AS PART of the Irish comedy explosion in the 1990s Dubliner Jason Byrne emerged as a high-energy in-your-face new act. Over he next decade he was to become one of the biggest touring acts in Ireland and Britain and his RTÉ series Anonymous - which featured Ronan Keating, Glenda Gilson, Hector, and Samantha Mumba in various disguises - proved to be a big hit with viewers.
Jason Byrne plays the Town Hall Theatre on Wednesday December 10 at 8pm. He also joins Neil Delamare for Christmas craic in the Royal Castlebar Theatre on Saturday December 27 at 8pm.
Byrne is in the middle of recording the fourth series of Anonymous but the guests involved are a closely guarded series. The format is similar to Aston Kutcher’s Punk’d but there is a uniquely Irish feel to Byrne’s show as he dares the stars to do more and more outrageous things.
“Some people will have a definite idea of what they want to do and other times I’ll suggest something,” he says. “Nicky Byrne from Westlife really wanted to be a garda because he actually got accepted into Templemore the same week the gig with Westlife came up. There were some of his mates and members of his family that he really wanted to get so we kind of set that up for him and it made for great television.”
In series two of Anonymous Byrne convinced Off The Rails fashionista Pamela Flood to play the part of uptight mother Doreen Prendergast and in doing so catch out fellow fashionista Caroline Morahan.
The fact that Flood was Byrne’s debs date in secondary school helped them come up with one of the best shows in the series.
“I was 16 when I first met Pamela,” says Byrne. “Her ma and my ma are good friends and I know her brothers and her whole family. I always remember I was sleeping on her floor one night and I turned around and said ‘Do you want to go to my debs with me?’ and she said ‘Yes’.
We never had any kind of sexual relationship at all but the fact that she said she’d go to the debs with me was brilliant! When I got to the party that night I walked her around the room and made sure that everybody knew that I was with this stunning-looking girl.
“Nobody knew who she was but they were all going ‘Wow, look at her’! When we did the episode of Anonymous it was so easy to work with her because I’d known her for so long. She’s normally so prim and proper but I was able to push her to do things and eventually she ended up doing everything that we asked her to do.”
In 2006 Byrne, alongside Alan Carr, Alex Zane, Myleene Klass, and Sean Hughes, got to reminisce about his school days on E4 show The Law of the Playground. Yet some of the cultural differences between school in Ireland and Britain got lost in translation!
“That was a really interesting programme to do,” says Byrne. “The thing that really threw the producers though was when I said that during sports day in Ireland we used potatoes instead of eggs in the egg-and-spoon race and they thought I was just taking the piss! Then I started talking about Mr Freezes and they just stopped me immediately.”
Another keen interest of Byrne’s is football which led to an appearance on iconic show Soccer AM.
“When you go on that show you’re half f***ed because they know absolutely everything about football,” he says. “I’m a Man United fan and that only happened because when I was 14 my ma bought me a school bag with ‘Man U’ written on it. I have to admit that I rarely watch them on TV and I have to ask my mates how they’re doing.
“When I did Soccer AM the minute I came off it my phone was absolutely hopping. It was unbelievable because there were friends and comedians and everyone ringing me telling me that they’d just seen me on the show. I’ve done loads of stuff on telly and I’ve never had a reaction like that.”
Continuing the football theme one of Bohemians’ strikers is called Jason Byrne. Earlier in their careers the two men swapped lives for a week in a hilarious Shay Healy-produced TV show.
“That was probably about 12 years ago and at that time I would’ve swapped places with the footballer Jason Byrne permanently, if I could,” says the comedian. “If you get the chance to play football for money at any level it’s the best job in the world.
“I’ve kind of kept in contact with him over the years and have kept an eye on how his career is going. When he was with Cardiff City he got a run out with the Republic of Ireland team and it was brilliant to see ‘Jason Byrne’ on the team-sheet. That’s the stuff you dream about.”
The name factor also come into play recently when the comedian announced he was naming his new DVD The Byrne Identity. The title caused concern among his distributors.
“When I mentioned the name to Universal they got on to their lawyers straight away,” he says. “They got in contact with the Bourne Identity film people and they said it was fine as long as we didn’t spell it Bourne instead Byrne. I was just praying that they’d tell Matt Damon and that he’d give me a part in one of the films!”
For tickets to the Town Hall show contact 091 - 569777. For Castlebar contact 0818 300 000 and see www.theroyal.ie