My Perfect Day

Ed Byrne

Comedian and TV panel show regular Ed Byrne tells walk about his love of Munro bagging, and explains why the great outdoors is not so great for observational humour...

Do you have a favourite walk?

I have a favourite memory of one. While I was doing the Edinburgh Fringe I would finish a gig late, go to bed at around 1am and not really sleep. Then one night after a gig I stayed up, set off in the car at 3am to Crianlarich and walked up Beinn a’Chroin and An Caisteal. The light was brilliant, there was a wonderful cloud inversion of mist in the valley and clear skies. Afterwards, I went back to bed and slept all day, then did my gig. I told the audience what I’d done and got a tremendous cheer. 

Where would you like to wake up on your perfect day? 
I’d like to be up in the mountains all day and then come down and camp by a beach. I do love a campfire.

What is your favourite area of the UK for walking?
My wife’s from the Peak District, so I’ve explored there and I’ve also enjoyed walking around the Jurassic Coast.

Who’s your perfect travelling companion?
My wife is a fair-weather walker, who will turn her head if she sees a cloud in the distance, so it would be Craig Campbell, a Canadian comedian. He helped to instil in me my love of the outdoors.

You’ve been bagging the Munros – why is that?
I didn’t even know how to spell Munro to start with – I Googled it and ended up with Marilyn Monroe. Munro bagging is a very blokeish, nerdy thing to do. I have to accept that obsessing about lists is in the male psyche. I’ve done about 70 now. I know that by doing some Munros you miss out on lower peaks that are better and more beautiful, but Munro bagging does get you to different parts of the countryside.

Walking is the polar opposite to the quick-thinking adrenaline of stand-up comedy, so why does it appeal?
I’m not really an adrenaline junkie, so away from my work I’m drawn to hill walking precisely because it’s not a thrill a minute. You can also pick who you go with. If you play a team sport there’ll be people you hate but have to put up with, and that’s before you even get to the opposition. I also like to go by myself quite a bit.

Is the countryside a good source of observational humour?
My humour rarely – in fact, never – comes from the countryside. My humour is based on the frustrations of everyday life; the countryside is not fertile territory for that. It can be helpful for perhaps giving me the space to crack a punch line, but no more.

What did you think of the Government’s proposals to sell off England’s public forests?
What happened as a result was great. Lots of people protested and the Government backed down. I actually think the Government deserves some credit for that. I’m no supporter of them, but I don’t think it’s right to then rub their noses in it.

Where would you most like to go that you haven’t yet been?
I’ve done the odd long route, such as the Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt. I would like to do some more long-distance walking – maybe the Pyrenees or Appalachian Trail: staring out into the distance, knowing that’s where you’re going…

You’ve been learning to fish – could you be self-sufficient in a Ray Mears way?

I still need some help to develop those post-apocalyptic skills – it’s increasingly likely that we will need them. There is definitely something about the outdoors and this survivalist stuff. You go to an outdoor shop in the US and on one side of the store you have boots and camping kit, and on the other it’s wall-to-wall guns. It seems nonsensical: guns and ammo and tree-hugging.

What are you most proud of in 
your life?
The romantic in me would probably say my child, but to be honest anyone can have one of those. I’m still amazed that, 19 years ago, I was able to get off my backside with the energy and drive to decide I was going to earn a living making people laugh. That’s unlike me: I’m resistant to change. Who was that guy who made that decision? I’m quite proud of the person I was then.