Jason Byrne at the Leicester Square Theatre

You don’t need me. Just rent the room and ask each other questions”

Jason Byrne has a fun audience in. It’s 9:30 on a Friday night and it’s fair to say this drinking crowd are in a playful mood. Everybody wants the evening to go as well as possible.

The pleasing thing about a Jason Byrne show is the tacit agreement that the audience is allowed – encouraged, even – to attempt to match him in the humour stakes. There’s no ego at play with Byrne. No chastising of an audience member for having the cheek to attempt to be funny at a comedy show, stealing some of the limelight from their act in the process. (That’s not to say, incidentally, that there’s no such thing as horrifically unfunny hecklers. Any chastising of them is entirely welcomed).

The peppy mood means that sometimes Byrne is getting a bit more than he deserves for his gags. Occasionally it feels as though it’s his high-energy delivery that is tipping a joke over into getting a decent laugh. Certainly, it works as a performance technique.

For the most part that isn’t the case though. His central section discusses how much parenting has changed since the decidedly hands-off approach of his parent’s generation. Byrne isn’t the only comedian currently discussing this topic – indeed, he’s not even the only comedian with the surname Byrne currently discussing this topic – but it’s fun and works very well with this crowd, causing whooping and even air punches of joyous agreement amongst pockets of the audience. A strong takedown of PTAs in schools threatens to take the roof off the place. He is roughly the same age as his average audience member and they share the same everyday gripes.

Much of the show is given over to crowd-work, which Byrne is proficient at, if slightly too often he relies on his fallback of simply mimicking the accent of the audience member for an easy laugh. He’s able to fold strands of audience participation back within each other like a pro, though.

A pretty bulletproof audience participation set-piece rounds things off, by the end of which Byrne has earned himself a partial standing ovation. That’s overstating things slightly, but still: a high quality evening out.

★★★★

Mark Muldoon  @muldoon

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