Review: Ed Byrne: Tragedy Plus Time

A fierce tribute to Paul Byrne and lost sibling rivalry

comedy review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Ed Byrne
Photo by Rosalyn Gaunt
Published 10 Aug 2023

I saw no fewer than six stand-ups paying tribute to the late comedy writer-director Paul Byrne in their Fringe shows last year. His brother Ed has taken slightly longer to offer this tremendously funny, thoughtful and fond reminisce, adhering to the maxim often attributed to Mark Twain that tragedy becomes comedy in time. This is the tale of the darkest joke Byrne ever told, in the show he never wanted to write.

Chiefly, it's an affecting account of a fraternal bond that was sorely tested but endured their clashing egos and Paul's collapsing health. Besieged by a failing liver after a lifetime of partying, with his personal and professional life falling apart over lockdown, it was Covid that ultimately did for him. A central plank of the show is a seething Ed recalling in typically incredulous pique how he cut loose the conspiracy nut friend calling it a "plandemic", because some relationships are not worth maintaining.

Byrne doesn't underplay his brother's selfish, spikier side, noting the lack of time he put in with the comic's children. Their arguments were true ding-dongs, with resentment festering for months afterwards, though he accepts his own ADHD-influenced role in sparking them.

Above all though, he sets huge store by Paul's comedic insight, his ability to punch up a script and help younger comics realise their potential. They were closest ripping the piss out of each other. And naturally, he gives Paul many of the show's best lines posthumously. Even as he retains the abiding, final vent of exasperated ultra-bastardy for himself.