Comedy Review: Tommy Tiernan

17 Oct

Pavilion Theatre: Friday, October 14 2011

It’d be easy to wince at the thought of firebrand Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan spending an hour picking at the seams of subjects as risqué as mental health, religion and disability.

This is a fella, let’s not forget, who has previously come out with some one-liners that have not so much been near the knuckle as past his elbow.

So it’s testament to his finely honed, masterful vocabulary, big heart and vice-like comic control that he can now dissect these issues without being crass or offensive.

After galloping on to stage and playing with a bubble machine like a kid crammed with E numbers, he effortlessly segued into a routine about having a borderline personality disorder – “that doesn’t mean I’ve almost got a personality,” he insisted – before adding “I tread a narrow line between psychosis, which is bad for you, and neurosis, which is bad for me.”

“Lunacy”, as he likes to call it, was a reoccurring theme. He was at pains to urge the audience not to conform, to keep life exciting and unpredictable.

With his frantic act forever on the brink of carnage or controversy, he clearly likes to practice what he preaches, but these days he’s far too smart to let his captivating show slide into blustering ranting.

Next on his radar was religion as he told us he admired a lot about Isalm, but had “comfort issues”. “There’s no furniture in mosques,” he said, before gleefully comparing them to opulent Catholic churches “which are full of gold and chairs but have no-one in them.”

Some teasing of his fellow countrymen and their fondness for booze followed – “why do you think we have paddy’s day in the middle of Lent?” he asked, before ending with a tale about his dad being chased by a “platoon of baboons” in Africa while trying to make amends for a flippant remark, which had upset his brother who had Cerebral Palsy.

While the story might be absurd, it’s vividly told, and its themes are somehow simultaneously cruelly honest, deeply touching and incredibly funny.

And there are few comedians clever enough to accomplish that.

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