Jason Byrne: The journey from having fake hands to three brains

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Jason Byrne: The journey from having fake hands to three brains


With his boundless energy and OTT exhibitionism, Jason Byrne has cemented himself as one of Ireland’s most beloved stand-ups. Twenty years ago this month, however, he was just another budding performer in his mid-20s hoping for a break. Said break came in the form of a part on Father Ted, the cult-favourite Irish sitcom, in which Byrne utters one of the show’s most famous lines: “Wait a second – these are fake hands!”

“I still remember everything about it,” Byrne says with a laugh from his home in Dublin. “We did a week of recording out in the west of Ireland and then a week in the studio over in London. I was only needed for a feckin’ day, but there was just so much that went into making that show happen. I happened to be friends with one of the writers, and they offered me a part basically on the back of one question – could I run backwards all day and pretend to be a football referee? ‘Of course I can!’ I got to referee the over-75s five-a-side match, and it was a feckin’ classic.”

Fast forward to 2018, and Byrne is still as in-demand as ever. He’s just completed a sold-out tour of his homeland, is heading back to Melbourne for his umpteenth Melbourne International Comedy Festival run and is in the middle of filming a new season of Ireland’s Got Talent, of which he is one of the judges. He shares an anecdote from the set to give a sense of how things are going.

“On the show, they have this thing called a golden buzzer,” he explains. “If you press it, then the act goes straight through without everyone having to say yes.”

“There was a drag act that came through, and even though they weren’t very good I still wanted to see what was going to happen. I had my feet up on the desk, blocking my regular buzzer because the other judges were trying to press it to get them off. I accidentally hit the golden buzzer with my left foot. The confetti went off and everything. I thought it was a part of the act! I had to own my mistake – they’re on my team for the semi-finals now.”

Byrne’s current show is entitled The Man with Three Brains. It’s not in any way a science fiction fare, mind you – rather, it’s a reflection on Byrne’s hyperactivity when the stage is his. “I called it that because it was something a fan said to me after a show once,” he explains. “They were like, ‘it seems like you need three brains to operate up there.’ There’s a lot to my shows, always a lot going on – there’s improv, there’s sketches, there’s stand-up. I liked the idea, so I ran with it. I got comments after I started doing it, with people saying the show had nothing to do with a three-brained man. I know, it’s just a feckin’ good name.”