How spoiled are we as a society? That’s the question at the heart of Ed Byrne’s latest comedy show, Spoiler Alert.
Usually with Ed, it’s a mistake to treat the title as a theme for the show. It’s more a direction in which to set off, leading to ninety minutes of observational, life-based, occasionally made-up fun, studded every now and again with moments that come together to justify the title. And as expected, Spoiler Alert is very much in his traditional mould – there’s some gentle fun with his two sons, Cosmo and Magnus (Byrne, whose most coherently ‘themed’ show, Different Class, was entirely based on his being somewhere between middle and working class, comes clean in terms of his upward social mobility, living in a leafy posh bit of Essex, judging expense in terms of the number of skiing holidays things cost, and, well, naming his sons Cosmo and Magnus), as the young Byrnes demand to be ‘bounced’ on their garden trampoline – which, of course, is bigger than Byrne Senior’s first flat – and ask for linguine with pesto for their dinner (or should that be supper?), provoking the reaction from their dad that these Little Lord Fauntleroys are not really the kind of people he would have wanted to hang out with when he was their age…
The notion that the amount of parenting that 21st century parents are expected to do – compared to, for instance, what seventies parents like Byrne’s own routinely got away with (“a night out was sitting in the car, outside the pub, eating crisps and drinking lemonade, while Daddy was inside, getting hammered – and then, cos this was the seventies, he’d come out and drive us home”) is one that will resonate with a lot of people providing organic, Free Trade, non-dairy, home-blitzed baby food for their offspring because of the additives. For everyone else, there are adventures in a drift in one’s dreams over time: Byrne takes us on a few hill walks (a particular passion of his), and shares his fourteen year-old self’s shame that he didn’t end up writing for Empire, Kerrang or Playboy, but now regularly writes articles for a magazine called The Great Outdoors.
In terms of a spoiled society, you could argue that there are missed opportunities, given that we’ve blithely accepted voice-controlled robo-slaves like Alexa, Siri, Bixby and Co, and that we’re two years away from the widespread roll-out of cars that drive themselves, but there’s a joie de vivre in Byrne’s latest show that means that even if it’s only a ramble from his starting point of the spoiled society, it’s nevertheless a great hour and a half in the company of a comedian who appears to have come to a kind of ease with himself and most of his audiences.
For all the rambling though, Ed Byrne can still deliver a sudden focus-pull that clarifies his ideas into the sort of nugget that you’ll clap wildly and remember long after the gig (and no, I’m not going to spoil it for you, much as I want to, and as much as you’ll want to too, once you’ve bought your ticket and helped the Byrne family get their next skiing holiday). The point is, Byrne includes it as a strong underlining of his thesis that we’re all spoiled, and that while in some respects it’s a harmless evolution of normality, in some ways, it’s also deeply insidious, and our being spoiled can lead to absurdity, death and eco-chaos. So go see Spoiler Alert, and embrace your inner spoiled brat.
Oh, one another thing. It feels like an Easter Egg, but Spoiler Alert show will also reveal to you the British Sign Language for “Donald Trump”, which as Byrne says, is enough to make you want him to have a State Visit after all, so long as there’s a BSL interpreter on-screen throughout the whole ghastly bonanza of the damned, because the deaf, clearly, do not mess about.