Comedy review: Tommy Tiernan

THE Happyness Comedy Festival likes to kick off with a big name and this year is no exception, with Tommy Tiernan leading a strong Irish contingent that also includes Jason Byrne, Sean Hughes, Patrick Kielty and Aisling Bea.

Perrier Award Winner Tommy Tiernan. Picture: Contributed

Tommy Tiernan - Eden Court Theatre, Inverness


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A yarn-spinning force of nature, in lamentably balding middle-age, Tiernan is the closest thing stand-up has to magical realism, forever seeking the wild Celtic fire and howling gypsy lunacy lurking behind the eyes of civilisation. His gift is to take a sliver of something that sounds like a fact – that the Irish might historically hail from North Africa – and project it into a wonderfully animated medley between a wailing Marrakesh market trader and U2, the rascally grin on his face confirming that he’s brazenly defied logic once again.

There’s palpable soul and drunken cheer in his memories of traditional wakes and he evokes a vivid tableau of Halloween and nightclub chucking-out time in his homeland, before succumbing to superstition in his fears that his prematurely born son might emerge a “dolphin child”. And yet Tiernan can still find poetry in his melancholic imaginings of hopeless, destitute sex with a beautiful, unsmiling woman in Eastern Europe. And unlike, say, Bryne, he roots his depictions of Mad Ireland in the music of a religious worship he can’t fully comprehend and a fey, folk storytelling tradition that he acknowledges goes nowhere, the journey itself being everything.

Plenty of comics have routines about being disturbed by their children in the morning. But Tiernan’s account of his serial killer-like toddler arriving “like fog” has a rare lyricism.

Seen on 22.05.14