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

“I called it [The Man with Three Brains] because it was something a fan said to me after a show once, they were like, 'it seems like you need three brains to operate up there.'”

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.”

Jason Byrne will bring his show The Man with Three Brains to The Forum Theatre as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. You can find full show details and tickets via the MICF website.