Interview: The hilarious Jason Byrne is ready for Harrogate Theatre and Edinburgh Fringe

When reviewers used to say Jason Byrne - whose brand new show is coming to Harrogate - put heart and soul into his comedy on stage, they cannot have known how near the mark they were.

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 5th August 2022, 10:52 am

Although Unblocked, the title of his forthcoming tour, does refer partly to the end of lockdown rules, it also references a major health scare this award-winning comedian went through recently.

Not that this effervescent and hilariously daft as a brush stand-up is taking even that entirely seriously.

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    “It wasn’t a heart attack, it’s a condition which sort of runs in the family.

    "But they did have to unblock three arteries and put in five stents,” said Byrne, a long-time Edinburgh Fringe favourite in a world of 'next big things'.

    “It’s great to be healthy again. I’m grabbing it with both hands.”

    The Irish comedian knows and loves Harrogate - at the age of 50 he has been quite a few times before and has built up a devoted following who know just how good he is.

    Coming to Harrogate Theatre on Friday, October 7 as part of Harrogate Comedy Festival, Byrne has also had to bounce back from the death of his father Paddy two years ago, who himself had had a pacemaker fitted.

    This reporter asks Jason how long he actually took off after his own operation.

    “Four weeks,” the Dublin-born Byrne replies.

    “Are you a Wimbledon champion or something?” I retort batting the ball back across the net boldly.

    After a pause, a silence and then a little chuckle, the man once hailed by The Times as the “king of comedy”, admits he, perhaps, might have opted for a longer break.

    “Maybe I came back too early. I should have taken two months, really," he says.

    “At one of my first gigs after the operation the crowd in Stockton were worried about me. They suggested I should only do half the show then go home!”

    I tell him I enjoyed interviewing fellow Irish great Dylan Moran a few years back but, on the phone, he came across more like a really deep professor of philosophy than a comedian or actor.

    "I'm good friends with Dylan, he's great, but he does use a lot of words I don't understand," Jason replies.

    "When we go to the pub he's totally different - and much more normal."

    A rare modern-day comic who still revels in slapstick on stage rather than clever asides, political venom or personal anecdotes, not everything is silly in the world of the lovable Jason Byrne.

    Before Byrne takes the Unblocked tour round the UK from September, there is the little matter of a one-man play he’s written for the Edinburgh Fringe next month which will see him playing his late father.

    Even here, the surprisingly wise Jason Byrne can see the comedy in the tragedy.

    “I’m calling it The Paddy Lama - Shed Talks because my dad spent so much of the time in his shed.

    “He was a very funny man but the main thing about the play is to encourage people to actually talk about their loved ones when they die because that’s how we keep them with us.”

    Keen to renew his acquaintance with Harrogate, the “prettiest town on the tour,” as he describes it, Byrne admits he may have slowed down a bit but from a very fast start.

    “I don’t quite go hell for leather anymore but I’ve got a great feeling about the tour.

    “It’s going to be fun.”

    Diary date: Harrogate Theatre

    Jason Byrne Unblocked comes to Harrogate Theatre on Friday, October 7, 2022 as part of this year's Harrogate Comedy Festival.

    The festival takes place every October and has become an institution for the town, putting Harrogate firmly on the comedy map as 'Comedy Capital of the North'.

    Having started in 2009 at Harrogate Theatre with a commitment to bringing both ‘the bright stars’ and the ‘hotly tipped next big things’ to Harrogate, the festival has gone from strength to strength.

    Diary date: Edinburgh Fringe

    Jason Byrne Unblocked is at the Edinburgh Fringe at Underbelly Bristo Square, Edinburgh from Wednesday, August 3 to Sunday, August 28 at 7.30pm.


    Jason Byrne Unblocked tour tickets


    Jason Byrne: The Paddy Lama – Shed Talks is at the Edinburgh Fringe at Underbelly Bristo Square, Edinburgh on selected days between Monday, August 8 to Sunday, August 28.