Brendan O’connor’s Cutting Edge (RTE1) Funny Man (RTE1) Finding Joy (RTE1)
JASON Byrne did the best comedy gig I have ever seen. It was upstairs in the International Bar, and it was the kind of performance that was not just funny, it left you in awe — you knew you had been in the presence of genius.
I had never heard of him until that night, but I knew he was bound to make it, and he did. What I didn’t realise is that I would never find him that funny again, that there was something about Byrne the TV star that didn’t connect with me.
But that’s just me. And that’s just comedy, this weird gift that we should not even pretend to understand. I have no doubt that Jason Byrne didn’t stop being a genius when he started appearing on TV, he just stopped doing whatever I wanted him to do. And I don’t even know what that is.
But he was an excellent guest on the first in the new series of Brendan O’connor’s Cutting Edge, where he alluded to one of few reliable themes of the funnyman; the obsession with money.
Byrne says that he hates money, or rather that he hates the stress that it causes people who feel obliged to buy Christmas presents that they can’t afford — the panel which also featured Brenda Power and Anna Geary was discussing the story of a woman who is going to charge her Christmas dinner guests 55 quid each, which seemed to Byrne like an inspired idea.
O’connor didn’t want to talk about Christmas, but he was pushing Byrne on his complex feelings about money, his “hatred” of it, neatly setting up a strand in the documentary series which I am now pitching to anyone in the pitching game, to be called “Funnyman Moneyman”.
It would take us from the extravagant strangeness of Ken Dodd with his money in the mattress, to the British upper middle class funnymen of the modern era who seem no less free of this ancient anx- iety — indeed it seems almost impossible to qualify as a great funnyman without this characteristic, which reassures me that Byrne still has the magic.
Brendan Grace would have known the odd moment of doubt too, in his relationship with money, not least with a father who was “a drinking man” with all that that implies. In Funny Man, his wife Eileen spoke of Grace’s tireless ambition, how he “lived out in RTE” until he got the breaks, the ultimate of which was his performance for Sinatra and his entourage, organised by impresario Oliver Barry.
And Jason Byrne was speaking on this programme too, a measure of his stature in the business. Indeed I am aware that Grace is also a genius, and that it manifests itself to me in one piece of work which dominates everything else that he does. His Father of the Bride is not just funny, it is so funny, it is probably one of the 10 funniest things that have ever been done in the history of comedy.
I would put it alongside Del Boy falling sideways in the bar in Only Fools And Horses, and Morecambe & Wise performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto, and Billy Connolly any time.
When Grace did it for them, Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior had to be almost carried out on stretchers, and they were not just being nice.
Nor did Amy Huberman make the mistake of being overly nice in the first episode of Finding Joy, because nice is nice, but it is rarely funny.
At the same time, she’s not going to be convincing either as a bad person, so she emerged here as a person constantly trying to negotiate her place in a world in which something really bad or embarrassing is almost always about to happen. And sometimes she may even be the perpetrator.
Really she did not give herself a moment’s peace in this, from the opening scenes dealing with the damage done by her incontinent dog, to the incessant foolishness of her colleagues in the media game.
She is always in a bad place here, which in comedy terms, is a good place, maybe the best place. No doubt she’ll have issues with money too.
WATCH BACK Visit