Who is: Alex J Byrne & What is: Le Chats?

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Le Chats is a weekly talk show that gives an insightful look into the lives of performers from around the country.  I had the pleasure of meeting the man behind this endeavour, Alex Byrne – a comedian actor and now, talk show host. From him interviewing me, to now me interviewing him, it’s safe to say we’re now best friends!

Who is Alex Byrne? 
Alex Byrne is a comedian and actor from Dublin, although not nearly a prolific enough one to speak in the third person as I just did! I’ve been performing comedy for the last 4 years and have been involved in a lot of different projects including plays, short films and web series. I’m always happy to be involved in a new project and to have the platform to express myself creatively. Outside of all of that, I’m happiest when spending time with my 4 dogs or watching Chelsea play (When we win that is!)
How did you get into comedy? 
I did a couple of part-time acting courses in the Gaiety back in 2016 and felt I was lacking direction after them. I spoke with a couple of my teachers as well as some actors that I knew and they all told me that I should do the part-time comedy course. I actually had a friend who said he wouldn’t speak with me again if I didn’t do it, so that was good motivation too. It was really nice that so many people felt that it was the right thing for me to do and it gave me a lot of confidence starting out. Up until that point, I’d always told jokes to people that I had heard and they seemed to enjoy it. A couple of people told me that I had a good ability for telling jokes and that gave me the initiative to go and try it too.
 
What has been your greatest achievement? 
My greatest achievement performance-wise has been that I’ve performed comedy in 4 different countries so far. I’ve performed all around Ireland as well as doing a show in England back in 2016 when I had just started to do comedy. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have headlined comedy clubs in Canada and the US as well which is something I never imagined doing when I initially started doing comedy. I’ve also been happy to have met some really great people through doing comedy and acting that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, so I think that meeting anyone through performing that you can call a friend is a good achievement in itself as well as performing in so many different places.  I’ve also been able to meet some great people through my chat show and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking with everyone that I’ve had on.
It’s really been horrible not being able to perform either comedy or acting on stage during all of this. If I’ve had a bad day, then the ability to go on stage and express myself really improves my mood and it’s been really hard having that been taken away from all of us performers. On the other hand, though, it’s forced me to be creative in other ways which is why I set up a chat show for performers to express themselves during this difficult time called “Le Chats”.
How has lockdown affected you?
Lockdown has affected me the same as everyone else in the sense that I’m sick of it by now and am looking forward to it being over. It really takes its toll getting up every day and seeing bad news. Alongside this, I feel that that the lockdowns have been detrimental to people’s mental health. People are constantly seeing doom and gloom every day and aren’t able to escape from that and it has taken a toll on a lot of people after such a prolonged period. I think it’s so important for people to talk about how they feel and I’ve told my friends many times during this lockdown that if they need someone to talk to or a joke to cheer them up that they can talk to me whenever they want. It’s been difficult for everyone, but I think the only thing to do is to be there for other people and try to make a positive impact.
In terms of a performance point of view, it’s really been horrible not being able to perform either comedy or acting on stage during all of this. If I’ve had a bad day, then the ability to go on stage and express myself really improves my mood and it’s been really hard having that been taken away from all of us performers. On the other hand, though, it’s forced me to be creative in other ways which is why I set up a chat show for performers to express themselves during this difficult time called “Le Chats”
 
How and why did you start “Le Chats?”
When the 2nd Level 5 lockdown happened in October, I wanted to do something on Facebook that people would enjoy watching and something that I would enjoy doing. I came up with the idea of doing a chat show where performers would be able to come on and chat about how they have personally been affected by the lockdown and were able to express their feelings to an audience.
 
It all came about very quickly as well, to be honest. I was sitting there on a Friday morning thinking to myself “I’d love to do a chat show”. An hour later I was messaging people asking “Hey, do you want to be on this new show that I’m starting next week??”
It’s been a really enjoyable experience so far as I’ve really enjoyed speaking to the guests that I’ve had on and so far, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from them saying that they’ve enjoyed being on the show as well. I think it’s good to humanise the artists to the audience as well and show that the people that they see on stage in different forms of entertainment are people as well and are going through the same thing as everyone else. One of the amazing things about being in the entertainment industry is that we talk to more artists in a day than most people will in a year!

 

How do you feel the entertainment industry has been handled through the pandemic thus far?
Very poorly if I’m honest. I think that the arts overall have been pushed to one side and deemed unimportant. It’s an industry that has been completely wiped out and nobody knows when it will be back.  It’s been extremely frustrating to have such a lack of clarity and to be made to feel that our passion doesn’t matter.
There has been some level of stigma for artists to ‘get a real job’ during this lockdown. The ironic thing about this is, that the same people who have said this to artists have been watching more Netflix, reading more books, listening to more music and playing more video games during this lockdown, which is all from the entertainment industry! I think it’s important to realise that people in the entertainment industry are there because it’s the job that they want more than anything else. Nobody makes money starting out and I think you’d have to go a long way to find another industry where people work for free just out of love for what they are doing.
Another frustrating part of how the entertainment industry has been treated is the last-minute cancellations. There’s been a couple of comedy shows and productions that were green-lighted to go ahead, only to be cancelled the day before or the day of the event or shoot day. This has been unfair on all of the people who have organised the events or sold tickets as they’ve jumped through hoops to try and gets something up and running, only for the goalposts to be moved at the last minute.
Entertainment is such a unique industry as well in the sense that it’s not a job that can be done properly remotely. A lot of jobs that I’ve seen in the last few months have been able to be done from home, but entrainment is completely different. I know that there are a lot of platforms to stream different shows, but it just isn’t the same without the energy of a live crowd to feed off of. The sooner we can get back in front of a live audience, the better.
 
What advice would you give anyone interested in pursuing comedy and/or podcasting? 
I say to just go for it! I’d be lying if I said that I don’t get nervous before I go on stage or do Le Chats, but it’s what I love doing. I think that if it’s something you’d like to try, then you have to allow yourself to be nervous. I promise that it’ll be worth it.
The worst fear when it comes to starting to do comedy is of course “What will I do if nobody laughs?”. It’s happened to me plenty of times and it is demoralising when it happens, but the key thing is to put it behind you and move onto the next show. Nothing compares to the high you feel when you’ve done a good show and the audience and you have had a good time.
The main advice I always say to people who want to pursue comedy is that being likeable is 90% of the battle. You could say the funniest thing in the world, but if the audience doesn’t like you, they won’t laugh. Once they like you, you’re golden and they’ll support you all the way.
Any words of wisdom? 
In terms of performing: Always believe in yourself. Always believe in what you do and your own ability. Confidence is the key to doing anything in the entertainment industry. As well as this, be friendly and good to work with and you’ll see the benefits on a professional and personal level.
In terms of day-to-day life: We’re in a very difficult time right now. Allow yourself to feel whatever way you feel and don’t be afraid to reach out to if you need someone to talk to. Always be kind to yourself.

 

Apart from that, check out Le Chats live on Facebook at 7 pm every Thursday! 
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