Bren­dan O’connor’s Cut­ting Edge (RTE1) Funny Man (RTE1) Find­ing Joy (RTE1)

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - GUIDE -

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.


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