Ed Byrne

From baby jokes to drunken particle physicists, Ed Byrne's Crowd Pleaser 2011 tour is just that

Ed Byrne’s Crowd Pleaser 2011 tour slopes into the Belfast Waterfront on the same night as the WWE Wrestlemania Revenge Tour 2011 in the Odyssey Arena. Byrne thanks the crowd for coming to see him instead, but the two fan-bases probably don’t have much crossover.

In a veer away from the traditional, Byrne appears on stage to warm-up the audience for his support act, Karl Spain. He admits this is like having a dog and barking yourself, but defends the necessity of it since Spain isn’t that good.

Which isn't true, of course. The Limerick comedian delivers a self-deprecating but giggle-worthy set that includes a traumatic moment from his childhood and the fact that he has diabetes. 'That doesn't usually get a laugh,' he says, eyeing the snickering audience.

Don’t worry though. Spain, whose ‘chirpy chubby’ act is just a mask for a streak of wickedly deviant humor, gets his own back for the introductory slur by implying that Byrne is a bit of an online predator. An incompetent one at that. Internet sex pests might not seem like rich vein for humour, but Spain’s sly delivery pulls it off. You don’t even feel that bad for laughing.

Once Spain wraps up his act, Byrne bounces back on stage, having swapped his glass of water for a pint. (After the interval the 'beer fairy' drops off a refill in the wings for him.) Byrne is a self-admitted nerd and his comedy works best when he plays to that, channelling the frustrated pedant inside us all.

His observations on his wife's 'pregnancy brain' and mankind's treatment of our fellow man, as opposed to cats, is funny and well-constructed. It just doesn't feel as genuinely Byrne as his lightly-delivered rant on drunk particle physicists and the need to take action before our evil dopplegangers turn up.

This set is witty, quick-paced and quirky. Not to mention doing what the best comedy does, tapping into our collective social anxieties. (Drunk people and 'God Particles' do seem like a disaster waiting to happen.)

As comedians go, Byrne isn't particularly controversial – although some of his topics are. He makes a few jabs at religion – the agnostic and the pork-chop zips by so quickly it takes the audience a second to catch how clever it is – and has a few well-thought out jibes at racism and jingoism (unacceptable, unless it is interstellar).

Every time he gets too close to the edge of acceptable, however, he pulls back with a joke that reminds the audience that 'there's no harm in him, really'.

But then, people don't go to a Byrne gig to be barraged with 'edgy' humour and spend the night working out whether he is being offensive or ironic. And some commentary works best when it is subversive instead of in your face. Crowd Pleaser 2011 is a great night out with plenty of laughs. Byrne is endearing, and if the pooping baby jokes don't do it for you.