Funny guy Ed Byrne says he’s a miserable old git. He didn’t celebrate his 40th birthday last year and his new show, Roaring Forties, is partly about the many things in life that annoy him.
But in the flesh he’s smart and funny, and as for being a party pooper... well, not really – he celebrated this month when his tour reached Glasgow, the city where his career began 20 years ago after he had studied horticulture at the University of Strathclyde.
The observational comic, who grew up in Swords in Dublin, started re-evaluating his life after that landmark birthday, as you do. This gave him the idea for Roaring Forties, which he brings to Chesterfield’s Winding Wheel on December 9, and is a trademark mix of one-liners and extended anecdotes. The subjects range from fatherhood and friendships to vasectomies and driving awareness courses . “It’s about getting older,” Byrne says, “about being at an age where you’re not really that old but no one thinks you’re trendy anymore.”
Byrne has embraced middle age and reached the conclusion that on the whole people annoy him. “It’s like a spring-clean of my life,” said Byrne, “and I’ve come up with reasons why you can’t be my friend. There are seven billion people on the planet and I only have the time to be friends with 10 of them and so I have to choose carefully.”
What are his rules? “It’s the little things that annoy me,” he said. Such as? “People who don’t indicate on roundabouts, people who use the phrase, ‘Touched a nerve there’, or ‘I’m just making conversation’...” The list runs on.
Being the married father of two young sons (with his publicist wife, Claire) has given him lots of new things to talk about on stage, but do Claire and his family, who often appear in his material, ever object? “It’s something that most comics experience,” Byrne replied. “People know what you do for a living and then they complain when you mention them in the act, and I’ve certainly had at least one girlfriend in the past who objected.
“But my wife and my family are really funny and Claire understands what goes with the job. Actually she comes off very well and people say our relationship – very sparky, very joshing - comes across.
“As for the kids, any stuff I do about them I seriously doubt in years to come they’ll hate me for and make me pay for their therapy,” he says with a laugh.
“Although I am aware that there’s an age at which you have to be sensitive to their wishes and not embarrass them, but that’s some years off.”
Talking of sensitive matters, Byrne finds the funny about having a vasectomy, but he was also under the surgeon’s knife recently when he tried to move a compost bin in his garden and gave himself a hernia.
Fans may have seen him exposing his midriff on Graham Norton’s BBC programme to show off his war wounds, but they’re healed now. “It’s all fine, and I’m stronger than ever before,” he said The Irishman is actually super-fit; a keen hillwalker, he recently climbed Mont Blanc.