Getting Byrned: Comedian Steve Byrne brings down the house with his new Comedy Central special, The Byrne Identity.
ISSUE: Summer 2010
STORY: Naomi Fujimoto
“We are known for cool things,” quipped Steve Byrne, referring to Asians, in his 2008 Comedy Central special Steve Byrne’s Happy Hour. “Technology. Martial arts. Eating hot dogs.”
But this 35-year-old Korean-Irish American comedian is moving beyond his ethnic background and The Kims of Comedy. His new special, The Byrne Identity, airs on Comedy Central at the end of July. And it covers his take on, well, everyone.
“The basis of it is, who are you? And then, who am I?” he says. “It’s about how I view race. It’s how I view people through music, because you can stereotype people through music. How I view the sexes.”
Byrne doesn’t want to pigeonhole himself by gearing his act toward Asians. “I’d rather be inclusive instead of exclusive,” he says. African Americans, Mexicans, cougars, boy bands, fans of emo — everyone is fair game. In The Byrne Identity, the comedian covers what your favorite music says about you, why women aren’t hunters, and what “I love you” means.
These are broader topics than in his earlier act, which featured plenty of jokes about his Korean mother. “I’ve thrown my mom under the bus so many times that she deserves a break,” he laughs.
Audiences have seen Byrne graduate from five-minute sets to hour-long specials. He has performed on USO tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and recently traveled to Japan and China. His take? “People are just people.” They want to laugh.
If Byrne tends to see the commonalities between people, it’s because he thinks we’re all immigrants to some degree. That means no one is safe from his observations. But that’s all right — because in any culture, he’s funny. — Naomi Fujimoto