SHOWS like X Factor have diminished the power of a standing ovation. But it’s great to see a theatre brought to its feet in the way that Jason Byrne achieved on Thursday at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre in Newcastle.
The Irish comedian was performing his latest stand-up show, People’s Puppeteer, which was billed as 14+ to ensure no well-meaning parents brought children along expecting to see a family puppet show.
It was just as well, because this was the most debauched I’ve seen Jason. There were several raunchy routines, including a hysterical set-piece on 50 Shades of Grey.
He opened the show by dancing around the stage to the Four Tops’ Loco in Acapulco, the location handily swapped for Newcastle with the help of a slideshow which featured screenshots from our websites.
It’s fair to say the selected stories didn’t reflect the city in the best light, and there followed a very funny interlude which saw Jason read local news stories and ponder what kind of place he’d arrived in.
Reading the local paper on-stage is a technique I’ve watched Russell Brand employ to good effect. It works because it shows that the comedian has made an effort to have something “local” to say beyond the standard accent impersonations.
Chatting to the audience is Jason’s trade mark, and he always brings entertaining lunatics out of the woodwork. It only took him a few minutes to have much of the audience in helpless giggles, and some exchanges had the theatre rocking with laughter at a decibel I’ve seldom heard.
A familiar trait for veterans of Byrne performances are badly executed magic tricks, which bring to mind Tommy Cooper at his best. A young man was summoned to help with a card trick and a conversation ensued which simply involved the word “Walker” repeated back and forwards. It sounds silly - it was silly - but there isn’t a stand-up performing today who does silly as well as Jason.
The best bit was when four unlikely blokes - a window fitter, a welder, a factory worker and a pig farmer - were chosen to perform Heaven 17’s Temptation. The preamble, in which Jason struggled to decipher their accents, became so funny that he had to reassure us that these weren’t stooges; by the time wigs had been allocated, one of which made its wearer resemble “a Dutch serial killer”, the place was in fits.
The second half saw Jason return to scripted material, mostly unrepeatable in a family newspaper but very funny. Musings on married sex are well-trodden ground for many a stand-up, but this was outrageously rude and achingly entertaining.
Jason was on stage for more than two hours and I didn’t stop laughing throughout, often hard enough to really hurt. The standing ovation was warmly given and well-deserved.