To say Tommy Tiernan is a talented comedian is like saying Lionel Messi is a talented footy player – it’s redundant in the same way as it’s an understatement. Giggles, guffaws, chuckles, chortles, snorts and full-on belly laughs interspersed with occasional cringing and groans when uncomfortable truths were laid bare. The man is a master at storytelling, and that is his trademark – he doesn’t give a show as much as he’s having a conversation with the audience, the audience’s contribution to it are the non-verbals of laughter and that’s really all they can do because the stream of words from Tiernan’s potty mouth is continuous. He began with a disclaimer that if there was a word the audience didn’t understand, there was a great likelihood it was the name of a town or village in Ireland and the many, many Irish in the house felt right at home. In fact, during the show he mentioned the name of such a village, and someone somewhere behind me actually went “boooo”. In accordance with the stereotype, he received the second loudest round of applause when he told the audience it had been 18 months since he started drinking again. North Americans were in the minority, and to some degree, at a disadvantage. Although Tiernan’s themes included international communication as well as male-female relationships, their ability to relate was affected (either that or they didn’t have a funny bone), because there were many times I was laughing with the rest of the audience and there was silence to the left and right of me – and the seats weren’t empty. From whispers to full-on screeches, Tiernan has a great set of pipes and rather delicate mannerisms. Singing may not be his forte, but, he makes the most of his other talents.
I thought it was charming how he’s made his way across Canada on this 12-city tour and during that time Canada has made it into his act. The people, the places, and the sheer size of the country. Ask him about Glace Bay next time you see him.
The mystery of the red balloon that spent the duration of the show in a prominent location downstage was solved when it was the prop for a joke near the end of the show. Turns out its intended use is that of a signalling device and it nearly brought the house down with laughter. You can tell he enjoys what he does by how many times he cracks himself up with laughter as he goes on for 85 minutes (not including the 25-minute interval) of story after story: the sounds of Donegal, a cure for ED, priest-magicians, examples of `Basic Irish Decency’. One of the funniest parts of the night was when he was talking about and singing Irish Mass . You could tell the Irish in the audience were frantically trying to dust off their memories trying to recover the appropriate responses. They got louder and more confident as the bit continued, but everyone, including (especially Tiernan) was laughing. He concluded there was no point in them coming home. Laughter. Applause. Standing ovation at the end. Natch.
When Tommy Tiernan comes to Vancouver, it’s an occasion. And it’s an occasion not to be missed.
Photos of Tommy Tiernan in Victoria © Rob Porter