb, I only learn.
So what did you learn?
I learnt: I never bomb.
Right. How would you describe your personality?
Calm, fiery, emotional, stone cold, loving and full of hatred.
You’ve been doing this a long while now – can you honestly tell us you still enjoy every night that you’re onstage?
I have to enjoy every night, if I don’t, then the audience notice and the gig is bad, I literally skip out onto the stage every night. I’m just soooo happy to be out there.
Surely now the crowds are so enthusiastic there’s no risk?
That’s like saying every bungee cord will catch you.
Okay, what’s the secret of good stand up?
Flour, butter and a sprinkle of bull.
Just why do the Irish love comedians so much?
They don’t, they love drinking and dancing and rubbing walls.
What’s the last joke that made you laugh?
Jokes don’t make me laugh, but the last time I laughed was when I saw a kid fart and snot came out his nose.
Lovely. You headlined McGettingan’s Comedyfest in Dubai last year – what are you looking forward to on your return?
I’m looking forward to going to the mall and skiing.
What else entertains you besides laughs – books, music, travel…?
Lying on the couch under a blanket with my favourite plants.
The worst thing about being a comedian, is..? And please don’t say airports.
Is all the travel you have to do, you spend a lot of time in ------ts, I hate ------ts more than anything.
If you hadn’t found a flair for humour, what do you think you’d be doing with your life now?
I studied to be an airline pilot, I got half way through, and I was so funny on the intercom, I chose stand up.
If you could be any comedian who wasn’t you, who would you be?
I’d hate someone to be me, I know what goes on in a comics head, so no thanks to any of them.
And if you could be anybody ever that wasn’t you?
A castrated blind monk.
Jason Byrne performs at Almas Tower, JLT, Dubai on May 10 and 11, doors 7pm, show 9pm. Dhs100, Dhs190 (with food and drink), tickets available from www.timeouttickets.com