The Wrecking Ball
Already a sellout star in Ireland and Britain, Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan's new special on Comedy Central will finally introduce him to a nationwide U.S. audience. CAHIR O'DOHERTY talks to Tiernan about his move into the American market.
FROM the moment he burst onto the international comedy scene, Irish funnyman Tommy Tiernan has been a star. On March 11 he launches the DVD of his new live show here titled Something Mental, which will be broadcast in a special on Comedy Central on March 14.
Tiernan will also appear as a guest on David Letterman's late night show on February 29, where he's sure to give the famously witty host a run for his money. It's often claimed that comedy doesn't travel, but playing to a cheering Chicago crowd in his live special Tiernan has no trouble bringing the house down.
His comedy style, a blisteringly funny blend of storytelling and full on surrealism, is about as Irish as can be, but he's mastered the art of translating it for a general audience.
Tiernan draws you in with simple stories that get weirder and funnier as he riffs on them. An intensely physical performer, his antics on stage are often every bit as funny as the things he's saying. Throughout his career Tiernan has somehow managed to adopt the edgy brilliance of Lenny Bruce, the existentialism of Samuel Beckett and bizarre rural capers of Flann O'Brien in one man.
Born in Carndonagh, Co. Donegal in 1970, Tiernan's family moved to Africa when Tommy was three. Three years later they moved to London. His English schoolteachers thought his background was hilarious.
"You're from Africa, mate? Funny, you don't look black!" they said, slapping him on the back. All the comments and the early continent hopping often made Tiernan feel like he was out of place, and he has used that outsider's awareness in his routines.
But it wasn't until the Tiernan family finally settled in Navan, Co. Meath in the early 1980s that Tommy found his voice. Winning Scotland's famous Perrier Award for standup right out of the starting gate in 1998, the Irish funnyman started at the top and he's stayed there since.
It wasn't roses all the way, though. Breaking the American comedy circuit is a daunting challenge for any European. After all, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, Ireland and America are two nations that are divided by a common language.
Tiernan made his first TV show in Los Angeles in the late 1990s, arriving to film a pilot for a sitcom that never got made. Each day he came to work and marveled at the can-do attitude of his toothy Californian cast mates.
But his own attitude at the time was more like "ah sure, we'll give it a lash and see what happens," he told the Irish Voice during an interview last week.
Eventually one of the actors came up to Tiernan privately and said he wasn't showing enough optimism on camera. They perceived his ordinariness, his Irish solidity, as a TV negative. It's a lesson he's never forgotten.
"In America they say, 'Have a nice day.' That kind of greeting really doesn't suit the Irish. We're a wee bit darker, a bit stranger, we may have a greater appreciation for the random things that can get in the way. So the Irish don't say, 'Have a nice day, they say, 'Good luck,'" Tiernan notes.
- Gay wedding cakes latest target of anti-gay...
- The New York Times questions Ireland’s highly-p
- Racist incidents in Ireland up by 85 percent...
- An open letter in strong defence of capitalism.
- Offensive NFL sign outside restaurant just...
- Bah! Humbug! The ten worst things about Christm
- No Irish prosecution for man named as world’s...
- Spanish judge slams Ryanair’s sexist air...
- Irish radio presenter suspended after anti-Isra
- Ireland crowned “Top Tourist Destination”...