Review: Jason Byrne: You Can Come in, But Don’t Start Anything at Assembly Hall

Jason Byrne’s routine is predicated on an expression of hatred for everything.

This year’s roster of grievances includes iPhones, cyclists, cyclists’ shoes, magnesium tablets, kids these days, parents these days, the drawstrings around the top of Wellington boots, PTA members, high-vis jackets, weight limits on child seats, and trampoline netting. All of this is delivered with Byrne’s trademark high energy and wild gesticulating that, at 46 (as he constantly reminds us), still appears to be a bottomless pit.

As usual, Byrne mines a great deal of material from the audience—in this particular performance he was really indebted to the row of “posh children” in the front, which was lambasted with jokes about nannies, “posh hair,” and eating poor people. More crude than clever, the riffing is still impressive in its effortlessness and has the audience drawn in with a greedy hunger.  

Trying to nail down the specimen of humour in Jason Byrne’s stand-up is impossible: the more you think, the less funny it becomes. Only Byrne is capable of executing the juvenile with a lot of yelling, arm-waving, and high-kicks. This wild, off-the-cuff style does come with downsides: fuelled by laughter, Byrne tends to repeat himself, stretching out themes a bit too long. He’s also not above cracking himself up.

All this is a diversion, however, as everyone waits for the audience participation Jason Byrne is known for. The crowd roars as he invites members onstage, subjecting each with humiliating banter before forcing them to engage in a cringe-worthy act. The viewing experience is like that of a gladiator fight – captivating, but only due to our cruel human tendency towards schadenfreude. I found myself laughing but left feeling ugly and yearning for American earnestness.

Jason Byrne: You Can Come in, But Don’t Start Anything, Assembly Hall, Aug 19-26 Aug (not 20), 9pm


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