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Ed Byrne: Spoiler Alert - New Wimbledon Theatre

This is Ed Byrne’s warning to his audiences, even if he offers no solutions – practical or otherwise – as to what steps could be taken to try to do something about it. Today’s generation of parents of dependent children, which Byrne counts himself amongst, having two boys (who, in the great tradition of stand-up comedy, are subjected to character assassination) are spoiling their offspring, partly by default, partly by design. There are already signs in graduates and school leavers entering the workplace today who expect that the world owes them everything they desire, and the fuss that they kick up when they don’t get what they want (and f*ck everyone else and their requirements) is tantamount to a volcano exploding. It’s a wonder, to me, that such people don’t spontaneously combust, such is their vitriol when there’s just one teeny weeny insignificant thing – and there is always, always, something – that isn’t to their exacting standards.

Not that such people are going to set about doing anything regarding what they perceive to be a ‘problem’, or to be more precise, ‘the greatest injustice in the history of the world’, an indication of how up their own backsides these frivolous and fickle people are, given that the history of the world includes miscellaneous genocides, floods and earthquakes, international wars, the Holocaust, 9/11, the potato famine and anything else involving death and destruction one can care to think of. Oh no, no, no. It’s always someone else’s fault, and someone else’s responsibility to correct a (non) fault.

What Byrne is suggesting in his latest stand-up tour, Spoiler Alert, is that youngsters are being increasingly inclined to expect entitlement. Of course, there are going to be those that buck the trend, and for every young selfish prick out there, there’s another warm-hearted and generous youngster, articulate and assertive as opposed to sullen and irritable. I am not entirely immune to Byrne’s observations. I spend too much on takeaways, brought to my doorstep by Deliveroo drivers, because I can’t be bothered to cook. I turn up at the theatre hurried and flustered because I didn’t leave enough time to get there, and I probably shouldn’t (much as I hate to admit it) accept as many invitations to review as I do.

Byrne is that rare sort of comedian that I have always enjoyed seeing live over the years: I think I have seen him on the stand-up circuit more times than any other humourist. I simply appreciate his incisive observations. An example: his systematic demolition of the concept of semi-skimmed milk (why not buy a pint of skimmed milk and a pint of full fat milk and mix them together?) may not stop me from being a green topper altogether, but it did make me think.

Long-form stories take precedence over Tim Vine-style one-line punchlines, and Byrne doesn’t bother with incivility, preferring friendliness with the audience and being genuinely articulate (yes, there’s swearing, but it’s not as compulsory as breathing), as well as being shrewd enough to judge the New Wimbledon Theatre audience as being different from that of, say, Hove or Sheffield. But, in effect a performer directing himself, he digresses to the point where a story that begins fairly early in Act One isn’t completed until Act Two.

I must admit I groaned inside when Donald Trump came up. As so often, though, Byrne redeems himself in my book, with a delightful discovery of how ‘Donald Trump’ translates into British Sign Language. It originated in American Sign Language, as I understand it. The right hand moves to smooth down Mr Trump’s hair, as though ruffled in the wind. Brilliant.

Five stars

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