Delhi witnessed a riot of laughter last week, as Jason Byrne, a British comedian and radio host, held his first standup gig in the national capital. Born in Ballinteer, Dublin, Byrne’s characteristic high-energy jokes, brimming with intelligence, kept the audiences at Delhi’s Kamani auditorium fully engaged and entertained.
In August 2008, he was also part of the 12th Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Many of Byrne's live routines involve audience participation, and his pranks involve putting his spectators in awkward and somewhat stressful situations.
“There used to be a comedy show in Dublin 20 years ago,” Byrne said while explaining how he got into comedy in the first place. “And I sent in a joke that won the first prize. After which, the owner of the club asked me, ‘Would you like to do standup?’ I said, ‘No’ [laughs]. To which he said, ‘Why don’t you give it a shot and see how it goes?’ So he got me a few slots on the open mike and there was no turning back as I loved it thoroughly... I did have a real job back then. I worked with lights at a theater in Dublin,” he adds.
Byrne draws his humour from everyday life, and his sets are filled with jokes on simple day-to-day activities concering people he comes across daily, including his wife, relatives and friends. “I think a lot of funny things happen with us on a day-to-day basis. Like something someone said or did. You’ll see if you look at my shows that I draw a lot of my comic subjects from my daily life.
“Everything that happens is a potential gig. I always say, last year’s show took me 43 years to write. This year’s show took me 44 years to write, as I incorporated whatever I saw and sensed around me in a year. Next year’s will take me 45 years to write. You continually draw on all life experiences,” he says.
Comedy is one of the best mediums to convey a message or teach people something, and Byrne is a great believer in comedy as an educational tool. “Comedy is a great way to get any message across. Because you’re not boring people. Think how much more we would have learned in school f it had been funny. I think humor is a great tool when used in education,” he says.
“Everything that happens is a potential gig. I always say, last year’s show took me 43 years to write. This year’s show took me 44 years to write, as I incorporated whatever I saw and sensed around me in a year. Next year’s will take me 45 years to write. You continually draw on all life experiences.”
For his brand new show Jason Byrne is Propped Up, the comic goes back to his creative roots, where he’s managed to find ducks, false chins, portable igloos, bewildered owls, dolphins and much, much more as central motifs. The topics he covers are nothing out of the ordinary, but his strength of character and delivery really lends weight to his performance. What stands out in his shows is the way in which he interacts with the audiences throughout the set, seemingly abandoning his prepared material to go off on wildly hilarious tangents with whatever the unsuspecting members of the audience hand him. In other words, Byrne holds the audiences in the palm of his hand and has them howling with laughter within ten minutes of taking the stage. You have no idea what can be achieved on a standup shows until you have seen Jason spew forth ideas in his two-hour sets.
Talking to Guardian 20 about different comic styles, Byrne says, “Comedy on TV is very different, since they have this tool called editing. So there are times when you are sitting and watching your performance on a show and you’re like ‘Ooohh, they removed the best part,’ or, ‘Did they really keep this part and not that one?’ Things are a bit different when you’re doing live shows but nothing beats performing in front of a live audience. It’s your jokes and no one edits it. Plus you feed off the energy from the audiences. On TV or radio, the set is pre-written and jokes are researched. But live comedy is and will be my favourite.”
Talking about the comedy scene in India, Byrne says, “To be honest, I’ve never seen Indian comedy. It was something I really wanted to do but due to a lack of time it will not be possible. But on my next visit I plan to visit a few comedy clubs and see how things are done here. I’ve seen Russel Peters and Papa C.J. but not those from Delhi’s comedy circuit.”