His show at the Edinburgh Fringe this month is part of Ed Byrne’s long term love affair with Scotland
“I would love to live in Scotland,” he says, “but my wife wants to live in France. So we’re somewhere in the middle, living in Essex.”
This isn’t a romantic Brigadoon-type fantasy – Ed has happy memories of living in Scotland. He was born in Dublin, but crossed the sea to study in Glasgow.
“I came over to study at Strathclyde University in 1990 for a degree in horticulture actually. I was 18 and hadn’t really thought about comedy at that point.”
But when he dropped out of the course, he stayed at the university, working as a student welfare officer. In that role, his duties would include being the MC for events at the student union.
That was the first time he took to the stage – and he liked it. He also displayed a natural flair for communication with audiences and, more importantly, for being funny.
Glasgow wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now
“I loved Glasgow and stayed for a while. When I left the university I started temping to earn a living but made an attempt at getting a stand-up career off the ground.”
This may have been only 20 years ago, but stand-up wasn’t nearly as ubiquitous as it is now. There were stand-up heroes of course, but this was just as comedians started to be stadium-filling superstars. There were few comedy clubs or places to play in Glasgow at the time, so Ed went about starting his own.
“There had been a club at Blackfriars, which gave new folk a place to perform.
That was the place that produced people like Fred MacAulay, Stu Who and Parrot, the Funny Farm guys. Of course, just at the time I wanted to start doing gigs, they stopped.
“There were events like Fools Paradise at the Athenaeum and Ferry Funny on the Renfrew Ferry, but these were for established acts. “I decided I would have to start my own, which I did, at the 13th Note in Glassford Street.”
Inevitably, he headed to London after a while, where there was a plethora of comedy clubs and many more opportunities to be noticed. Before he left, he didn’t get a chance to try an activity that has nowadays become a passion and keeps him coming back to Scotland whenever he can – hillwalking.
Heading into the hills
“When I was in Glasgow, I was definitely a city-dweller. I had no idea what was just a short drive away. I had enjoyed hillwalking at school, but it was only when I was driving through the Peak District on a beautiful frosty morning that I was stirred to go hillwalking and camping again.
“I was hooked when I saw Muriel Gray presenting The Munro Show. That was the first time I had heard the concept of Munros, but I was absolutely hooked.”
Apart from his popularity in Scotland, that’s why he’ll be happy to spend nearly every August at the Fringe in Edinburgh and always has a generous number of dates here when he tours. The walking gear is always ready, so he can head into the hills during the day.
“I was also really lucky having this ‘celebrity’ status attached to my name. I was able to spend a day in the hills with your own Cameron McNeish, the absolute giant of the outdoor world. I couldn’t believe it! I had only been Munro bagging for a couple of years and here I am with Cameron. It felt like cheating. “You can never get tired of those hills – I’ll be doing it as long as my legs will carry me.”
You can catch Ed Byrne at the Edinburgh Fringe until August 30 – click here for tickets and details of his new tour Outside Looking In.