Comic Jason Byrne unveils his new ‘edgy’ BBC family sitcom

Stand-up comic Jason Byrne has adapted his radio comedy, based on his own experiences as a husband and father, for his new BBC1 sitcom, Father Figure (Wednesday), featuring Jason as house husband and father-of-two Tom Whyte.

TV&Satellite Week caught up with Jason to find out more…

Father Figure is a family sitcom, but it does have a little bit of edge to it. It should stand out on its own.

Tom is a stay at home dad. I have been watching sitcoms all my life so you will probably see elements of other sitcoms throughout the ages. But all my fans will go, ‘he definitely wrote that.’

Tom is given this challenge quite late in life because his kids are nine and 12, and my wife Elaine (played by Karen Taylor) ends up being manager of a string of bookies called Furlongs.

I am very much the ‘wife’ of the relationship. The kids have no respect for Tom at all. Each episode is a task for him more or less.

Elaine’s ex-boyfriend Carl (Peter Serafanowicz) comes to stay and he is really cool and has a brilliant chin. We put a little bit of extra prosthetic onto his chin. And I basically I have chin envy for the whole of the episode. Everybody gets mesmerised by his chin.

My own kids are six and 13. I have taken a couple of incidents that have happened to me and escalated them and put them into the sitcom. I’m watching my children all the time and writing anything they say.

It is an unusual sitcom. A mix of Irish and English. My neighbour is my rival, I hate him because he is very regimental. You are not too sure whether he likes Irish people or not. The neighbours on the other side don’t have children, have a very clean garden and do not like to talk to people.

I do a lot of the stunts in it as well. There is a bit where I said I would get the children believing in Santa again and I said I will fall off the roof covered in snow. I arrived in the studio, and there was the replica of a full roof of a house built in the studio. I was climbing on the roof dressed as Santa and the stunt man Andy said, “Look, there is a ramp on the other side”, so I threw myself off the roof. I hit the ramp, bounced off it, hit him and he went flying into the wall. 

I also had to walk up a plank and fall into a skip, and I had a full-on fist fight with my mother (played by Pauline McLynn) because she is trying to take over my dinner. Pauline is slamming my head in the fridge door like we’re in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and then I smash her in the face with the door.

I use a lot of props in my stand-up shows. I was in my shed this morning looking at all the props that I have to make for my next stand-up tour. I am working on a stunt where people wear these goggle things and walk around an obstacle course with double vision.

Humour is the same, but the way you tell the story has to be slightly different. In Manchester, Liverpool, up north, I spoke about how my mother used to beat us when we were kids. Everybody used to cry laughing at that routine. Then I moved down to Norwich and Brighton and all those lovely places, and you could see them looking and thinking, “Why would a mother beat their child? That doesn’t make sense.”

As a child I was obsessed with rubber snakes and spiders and I would leave them around my aunty’s house and put spiders on my sister’s pillow when she was asleep. When I was at school I was a nice fun child, so the teachers really liked me because I was never horrible to them, but I was a chatterbox, I was cheeky to them in a nice way. I would always make the teachers laugh.

I used to be in a running club. There is nothing more boring than being in a running club. You meet up, you run, you go home. At 1500m I was fastest in my school, ran in All Ireland. For the past three years I have been running very, very hard. 42 minutes for 10k. I love running.

The first time I was ever on a movie set was Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t realise it was such a big deal. Gene Wilder, Whoopi Goldberg, years ago. I had to dress up as the White Rabbit’s gardener. I was a human lizard. I’d just started in the business and I remember thinking, Is this what my life is going to be like? The White Rabbit kept taking the Rabbit’s head off to have a cigarette.

I used to work in a lighting warehouse, but I was never a qualified electrician, I learned how to do everything in the warehouse. We did terrible things to each other. I’d put nuts and bolts in my friend’s tea. If it was someone’s birthday, we would chain them and hoist them up and leave them there for the day.

My mother was a professional ballroom dancer. I did that as a little kid, but the competitions didn’t last too long. When I was in my early twenties I could pick up any woman in the world just because I could do a simple waltz.