Ed Byrne: “I don’t really live a life, I watch other people’s”

Ed Byrne has being doing comedy for 20 years. That’s as long as I’ve been alive. But, for his sake as well as mine, I didn’t mention that when I interviewed him about his upcoming Lincoln show.

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne brings his new tour, Outside Looking In, to the Engine Shed on November 11 (Photo: Roslyn Gaunt)

Outside, Looking In will be coming to Lincoln’s Engine Shed on November 12. It’s “a more personal show”, he says. “I would like to think the audience go away thinking the show is quite heartwarming.

“A lot of comics may talk about the same stuff, but what makes it mine is that what I’m saying is what I genuinely think on this subject, and I try to make it as funny as I can. I think we all mine our lives to some degree or other.”

I ask him, then, what the show is about. “It’s not really about anything,” he responds. “It’s about an hour and a half.

“The idea behind calling it Outside, Looking In that is because, as a comedian, I don’t really live a life; I just watch other people live theirs and talk about it. I’m more of an observer and reporter than a participant.

“There’s a lot of stuff in the show about being a comic, about the questions people ask you, about the bad gigs, about doing interviews, and all that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of stuff about being a comedian, but then there’s also a lot of stuff about being a dad, and being a boyfriend, and being a husband, and all that kind of carry on.

“Not that I’m a boyfriend and a husband at the same time,” he interjects. “I like to keep those roles consecutive, rather than concurrent.”

Ed Byrne, looking in

Ed Byrne dropped out of university, partially to pursue his comedy career (Photo: Roslyn Gaunt)

He started comedy while at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, where he was studying Horticulture. But that didn’t last for long.

“I dropped out anyway; the wanting to become a comedian thing was just part of not wanting to continue. It was two years in Glasgow, and then two years at the West of Scotland Agricultural College in Auchincruive in Ayrshire.

“Now, as a man of 43, I’d quite like to go and live in Auchincruive; I didn’t fancy it when I was 19 and 20, so I decided to stop. That, and the fact I hated being broke.”

His comedic talent, though, didn’t come from his horticultural background, but his time spent as Vice President of their student union.

He said: “I had to make speeches in front of apathetic freshers, and so I’d jazz them up with some gags. I got a feel for talking in front of crowds then, so I thought it was either politics or comedy.”

A good choice, in retrospect, with two decades of successful performing under his belt. As well as appearances on shows like Live At The Apollo and Mock the Week, he’s also currently writing a sitcom and planning a new televised Big Adventure with Dara O’Briain.

“We’re currently in discussion about doing another one; we’re just trying to make the dates work,” he told me. “This is the thing when it comes to TV, they like a journey. Whether it’s physical or emotional.

“They pitched a number of things over the years to us – some of which we liked, some of which we didn’t.

“There was one about navigating using old guidebooks, which just seemed a little contrived. There was one about mountains, which Dara just didn’t fancy. Dara’s not a mountain man. There was one that involved, like, being coachmen? Doing a journey with stagecoaches. But it would have meant we were in two separate stagecoaches, so we never would have actually seen each other.

“It all begins to feel like the Alan Partridge meeting.”

Live performance, it seems, is where his heart lies: “Apart from the travel involved, which no comic likes, I love it, because you have people responding to something that you have written alone in your office, and the work comes alive in a room of people.

“I like the television things I do, but nothing can beat a live comedy audience.”

Outside, Looking In comes to Lincoln’s Engine Shed on Thursday, November 12, with doors opening at 7:15pm. You can buy tickets for £19 from engineshed.co.uk or calling 01522 837 400.

This interview would not have been anywhere near as entertaining without the kind help of Chris Tuck, Charlie Gualtieri, Ben Jenkins, and Kyle Agius. It also features a couple of excerpts from a syndicated interview with Veronica Lee.