REVIEW: Jason Byrne – People’s Puppeteer (Comedy Festival)

Jason Byrne in his riverdancing get-up.

Jason ‘Byrnes’ Bright [by Sharu Delilkan]

Jason Byrne in his riverdancing get-up.

Waiting for Jason Byrne to begin his first show in New Zealand gave me the chance scan the room. Strangely Q Theatre had stuck a ‘Q’ sticker on the back of each chair to make sure we knew where we were. Thanks guys!

When Byrne came on stage he was greeted by great fanfare and the mood was equally ‘awesome’. A word Byrne never heard over the next hour but one that would be displayed through the audience participation in the show. All I will say is: little did he know what was to come.

At every opportunity he included the audience and their reaction seemed to epitomise a distinct clash of cultures. And however many Irish he found in the crowd, the Kiwi responses from the audience seemed to dumbfound and delight Byrne at every turn.

He seemed genuinely chuffed to be in Aotearoa for the first time and his childish yet sometimes gullible nature was both refreshing and entertaining throughout.

At times the hecklers seem to give him the giggles, which is rare when as standup comedian is trying to show you how clever he is. But Byrne’s quiet confidence allowed the crowd to dictate a lot of his moves, most of which proved to be worth the risks he was willing to take. Some might have though it a bit naïve but believe you me, his bravery definitely paid great dividends.

The title of the show People’s Puppeteer totally befitted Jason Byrne’s delivery at the NZ Comedy Festival.

The energetic and spontaneous comic is probably the best handler of hecklers that I have ever seen. He glided through each situation with such ease you could have sworn that all his hecklers (and stage volunteers) were plants. However the beauty was, they were not, but the show moved on smoothly like a well-oiled machine.

If you’re looking for someone with glib scripted jokes to entertain you, I’m afraid People’s Puppeteer is not for you.

But if you go to the show with an open mind, like both me and my partner did, you will be in for more than just a treat. I can almost guarantee that you will come out of the show with your sides aching, as he has the keen ability to make you laugh for the whole 50 or so minutes, giving you little chance to come up for air.

The Irish comedian renowned for pushing his riotous shows and infamous audience participation to the edge, with his inspired and original brand of high-energy intelligent lunacy, works the crowd like no one I’ve ever seen before.

It is no surprise that Byrne is often touted the funniest and most successful solo act in the history of the esteemed Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where he has performed for the past 14 years, and continues to be one of the Festival’s top sellers year after year.

In summary, Byrne was extremely impressed by the calibre of the audience – to the point that he jokingly suggested we all should come back for the rest of the shows as he couldn’t imagine playing to a better crowd. In fact he even went as far as saying that this should have been the gig he recorded for his DVD – because he clearly had his fill of fun.

I must admit that I was totally spent after laughing for most of the show. So if it’s absolute silliness you’re after, during this annual comedy fiesta, do yourself a favour and head down to Q. Byrne is a must-see, need I say more?

Jason Byrne’s show plays at Rangatira at Q until 5 May. Details see Q Theatre

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe

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