Jason Byrne is in a car on his way to the airport when we have our scheduled telephone interview.
The 42-year-old Dubliner is multi-tasking – something he’s had to become an expert at, given that for most of the year he’s on the road or in the television studio, shuttling backwards and forwards between home and far-flung places.
Jason is currently mid-way through a 25-date tour of the UK, which takes in Huddersfield on November 15. In between performances he flies back home to Ireland to work on his television series, Jason Byrne’s Snaptastic Show. I ask him if this is exhausting, particularly given that his ‘thing’, as he describes it, is to allow audiences to choose the topics upon which he does his stand-up routines. He insists that he thrives on the excitement of live interactive performances. “It keeps me on my toes,” he explains, “I have been thinking on my feet for years and it keeps me more interested in what I’m doing because every show is different. I don’t know what’s going to come up.”
You Name the Show, his current stage tour, offers a strong clue as to what audiences can expect. At each venue a handful of selected audience members will be invited to write down what they think the show should be called. The rest of the audience will vote for their favourite and all the winners will go forward until the last show in Belfast when an overall winner will be chosen.
Jason likes to get the audience involved. During the show he uses a ‘wheel of fortune’ so the audience can select the running order, which leads to unpredictability, a lot of quick thinking and improvisation.
Although stand-up is now his natural environment, Jason says he never really had any ambitions in that direction and it was only when a friend talked a comedy club into taking him on that he decided to give it a go. “At 16 I saw Billy Connolly and thought I would never be able to do what he does, to stand there in front of all those people.” he said.
He was 24 when he finally made it onto the stage and discovered that he had a talent for stand-up. “I got good at it quite quickly,” he added.
As a school leaver Jason trained as a lighting engineer and theatrical lighting designer. He spent his spare time in stand-up clubs – as a member of the audience. But looking back he can see that the seeds of comedy had been sewn much earlier in his life: “I was a very confident kid, happy messing about and having a laugh. My dad had a dry wit and my mum used to be a ballroom dancer and had a bit of showbiz in her. I used to watch comedy shows with my dad – I was getting all this comedy injected into my brain.”
His own children, two sons, aged seven and 14, have been brought up with a father in the limelight. “All their mates think I’m cool,” says Jason, “because they can go on You Tube and watch me.”
The youngest has fallen under the showbiz spell too and has ambitions to be an actor – or a footballer.
It’s clear from talking to Jason that he loves what he does and feels fortunate to be in so much demand.
“I hope never to retire,” he says. The first half of every year is spent touring Ireland, in April and May he ‘does’ Australia; August sees him at the Edinburgh Festival and autumn is the season of his British tour. “My wife says I’m a workaholic but my brain is always switched on, always thinking.”
Jason’s LBT show on Saturday, November 15, is on the main stage at 8pm. Tickets are £15 and £17.50 from 01484 430528, www.thelbt.org