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Ed Byrne on being a parent, taking up woodwork and post-pandemic comedy ahead of If I'm Honest tour set to come to Lavenham Open Air Theatre in August

Comedian and popular Mock The Week panellist Ed Byrne is set to bring his If I’m Honest tour to Lavenham Open Air Theatre on Thursday, August 19.

In the show, Ed takes a critical look at his life so far and tries to deduce if he poses any traits or skills worth passing on to his sons.

Ed is not only a master observational comedian, he is also a popular household name following his various TV appearances in shows such as Live At The Apollo and Have I Got News For You, and Ed even turned his hand to the kitchen, starring in The Great Comic Relief Bake Off.

Comedian Ed Byrne is bringing his If I'm Honest show to Suffolk. Picture: Roslyn Gaunt
Comedian Ed Byrne is bringing his If I'm Honest show to Suffolk. Picture: Roslyn Gaunt

If I’m Honest has 149 dates and will see Ed travel the length and breadth of the country, injecting some much-needed laughter nationally after a very difficult year.

So we've caught up with Ed ahead of his Suffolk show later this year.

How did you come up with the name for the tour?

If I’m Honest was something that I found myself saying a lot during the last tour, not quite like a vocal tick but similarly to how you’d say ‘you know’ or you’d punctuate with ‘to tell you the truth’ I just found myself saying it a lot.

I quite liked it as a title and on the posters, it was mostly reminiscent of 60s/70s albums of singer-songwriters that sort of real ‘this is me’ or ‘this is the real me’ with that expression on their face.

People have remarked on how airbrushed the photo is, which is a deliberate juxtaposition.

I’m also taking an honest look at myself as the sort of theme of the show is about how nothing will annoy you as much as your own children and your children annoy you as much as they do because they are annoying in ways you recognise in yourself.

You see all of your faults in reality in your kids so it's about a self-inventory of what I want to pass on to my children and what about me is worth passing on to them.

It seems to be about the kids, but really it's about me.

I describe it as quite self-indulgent but really it's quite self-deprecating. It would seem that I have come up very short.

Ed Byrne. Picture: Roslyn Gaunt
Ed Byrne. Picture: Roslyn Gaunt

In an interview before lockdown you said that you were thinking about taking up woodworking, how is that going? And is it a trait you will pass on to your children?

They haven’t really gotten into it.

It sounds hypocritical because you say to them ‘come on, you want to work on this piece of wood and you know it got that way because you work on it. So let’s sand it and just put it over there and keep sanding it.’

But they really can’t be bothered so I have to finish it, although if I am sanding I will use the power sander, the power sander is too dangerous for them.

I tell them ‘c’mon your work has got to take time’ but nothing I do in the workshop takes time, it’s all power tools all the way.

But there is some stuff in the show about doing stuff in the workshop.

There’s a whole bit about sharpening knives, I have a bit about finding pleasure in the small things in life and sometimes it can be around odd things.

For instance, I was delighted when I cut myself on a knife I had sharpened because of how well I had sharpened it!

But in the workshop, I have mainly been working on the big stuff. I’ve made a gazebo in the backyard which by the time I am finished properly, Covid will be a thing of the past and we won’t need to sit under it anymore.

It looks pretty good, but there isn’t enough of a slope in the roof so it leaks a bit, which isn’t ideal so it still needs some work.

But when visitors come over and ask where we got it they are surprised when I tell them I made it!

Ed Byrne. Picture: Roslyn Gaunt
Ed Byrne. Picture: Roslyn Gaunt

You had started touring If I’m Honest as the pandemic hit. Have you had to change anything since lockdown happened?

I was in the middle of touring the show as the pandemic hit, so luckily the show had been written, but yeah I’ve been watching certain aspects of it become out of date and I am having to replace it with other things.

I’m not sure if I will completely drop those bits, or make a virtue of the situation.

Maybe I will still make jokes about the Avengers movies and the kids not seeing them because they are too young which made sense when I started the show.

After all, they were seven and eight but now they will be going on 10 and 11 so it's things and other references that just won't work, especially when the show is called If I’m Honest.

As an observational comedian, how has parenting affected your comedy?

It has definitely had an impact, I wouldn’t say it has taken over but I have always done stuff about my life.

The fact that I’ve got kids now is going to naturally be an influence.

The risk of speaking about having kids is that you can alienate some people, so I try not to let it completely take over.

How do you think comedy will be received post-pandemic?

I think it’s going to be odd.

My prediction both for comedy and live theatre is that there is going to be some teething problems. I think people who haven’t seen each other in ages are going to book stuff and go out to a comedy show or a play and then realise either in the bar beforehand or sitting in a theatre that they haven’t been face to face with the person they are sat within two years and now they have come to something where they aren’t allowed to talk.

I think there will be shows that are sold out and people will meet in the bar beforehand and won't make it into the show or they’ll be talking during the show and I genuinely think that will be an issue.

Also in comedy, there is that classic line of ‘something funny happened to me recently or a few months ago' and the audience will know that it can’t have done but saying something happening two years ago doesn’t work.

Do you have any advice for new parents?

I came off Twitter shortly after my son was born for a good while because I’d find myself looking at my phone when I should have been looking at the baby.

You can give people this advice until you’re blue in the face but it’s incredible how quickly the whole baby thing goes and how much you’ll miss it when it’s gone so enjoy it and take it in.

What’s different about audiences now compared to when you started?

You’ll do the hardest gigs when you are the worst you will ever be and sometimes I miss those gigs where you have to go on to really ugly crowds and take that energy and booing and redirect it to cheering.

I used to say that you were a plastic surgeon of comedy if you can turn an ugly crowd into a beautiful crowd.

So that’s the main difference as you get older and more experienced, the gigs get easier.

Also, once you reach a stage when people are there specifically to see you generally want you to be funny and know the kind of thing you do, so as long as you write them a decent show it usually goes well.

What have you been doing to keep busy?

I did a few drive-in gigs but the experience wasn’t great.

It felt a lot like wanting a Mars bar but all you have in the house is cooking chocolate.

I did Celebrity Best Home Cook and a couple of Zoom gigs but mainly I’ve just been gardening.

I am glad we moved out of London a few years ago and bought a house with a garden which has been a saviour for the whole family.

Finally, the gig you are doing in Lavenham is in an open-air theatre. How are you feeling about it?

Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain. It’s nice being out in the elements but if it rains it’s going to be a tough gig for everyone.

Ed Byrne Fact File

  • Was Dara Ó Briain’s best man
  • Is an avid hill walker
  • Has performed on the Conan O’Brien show five times
  • Recently took up carpentry
  • Is the father to two boys Cosmo and Magnus
  • Took up woodworking in 2019 and has made several sculptures since

To find out more about Ed Byrne and his live shows, visit edbyrne.com.

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