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Jason Byrne - the people's puppeteer

By Darren Hallesy: Jason Byrne is quite possibly the funniest Irishman alive, and seeing Jason Byrne live on stage is something that has to be experienced at least once in your lifetime. To say that his show is manic, energetic, and downright funny is to do the comedian a disservice.

Coming to Brisbane for his twelfth (yes, twelfth) consecutive Australian tour, the man from Dublin will be bringing his special brand of audience participation and comedy for another sell out season to the Brisbane Comedy Festival. But before he gets here, Byrne is in the middle of writing and performing a sitcom for radio, currently airing on Saturday nights in the UK, where millions are tuning in.

It is a tired Jason Byrne who answers his phone on a cold Irish Monday night, and is nothing like the energy-sapping madman that you see on stage. But then again, on a Monday night, who wants to be manic?
“It’s (expletive) freezing here at the moment,” Jason explains.

“I just went outside to lock everything up and I could see the fog, the frost and cold rolling in over the hills so I’m looking forward to getting back to Australia.

“It feels like a while since I’ve been there, and like many comics I do bring my family but there’s no holiday involved for me…I’m working practically every night, but I do like to have the family with me when I spend a month doing shows in Melbourne. The lifestyle there is so good, you have the sun, sand and surf. It’s also liberating for me, because when I work here in the UK be it radio, TV or stage there are always people around who could be commissioning editors, or publicists. I don’t get any of that when I’m in Australia, it’s a great freedom.”

Byrne thrives on audience participation, whether its getting people up on stage or using them for comic effect, the concept terrifies most comedians, but not Byrne.

“I do love the unpredictability of what I do, but somehow I’ve learned to read people’s body language over the years. When I do things like a comedy gala, I only have seconds to work out the crowd, but when I’m doing a full show I have much longer. I go on stage, say hello and delve into the audience and that way I can work out who I can use later in the show. Anyone looking down, or crossing their arms, or not looking me in the eye aren’t good subjects, and I try not to use women too much as manhandling the ladies on stage might not go down too well.

“I loved the look of the last tour (“Cirque De Byrne”) with the circus theme, so this new show I’ve called ‘People’s Puppeteer’ based on the fact I get people on stage and use them. Sensing the crowd is an intimate thing. At the start of this new show I do an Irish dance alone in the spotlight, and I can really judge the mood of the audience in that segment. If they yell or cheer I know its going to be a great gig.”

Read the full story in CityWest magazine here.

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