Reading Tommy Tiernan’s Wikipedia page I have no idea how come neither of us had ever heard of him before. He’s been doing stand up for over twenty years, appeared in many TV and radio shows, and toured extensively. Apparently he’s also caused endless offence to many people several times owing to his ability to allow his comic imaginings to run riot and without inhibition. Having spent an evening with him for his Out of the Whirlwind tour, I’m not remotely surprised. But boy, is he funny.
It started kind of controversially. Within a few seconds of his taking to the stage, he was getting heckled by an older lady a few rows back. At first it was hilarious. She was really giving him short shrift, and he hadn’t even started yet. He named her “Nanna”, and indeed it seemed she had been taken out for the night by the family but she wasn’t at all sure he was going to be her cup of tea. But after she kept on interrupting, she pretty quickly became not my cup of tea. “He’s going to have to move on”, observed Mrs Chrisparkle. “How’m I doing, Nanna?” “I’ll let you know. I’ll write to you in a fortnight”. And so on it went. Eventually, Mr Tiernan judged it was the right time to slap her down, and he did, with great forthrightness, a bundle of heckle-busting lines and a little minor aggression. It worked. We never heard a peep out of her again. When he checked in with her at the beginning of the second half, she’d already gone home, much to his regret. But it was never going to be a match made in heaven.
When he did finally start his show you quickly realised that you were seeing an absolute master at work. He does not shy away from sensitive subjects – indeed he makes a big song and dance about tackling them. He tells a long story about how he was accused of racism, much to his indignation; and in the telling he manages to imitate (and indirectly insult) Roma people, an Indian doctor, a Nigerian taxi driver and the Belgians. At least he doesn’t exclude himself from the maelstrom with a painfully hilarious exposé about what can happen to a gentleman’s once proud member once it gets past the mid-forties – erectile dysfunction has never been more soundly rounded on!
Other memorable moments included him translating his dog’s growlings into English, explaining why he voted against equal marriage (it’s to save the gays from themselves) and lamenting the way a woman’s body simply gives up the ghost after a certain age. This prompted the second major heckle of the evening from an affronted woman who reminded him that it’s the women who have the babies, and basically how dare you take that tone with us. I thought he handled it with an excellent balance of couldn’t you tell I was speaking out of affection with it’s a comedy routine, ffs. He certainly does have the ability to rub people up the wrong way, particularly if they lose sight of the fact that it’s not actually a documentary. His routines are studded with easily recognisable moments of reality, which he then reduces ad absurdam. For example, there’s the sequence where he reveals the loving way in which a lady can relax a gentleman by playfully wafting her bosoms in his face to take away the cares of the day; and then he imagines the return gesture if he was to kneel astride his lady’s face and playfully bounce his dangly bits onto hers. If it works one way, why shouldn’t it work the other?
It’s a short show – but you certainly don’t feel short changed. It went up a little after 8 o’clock and including a generous interval we were on our way out at 9.45. But we continued laughing about it all the way home and during the rest of the evening. That’s the mark of a true comic. The warm glow he gave us lasted until at least the following morning. His connection with both his material and his audience is simply magic. Mr Tiernan’s tour continues throughout the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand until June. Definitely one of the best comics we’ve ever seen.
P. S. As we left the theatre for our interval drink, we bumped into Dan Evans, who was hosting Screaming Blue Murder, which had also been scheduled for the same evening. “Turncoat!” he accused us. It was most unfortunate that both shows were on the same day. Tommy Tiernan’s was the first to go up on sale, and thus he claimed our comedy pound. I was full of apologies to Dan – and to be fair we had hummed and hahhed about taking back our TT tickets and replacing them with SBMs. But on reflection I’m very glad we didn’t.