Jason Byrne chats to Brendan Courtney about the second instalment of his autobiography; Memoirs of a Wonky Eyed Man: The Dad knows Best Years. It charts his teenage years right through to arriving in the world of comedy. Listen back above.
Jason Byrne's Dad never got around to reading the first part of his memoir, Adventures of a Wonky-Eyed Boy:The Short-Arse Years (2016); but that didn't stop Paddy Byrne holding court at the book launch, signing copies of the book and telling everyone what a great read it was. Paddy passed away in early 2020, and Jason dropped in for a chat with Brendan Courtney on the Nine O'Clock Show to talk about his late Dad and the second part of his autobiography, Memoirs of a Wonky Eyed Man: The Dad knows Best Years. Jason talks about his career as a touring comedian, taking on the role of his Dad in his recent one-man show, Paddy Lama - The Shed Talks, and the wisdom and comedy he's inherited from his much-loved, hilarious and laid-back father.
Jason Byrne's Dad died in February 2020, just before the Covid lockdowns kicked in. He was with Paddy when he passed away, and Jason tells Brendan that if he’d been given the choice in advance, he'd never have chosen to be there; but when it happened, he felt differently:
"The nurse was brilliant. They’re going, 'just keep holding his hand; tell him it’s ok, keep talking to him, he can hear you.’ You don’t cry, which is really weird. And my aunties didn’t cry. It was like this hard stone thing, because it’s for your dad you are doing it; and you’re just going it’s okay Dad, it’s okay; and you just see him starting to go."
Jason says that Memoirs of a Wonky Eyed Man: The Dad knows Best Years is a kind of homage to his Dad and his view of the world; funny, unfazed by crises and full of wisdom; both useful and irrelevant. He was also very proud of his comedian son, as Jason tells Brendan:
"He loved who I was, my Dad."
Paddy supported Jason's efforts in comedy and in writing; as Jason recalls from the launch of part one of his memoir; Adventures of a Wonky-Eyed Boy:
"We had the book launch, because he features so heavily in the first book (and in the second one) and people had started getting him to sign the books. And he'd never even read it. He never read a book ever; he only ever read the papers. And me Da was going 'Yeah, it’s very funny; I enjoyed it thoroughly. What’s the name?’"
Following a suggestion by director Feidlim Cannon of the award-winning theatre company Brokentalkers, Jason wrote and performed a play about his Dad, Paddy Lama - The Shed Talks; featuring many of the anecdotes which are also included in his new book. Jason says it's what his Dad would have wanted:
"My Dad used to say, 'If you don't talk about somebody when they die, they die twice.’ That was my Da’s thing. This is like bringing my Dad back, like."
One of Paddy Byrne's 'wise' sayings was a warning that everyone gets a limited number of heartbeats, and getting het up about things uses up that supply too quickly. Jason says his Dad took everything in his stride:
"When the recession hit, oh my God, the recession in 2007, my Da’s sitting out the back with a fag, in the shed – Da there’s a recession out there! And he goes, 'Yeah, I know; [pulls on fag] I think this is me 5th recession Jay.’ So there’s nothing to gain, my Dad would think this as well; there’s nothing to gain by losing the head."
As well as a sense of humour, Jason says he also inherited a heart condition from his Dad, which Jason has now been treated for. His Dad took the news with the same relaxed humour:
"He said ' Nothing you can do about the 501s.' Right I was going the wha?? What’s that? ‘The genes.’ That’s such an aul fella joke, ‘the jeans’."
Jason says there's been a kind of synergy between the play and the book, and creating both has let him have an ongoing conversation with his Dad - and with himself, as he tells Brendan:
"I think the play is my sub-conscious talking to me, all the time – even though it's my Dad. Dad will say in the play, he'll go like 'You’ve 6 stents now’, he says; 'So maybe stop jumping around so much?" He goes "Why don’t you just sit in a chair and tell some jokes like Dave Allen?"
There's so much more in the full interview, including Jason's story about his solo-run in the Late Late Show audience age 20 in a home-made Ghostbusters costume and the spontaneous sing-song that broke out among pensioners during the performance of his play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - listen back above.
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Jason’s book Memoirs of a Wonky-Eyed Man: The Dad Knows Best Years is published by Gill Books.