Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 12:49 pm Post subject: Tommy Tiernan
Tommy Tiernan and 'The Fellas' to headline the biggest Irish comedy gig of the year
By CAHIR O'DOHERTY
June 3, 2009
The biggest Irish comedy gig of the year is about to hit Manhattan on June 11 when Tommy Tiernan, Ardal O’Hanlon and Dylan Moran play the Town Hall. Called simply “The Fellas – Live!,” it’s an unseen before collection of Irish comic royalty under the one roof, and a guaranteed sell out.
Tiernan, 39, who starred here last year in critically acclaimed live show, “Something Mental,” broadcast on Comedy Central, will headline the three-man gig, and that’s appropriate because he’s now the uncrowned king of comedy. It’s an honorary title, and if you dared to suggest it to him he would probably thump you, but it’s no less true. For sheer wildness, originality and comic daring Tiernan is completely unmatched, and his live shows prove it.
But Tiernan, whose onstage character is famously uncensored, is a complete contrast when he steps out of the spotlight. Meet him for a one on one chat and you’ll find a gentle, if slightly melancholic soul. In fact in person he’s so bookish and softly spoken that he almost gives off an Ivy League professor vibe. It’s hard to square the mild mannered, everyday Tiernan from the flailing wild man onstage, but he leaves helpful clues. Occasionally he’ll talk about the themes that obsess him -- sex, psychology, pointlessness, the things you see in Irish country life -- and then the connection between the two halves of his private and public face is instant, like a thunderbolt.
One thing's for sure -- if you spend even a little time in Tiernan’s company you can’t help noticing how bright he is. This is a man who does not know how to be dull anytime, anywhere, about anything. Tiernan can turn a simple question about comic timing into an impromptu history of the importance of the fool at the medieval court, and then he’ll apologize for his erudition, and then he’ll continue.
Considering all this highbrow stuff, it may surprise you to know who he most wants to make laugh when he comes to New York next week. “I was just in Manhattan about two weeks ago,” Tiernan tells IrishCentral, by telephone from his home in Galway. “And I was walking on Broadway somewhere around Midtown when I saw two lads building a ramp for a handicap toilet.Next thing they’re shouting, ‘No way! Wait there! Are you Tommy Tiernan?’”
The two men turned out to be Irish construction workers from Co. Monaghan who chased him down and correctly identified him. When they got talking Tiernan discovered they were living here undocumented. “They couldn’t get driver’s licenses, they had trouble opening bank accounts, they couldn’t get work visas, and they couldn’t even fly home for a visit. These were lads nearing their thirties,” he said. “The biggest thing was it’d been four years since they’d had a cup of tea in the kitchen with the mammy. They missed that, you know. Going over to New York I want to give fellas like that a great night out. Not in a sentimental way, but in a sort of kinship way you know.”
He’s a decent skin, beneath it all, is Tommy Tiernan, and his own story has seen him border hopping for years. He was born Carndonagh, Co. Donegal in 1970, but his family moved to Africa when he was three. Three years later they moved to London. Then eventually they moved back to Ireland, this time to Co. Meath. All the early continent hopping often made Tiernan feel like he was rootless, out of place everywhere he turned up, and he has used that outsider’s awareness in his routines.
This year Tiernan set himself a new challenge, out of curiosity, he says. He decided to win the Guinness World Record for non-stop standup. “I was fascinated by the idea of getting rid of any tricks I might have learned as a stand up, and I was interested to in discovering other ways of performing. First I did it as a test, then as a dry run for charity, and then the last time I did it for the Guinness Book of World Records. Not because I attached any real importance to being in the Guinness Book, just because it gave the event some structure.”
Tiernan won. It’s typical of him that he wasn’t in it for the glory, though. He was in it to discover what made his act tick. After 36 hours and 15 minutes he also held a new world record. But for him the reward was discovering new material. With a massive recession, the unspeakable scandals in the church, the government’s inaction and the end of the Celtic Tiger, it’s not as if there’s a lack of material for any Irish comic to mine right now, but Tiernan isn’t interested in what’s obvious.
“It can’t be too premeditated, too clever or too intricate. I don’t go on stage with any point to prove. What I do is I inhabit this wild untrustworthy character,” he says. “You might gather information about recession or child abuse in your daily life, but it’s only when you go onstage that all of it takes shape. You’re too irresponsible to be taken seriously on that. And you’re doing it in such a way that people will respond positively to whatever you’re saying. It’s a release, rather than a sad thing. The jester is not to be trusted with anything really important.”
New York audiences are a special challenge. Sure, there’s the Irish who come by the hundreds, but they bring their New Yorker friends too. The question is how do you reach all of that diversity? “I made a reference to show jumping here one night and American people there didn’t know what I was talking about. Maybe two people from the Upper West Side did,” Tiernan recalls. New York people have extreme intelligence and a very dark wit. People here understand that you might not mean what you say. But I also find that some people here don’t know too much about the U.S. in the world. They’re not used to hearing the European perspective delivered with an Irish accent. That’s interesting for me to know and to play with.”
Tiernan is a huge fan of the other two comedians at the upcoming Town Hall gig. He’s known Dylan Moran since his schooldays (they both attended St. Patrick’s school in Navan) and he’s known O’Hanlon since they worked on the infamous “Father Ted” show. Says Tiernan, “I find Dylan’s stuff fantastically poetical and louche, and Ardal’s stuff is a mixture of charm, intelligence and real bitterness. Dylan’s sort of a Peter O’Toole character; he permanently relaxed, he’s the only man I know who can recline still standing up. He’s probably my favorite comic in the world. He’s set apart stylistically, too. Its something that people who are interested in writing will recognize.”
So what makes someone funny? “We could have a big conversation about it and I’d enjoy that. But in front of a crowd of people I’m not going to reflect on that. Most Irish people will say, ‘Ah we here for a laugh shut up about that stuff.’”
Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival preview: Tommy Tiernan By Bill Brownstein,
July 17, 2009
MONTREAL - Tommy Tiernan is unlike most contemporary comics. The Irish wit is a deep thinker. He reads books – without pictures. He is genuinely concerned about the human condition, not just for the laughs that it may generate.
The last time Tiernan hit the Just for Laughs festival for a solo show, he was consumed by matters ecumenical in his play Loose. This time he is consumed by matters economical in his one-man play, simply titled Eh, running Wednesday through July 25 at the Imperial Theatre. “Everything world leaders seem to talk about these days are matters financial,” says an uncharacteristically sombre Tiernan in a phone interview. “One of the reasons I was so disappointed with Barack Obama’s recent speech is that he never said to the American people that we are more than just an economy. Have we so lost our way? This is what has been festering in my brain of late, but I’m not sure if I can do that comedically. The stage is, after all, a place of maximum recklessness and irresponsibility. It’s not really a place for preaching.”
Actually, in Tiernan’s case, it may be both. He did a swell job of preaching in Loose – fire and brimstone, yes, but funny and insightful too. “Not a single passage in the Bible begins with: A Roman, a Syrian and a Corinthian walk into a bar,” he railed. “It’s wall-to-wall agony.” He also pointed out in Loose that most people are deluded in their image of Jesus. “In the minds of many, he’s an 8-foot-tall BeeGee Jesus – which explains the origins of Bejesus. But the reality, when you study the growth charts of the times, is that he probably looked more like Danny DeVito.”
Though Tiernan suggests he might return to theology for laughs, he notes that his position on the subject has changed. “The more interesting stance to take now would be pro-religion. That would be the position with the most energy. It’s become too easy to knock religion these days.” Eh, he reports, is an Irish reference for doubt. And he has plenty of doubts. “That’s why I am in the process of trying to give up culture. I found that reading newspapers and watching television were doing my thinking for me. So I made a conscious decision not to read newspapers or watch TV. Michael Jackson will not be occupying any land in my head.” And for that, many festival patrons will be most grateful.
“I’m searching to find out who we are and what we are outside the noise of modern culture. I have no idea who or what we were any more.” Tiernan suggests we all take a solo trip to some distant mountain top to contemplate our existences. A path often taken by Tiernan’s cultural hero Leonard Cohen – when he’s not touring. “Leonard is fantastic. He’s darkly, slyly funny. If I had to spend an hour in the company of any Jewish Buddhist poet, it would be him.” And, doubtless, if Cohen could spend an hour in the company of any Irish Catholic raconteur, it would be Tiernan. “I think what he understands is that you need to go to faraway places to find new sources of energy,” Tiernan says. “Newspapers and TV have sucked the energy right out of me.”
No one who has ever caught Tiernan on stage would complain about his energy level. The man is like a human chainsaw buzzing through all bogus conventions. “The trick is maintaining that energy. I think that this Samuel Beckett quote sums it all up for me: ‘Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now.’ ” Spoken just like an Andrew Dice Clay. Right!
For all the inner probing, though, Tiernan does understand full well that his calling is still comedy, and not a full-time solitary retreat into a mountain cave. “I just feel the need to get off that well-worn path of touring. I feel we need to bring a little more anarchy to touring.” And he will. Before coming to Montreal, he will begin the Eh roadshow in the small Irish village where he resides, in County Galway. After Just for Laughs, he embarks on an extended tour of ... Poland and Africa. “It will certainly be a step off the automatic track, and I imagine I’ll come back with lots of interesting stories.”
And unlike just about any ambitious comedian out there, Tiernan isn’t concerned about making his mark in the United States. “I just can’t burden myself with that kind of thing,” he says. “Things seem to happen more for me in Canada, and effortlessly at that.”
Storm over Tiernan's Jewish jokes
20th Sept 2009
Tommy Tiernan has sparked another controversy after ranting against Jews, and claiming he would have killed twice as many in the Holocaust. His provocative comments came at the Electric Picnic festival in Co. Laois, when he was asked a question from the audience about people who took offence at his jokes.
In a tirade designed to spark reaction, Tiernan raged: ‘These Jews, these fucking Jews come up to me. Fucking Christ killing bastards. Fucking six million? I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that. No fucking problem. Two at a time they would have gone. Hold hands, get in there, leave us your teeth and your glasses…’
His comments were picked up by Jewish politician Alan Shatter, who said the outburst was ‘disgusting and unacceptable.’ The Fine Gael TD said: ‘He has quite clearly brought to the surface his own prejudices. It sounds more like the deranged, demented ramblings of a complete fool…Quite clearly what he had to say goes beyond the bounds of anything that is acceptable and certainly doesn't deserve being described as comedy.’
Tiernan had prefaced his comments by saying that what was said on a comedy stage should be sacrosanct, because of the unwritten agreement between audience and performer created a ‘special protected environment where people know that nothing they say is being taken seriously’. However his hopes of protecting that context were dashed when his comments were picked up by the Irish press yesterday, prompting a flurry of complaints on internet bulletin boards that Tiernan was racist, anti-Semitic and unfunny.
I don't think he's right to say that what's on stage is sacrosanct at all - in fact that statement is sanctimonious in the extreme. By the logic he's using Bernard Manning wasn't an old racist bastard and I'm not buying it at all.
Tiernan tipped to unsettle the travellers
September 21, 2009
Paddy Power are offering odds on which group controversial comedian Tommy Tiernan will next offend. The Navan funnyman sparked outrage recently when he joked about the Jewish Holocaust and in previous years landed himself in trouble with his quips about Madeline McCann and people with Down syndrome.
According to Paddy Power Tiernan is most likely to take aim next at the Travelling Community which they make their 2/1 favourite. Also tipped-up by the bookmaker are Muslims at 3/1, refugees at 10/1 and the homeless at 10/1. Less likely, but not totally implausible, are midgets at 25/1 and the terminally ill at 33/1.
Paddy Power said “There is nothing taboo when it comes to Tommy’s gags and we’re positive that it’s only a matter of time before we pay out on one of these bets”
Who will Tommy Tiernan Offend Next?
* 2/1 Travellers
* 3/1 Muslims
* 5/1 Catholics / Catholic Church
* 6/1 English
* 7/1 Protestants / Church of England
* 8/1 Judaism
* 10/1 Afro-Americans
* 10/1 Refugees
* 10/1 Women
* 10/1 Gay community
* 12/1 Homeless
* 14/1 People with Intellectual disabilities
* 20/1 People with physical disabilities
* 25/1 Midgets/Dwarfs
* 33/1 Terminally Ill
Tiernan kicked off Just for Laughs tour for anti-Semitic comments By Bill Brownstein,
October 7, 2009
As a result of controversy surrounding anti-Semitic comments made by Tommy Tiernan, the Irish comedy star is off the Just for Laughs Canadian Comedy Tour, which kicks off Oct. 19 in St. John's. Tiernan made highly incendiary remarks about the Holocaust and blamed Jews for the death of Christ at Ireland's Electric Picnic Festival last month. He was roundly criticized by all religious groups for his outburst. At past Just for Laughs festivals, Tiernan has taken shots at other religions, but has never provoked this kind of reaction.
According to Just for Laughs spokesperson Leisa Lee, "both the festival and Tiernan agreed that it was in everyone's best interest that he drop out of the coming national tour." "He deeply regrets any hurt he has caused," Lee added. For his part, Tiernan, who just performed his one-man show at the Just for Laughs festival in July, said his words were taken out of context and that he was merely parodying extremism. In a statement he released, Tiernan said comedians have a duty to be "irresponsible and reckless, to allow whatever lunacy is within you to come out."
A replacement for Tiernan will be announced shortly.
photo: Graham Hughes No more monastery life for this comedy provocateur par excellence
By BILL BROWNSTEIN,
June 30, 2010
Tommy Tiernan will be playing one of the smallest rooms he's played in years, and he couldn't be more delighted. The fiery Irish wit won't be ruffling feathers in any-sized room at this city's Just for Laughs festival -as has become an almost annual tradition -in the coming weeks, but the consolation prize for Tiernan's coterie of fans here is that he can be caught at the Comedyworks, tomorrow through Saturday. One would be remiss in not mentioning that Tiernan will be taking his act to a big room for six nights next week at the upstart Just for Laughs franchise in Toronto. Hiss, boo.
"I don't see coming to a small club here as a consolation prize at all," says a most subdued Tiernan -largely owing to the fact he has just landed on this side of the pond. "I've discovered the smaller rooms are much more suited for my stand-up."
This has been a quiet year -to date -for Tiernan, who has made a career of being a magnet for controversy. "I've been in a monastery in the outskirts of Dublin," muses Tiernan, by way of explaining how he has managed to avoid generating press of late. Tiernan is a comedy provocateur. Think of him as Ireland's answer to Lenny Bruce, only 100 times more frenetic. He pushes boundaries to the extreme in parodying people and institutions. But the payoff is, by and large, both brilliant and hysterical.
In recent years, he has taken heat for material dealing with Down syndrome, drugs and pedophile priests. Last September, during a question-and-answer period at a festival in Ireland, Tiernan made a highly incendiary remark about the Holocaust, which was meant to be satirical but which, when taken out of context, came across as anything but. He apologized, stating that he was merely trying to parody extremism in his "reckless and irresponsible" manner.
The incident was unfortunate because Tiernan happens to be one of the most sensitive and cerebral comics working anywhere. And as cliched as it might sound, some of his best friends really are Jewish, as is the cultural icon he most admires on this planet, Leonard Cohen. Those of us who have followed his career can attest to the fact that he is an equal-opportunity insulter. Actually, he has probably pilloried his own Catholic Church with more savagery than any other target.
"I was asked a question about anti-Semitism and I found myself giving this serious answer," recalls Tiernan about the incident. "Then I thought: this is not my job. My job is to be the lunatic in the nude outside the window. But what happened was, because there was no joke, my response was only funny if you were in the room at the time and you were aware of the question asked of me. When you take the sentence out on its own, it's particularly impossible to defend. It's just nakedly ridiculous. And once it went out there ..."
As a consequence, Tiernan was taken off the Just for Laughs road trip through Canada last fall as well as another tour through the U.S. "But I like to joke that there were some positive effects," deadpans the 40-year-old father of five. "I've just been offered a tour of Iran, and Mel Gibson is about to direct my next DVD." That DVD won't cover the 36-hour-and-15-minute performance he gave last year at a club in Galway, which got him into the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest stand-up show. Tiernan's record has since been eclipsed.
"One of the hopes in doing that marathon was that I would find a new way of being creative in my stand-up." And? "It didn't happen. I just got stuck in a rut. I had been frustrated playing bigger theatres and with the effect it was having on my style. Smaller rooms allow for more creativity. That's where stand-up belongs." And that's where he has been doing the bulk of his shows these days. Save for a tour of Australia and his coming gig in Toronto, where he'll be doing his latest one-man show, Crooked Man, a compilation of his standup sketches. He'll be doing pretty much the same show at the Comedyworks.
The object of Tiernan's latest verbal missile assault is the world economy. "We just had the G20 where the 20 richest countries in the world go together to decide how they are best going to protect themselves. It would be interesting to imagine the world's 20 poorest countries trying to get together. "First, it's hard to imagine them even getting to a meeting. Unlike the G20, they'd have to walk to get there. Or take a camel. And because they're starving, they'd probably have to eat the camel, and then have no way of getting back home."
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