The title of Ed Byrne’s show is something of a misnomer.
Ed Byrne: Outside, Looking In | Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow | Rating ****
Despite maintaining that he lives his life as an observer rather than a participant, and enthusiastically asking about the audience’s worst dating disasters, he cheerfully acknowledges that such tactics are always simply a lead-in for him to share his own embarrassing anecdotes.
On the surface, the Irishman’s tales of relationship friction, parental struggles, a humiliating trip to the doctors for an intimate problem, even his (cathartic) account of a corporate gig gone spectacularly badly, are familiar standbys for a 43-year-old, storytelling comic.
Yet despite his middle-aged irritability, Byrne retains an impish, evergreen sense of mischief, skilfully playing with society’s mores.
He’s especially good on “hot button topics” like gender equality and representation. Staking a claim to the right-on territory through his mockery of Nigel Farage’s views on breastfeeding and the inherent lack of gallantry in “slut-shaming”, lest he appear too righteous, he selfishly relates the impact of such male boorishness to his own failures to pull, and self-loathing around attractive young women.
The take-home routine of the night concerns his son’s disillusionment with his pink trainers under the withering scorn of gender norms and peer pressure, which Byrne satisfyingly dissects with logic and cold-eyed vengeance. Throughout, he sustains an entertainingly punchy rhythm of sardonic attack and spirited self-defence, while the camaraderie he establishes with the crowd feels heartfelt, no doubt based in part on him beginning his stand-up career in Glasgow.