On his last tour Ed Byrne started keeping a diary in which after every gig he would write down a few notes about the quality of venue, audience and, in his own words, “whether or not I can be bothered going back again.” Judging by the number of places that he’s visiting on his current national trek – approximately 140 – it’s safe to assume that the majority of entries were positive.
“After a show at Yeovil Octagon I just wrote one word, ‘spectacular,’ which is not something that you normally associate with Yeovil,” deadpans the Dublin-born funny man, best known for his regular appearances on Mock The Week. In 2015 Byrne also appeared as a guest presenter on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off and embarked on a road trip along the Pan American Highway with his good friend Dara Ó Briain for a BBC Two documentary.
Closer to home, the 43-year-old says a “big personal milestone” of the past 12 months has been seeing his two children start school in Essex where Byrne lives with his wife Claire.
“You think sending your kids to school will mean that you have less parenting to do, but you actually have more. Schools really want you to get involved these days.”
Humorous observations about family life are recurring themes in Byrne’s stand-up routines with his latest show Outside Looking In, a heart-warming mix of anecdotes about fatherhood, bad dates and self-mocking autobiography.
“There’s a lot of stuff in the show about what it is to be a comic and stories about dying onstage and life on the road,” explains Byrne, who began his comedy career as a student in Glasgow before travelling to London to work the stand-up circuit. At the time, like a lot of rookie comedians, his material often tended towards the crude and outrageous.
“As a young man I would just say whatever I could to get a laugh and pretend to think things that weren’t true. Now I only say what I actually think. I’ve watched comedians do jokes about their girlfriend dumping them and I’m sitting backstage with their wife.
“I don’t want to be one of those guys. So I decided I would always just talk about what was actually happening in my life.”
As a regular presence on TV comedy shows, Byrne is well placed to comment on the BBC’s much publicised ban of all-male guest panels. His view is that the policy is a welcome one, but it’s a shame that it had to be introduced at all. “Whether it’s press regulation or the amount of sugar in food, you always hope that people will do the right thing without having to be told to do so.”
Asking him to make some predictions for the year ahead proves a less fruitful topic of conversation, however. “I’m trying to think of something cheerful,” he states after an excruciatingly long pause. “All I keep thinking is that as we go into 2016 politics is going to continue to become even more polarised and the left and the right are going to hate each other more and more. The level of hysteria that surrounds political debate now is becoming frightening. So I almost want to see how bad that’s going to get.
“Happy New Year everybody!”