Tonight’s Blackpool Grand Theatre bill topper Jason Byrne still can’t believe Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush recently praised him to the hills on BBC1’s Graham Norton Show, and likened him to the late, great Tommy Cooper.
“To be compared with Tommy Cooper was incredible,” says Jason. “He was one of the most amazing comedians I’ve ever seen. I can retire now!”
In his current Cirque Du Byrne show, Jason underlines that he is an inventive comedian, who makes terrific use of audience participation. Dressed in a very striking red ringmaster’s jacket and black top hat, he performs an inspired, anarchic act.
“My style of comedy is to use the audience so much,” says the comic, who has also starred in his own Radio 2 programme, The Jason Byrne Show, which picked up a Sony Gold Award for Best Comedy earlier this year. “I weave them in and out of my stand-up. When people leave my show, they all have nicknames and they all feel like they’ve been part of it. They feel like they’ve been on an adventure, a rollercoaster of fun and madness.”
Jason, who has given memorable performances on such TV shows as Live at the Apollo, The Royal Variety Performance, One Night Stand, Celebrity Juice and Marco’s Kitchen Burnout, says the title and theme of Cirque Du Byrne is because: “I’m a big fan of Cirque du Soleil because it’s not everyday circus. So I called this Cirque du Byrne because it’s not everyday stand-up. This has more of an event feel. People have no idea what I’ll do next. I might end up forcing audience members into Spanx pants – which is certainly a talking point.”
Jason, who hails from Dublin, reckons that Cirque Du Byrne is: “One of my best shows. It’s helped me find out what I really want to do. I don’t want to be a straight stand-up in a suit.
“My mentality is that the audience has paid for tickets and they expect a laugh. I’m sure they’d be baffled by some comedians who say, ‘I’m going to tell you a story, but there will be no gag for five minutes’.
“I want people to leave my shows thinking I worked as hard as I could for the ticket price. I see some stand-ups and think, ‘they could have done a lot more to earn their money’. That’s why I put so much effort in.
“I have a short attention span. Doing this show keeps me interested and my head busy.”