If you’ve got the talent, you’d better win

U.S. comedian Steve Byrne says: “No more No. 1 draft picks for the Edmonton Oilers.” And he’s not joking.

U.S. comedian Steve Byrne says: “No more No. 1 draft picks for the Edmonton Oilers.”

And he’s not joking.

Byrne, who performs a stand-up comedy show on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer, is the rare American sports addict who follows hockey rather than football.

The New Jersey-born, Philadelphia-raised comic is a huge Pittsburgh Penguins fan. He’s also been playing hockey, himself, since age six, so Byrne’s well aware of the talent-sucking black hole created by the chronically losing Edmonton Oilers, who’ve drafted and seemingly wasted such skilled top picks as Connor McDavid.

Clearly the situation is getting under his skin.

“Getting (four) great No. 1 draft picks is enough, guys,” said Byrne. “You’ve gotta start winning some, or there’s no more. It’s ridiculous. It’s not paying off!”

Hockey jokes are another thing that do not pay off — at least for U.S. audiences.

Byrne admitted he doesn’t bother coming up with puck-related material for his touring act because there just aren’t enough hockey fans in the States to get the jokes.

If he thinks of a few NHL-inspired witticisms before performing in Red Deer, Byrne said, “maybe I can work some in …”

Meanwhile, local fans will hear his observational humour about life as a new father. His act doesn’t tread in well-worn territory, “not the way I do it,” said the comedian, who built his latest jokes around the advice he will give his two pre-school children.

Byrne already realizes that hanging onto their youthful innocence is a losing proposition. “Somebody my age had to earn their information,” he said, with a chuckle. “Now kids just use their iPhones.”

Among the big truths he intends to impart: “When you’re in your 20s, never get into a bar fight with someone in their 30s.”

There’s also the gem: “Never think of a girl as being out of your league.”

Among the hardest-won nuggets of knowledge that Byrne has attained is that kale is one of the healthiest vegetables. “People in their 20s don’t know what kale is yet. You have to wait until you’ve turned 30 and your body has started to fall apart …”

The comedian, who’s wrapping up a one-hour special that will be available on Netflix in the spring, did a previous tour that was chock-full full of controversial jokes about various ethnic groups, including Asians, Mexicans, blacks and whites.

The Korean-Irish comic admitted to playing on stereotypes — and getting some flack for it.

But in his defence, he said, “When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you want to push the edge and see how far you can take it …”

Now that he’s doing more family-related humour, will it lessen his risk of angering people?

Not a chance, said Byrne. “These days, there’s always somebody who’s offended …”

The 41-year-old, best known for his first television show, Sullivan & Son, which aired for three seasons on TBS, had his third one-hour stand-up comedy special, Champion, on Netflix in May 2014.

After winning TBS’s cutthroat competition, the Stand Up or Sit Down Comedy Challenge in 2006, Byrne was featured in his own half-hour Comedy Central Presents. It was voted one of the best specials of all time in the Comedy Central Stand-up Showdown.

He has also been seen on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS’s The Late Late Show, and has appeared on NBC’s The Tonight Show a total of 10 times.

Tickets are $20 for his 8:30 p.m. show at Fratters.


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