Tommy Tiernan: Out of the Whirlwind

‘My job as a comedian’, Tommy Tiernan clarifies at the beginning of his set, ‘is to undermine reality’. That insistence on warping the world into a partially recognisable comic shape and spewing out bizarre, semi-philosophical approach to it which governs his otherwise rather structureless set. This is a high-octane, high decibel kind of show. Tiernan gesticulates wildly, he bends double, he turns a previously undiscovered shade of puce. His notions are often deliberately provocative yet- lest we take some of his more extreme ideas at face value- a wry half smile assures us that he’s in on the joke and a good chunk of the show’s humour comes from the friction between the man and his preposterous onstage persona. ‘I’m not going to tell you which of these opinions I actually hold’- he informs us at one point.

Ability to turn a phrase and to come out with a smattering of intriguingly strange and occasionally troubling ideas

Is it funny? Sporadically. A shaggy dog story about being accosted by two disgruntled Irish travellers is well worked through and builds to a satisfying climax. Tiernan’s flailing impression of a horse in crisis works well with his angular physicality. An early section, which muses on the insignificance of our species and on the insanity of historical memory raise some genuinely challenging, and comically rich, ideas and a section in which he perceives a universal death instinct in the male psyche is dark and involving.

However, Tiernan has a tendency to dilute these defiantly warped ideas with more banal ones.

His battle-of-the-sexes and gay panic material is casually offensive, excusing itself in that typically lazy ‘I-don’t-mean-it’ sort of way. The fact that he spends a good chunk of the show complaining about his ‘soft mickey’ is also disappointing (midlife crisis material is rarely scintillating). Given Tiernan’s obvious ability to turn a phrase and to come out with a smattering of intriguingly strange and occasionally troubling ideas, one senses that the show could have compromised a little less. 

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Performances

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The Blurb

Having performed this show everywhere from Moscow to Maidstone, Paris to Vancouver and Perth to Ballybofey, Tommy takes it for its final run out in Edinburgh. Mannerless, dark and silly, his performance mesmerises in a way that is joyful, uplifting, inspirational and most importantly always breathtakingly funny. 'Tommy Tiernan tore it apart and stole the show with some intense and painfully funny storytelling.' (Irish Times). 'Emphatic comic power' (Guardian).

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