Jason Byrne’s Special Eye
Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe
★★★ (out of five)
Until August 25
THE first half of Jason Byrne’s show had the audience barely drawing breathe, his introduction immediately got the vast McEwan Hall on side with Byrne and five blokes down the front bouncing around on space-hoppers.
His sharp scrutiny of Scottish male behaviour and the Scottish psyche were hilariously spot on, immediately making a strong connection with this mainly Scottish working class audience.
But it was the observational material on his wee Irish mammy and Irish dad that had really had the audience doubled over – “every time I go home and visit me mammy she gets smaller; she’s not going to die,” offers Byrne, “she’s just going to disappear”.
He describes a fraught family holiday in Ireland and a car journey in the 1970s with his dad ‘swinging punches’ to try to discipline Byrne and his squabbling siblings and contrasts it with his own family today and his son mooning at a police car- acutely highlighting the differences between then and now in Byrne’s usual tense, animated and frenetic manner.
Bringing on a pair of venetian blinds he acted out the dread he felt seeing his mother’s hand summon him from the window to the house after giving his little sister a bop.
Throughout the set Byrne takes the joke around the world using igloos, tee-pees and saloon doors with home-made props.
He pointed out how an agitated Glaswegian audience itching for a pint wouldn’t tolerate the joke and that the props would probably end up in his neither regions. I have to admit as the joke wore thin and the laughter dissipated I was somewhat empathising with the Glasgow crowd.
Towards the end he picked an audience member out to get on stage for a card trick which involved handling a rude prop attached to Byrne, the joke felt cheap and something a more desperate newcomer might resort too, again he seemed to lose an audience that were in the palm of his hand.
But fair play to Byrne, a packed house left with a smile on their face as one the Fringe’s Irish veterans proved that ultimately he didn’t disappoint and is still among the best comics here.