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February 2010

Ed Byrne: Different Class - Live

featuring: Ed Byrne

director: Matt Askem

80 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
Spirit DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
review by James A. Stewart

Ed Byrne: Different Class - Live

It takes a brave man to film a comedy show in Glasgow. The days of comedians and performers being pelted off the stage at the Pavillion or Kings Theatre with bottles and other paraphernalia are (just about) long gone. Then again, in recent years I have personally witnessed The Killers, Kasabian, Bloc Party and a few more being pelted by anything from bottles to pints of, well, piss; same colour, same taste, just a bit warmer. And that was from fans that had paid good money to be there.

So, fair play to Ed Byrne for filming his witty dissemination of the UK's obsession with class, and the British desire to bracket people in some sort of descriptive context, in the second city of the empire. His study into the subject matter is the main thrust of his pre-Christmas release of Different Class, filmed as part of his 2008 national tour.

Many comedians would shirk away from focusing on a particular theme to their tour; Dingledodies anyone? But to say that Byrne focuses all his attention on the class divide in the UK would wrong. As well flitting between his almost posh exterior and working class background, Byrne talks love and marriage, especially the ridiculous rigmarole that surrounds the ceremony and preparation for big day. Anyone who has been (or still is) married will appreciate much of the humour here.

Despite the tour from which the DVD was released being two years old, unlike contemporaries such as Russell Howard, and perhaps due to Byrne's lesser exposure to TV audiences, the jokes remain fresh. His take on WAGs and goths and beyond hit home. But it is fast paced delivery of offbeat jokes and comedy that keeps the audience on its toes. Every now and then Byrne changes direction with a subtle tweak and catches the audience off guard.

Byrne, arguably, takes observational humour to a new level with his left-field delivery of punch-lines and his ability to lead the viewer down a false trail. His management of the scene-setting is like a master artist manipulating putty, with a hint of Rolf Harris' "can you guess what it is yet?" - being predictable is not an accusation that can be levelled at Byrne.

His style is composed and relies more on content than the madcap ministrations and energy that some other comedians live and die by. Michael McIntyre, for reasons known only to others, is immensely popular just now, but Byrne is in a different class (see what I did there?) to McIntrye - there are similarities between the two but for me the genial Irishman is simply more likable than McIntyre who always come across as having an superiority complex whereas Byrne seems to appreciate the fact people have paid to see him. His warmth and personable demeanour is rather relaxing.

DVD extras include a commentary featuring Jimmy Carr.



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