It’s reasonable to assume that a comedian’s worst nightmare would be to perform in front of an audience who did not laugh at their jokes.
Tommy Tiernan lived that nightmare, several times over, on his U.S. tour last summer when he brought up religion and the Catholic Church.
He was not fazed, however, merely curious and gamely included the footage in the television series “Jokerman,” he was filming at the time, which aired on RTE last autumn.
“I had the kind of bravery of the newly arrived,” Tiernan recalled, speaking to the Echo from Ireland before he embarked on another U.S. tour last week.
“So if people started not laughing, I know it’s an odd way to phrase it, to start not laughing but, I felt kind of curious more than anything else and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. So, I didn’t stop doing the material, I sort of kept on digging away but they weren’t for the budging. I’d done the material enough times to know that it was funny. But there was a kind of a tension in the air, which I almost thrived upon. It was like: “what’s going on here?” You know? It was kind of like having a sore tooth – you just keep prodding away at it. As soon as I got back on to sex, they were whooping it up.”
This attitude is characteristic of what many reviewers have praised as Tiernan’s bravery as a standup comic, demonstrated in his aggressive views on religion, his graphic depictions of sex and his propensity for foul language.
In 2004, Tiernan did a short standup routine on Pat Kenny’s “Late, Late Show,” in which he described priests as “mostly white and mostly sh**e.” This and other remarks about the Catholic church prompted a flood of angry calls to the show’s producers and the lodgment of eight official complaints, which the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of Ireland later upheld.
But Tiernan’s fans outnumber his critics by far, helping him to pack out shows all over Ireland, the UK, Australia and America. In 1996, Tiernan won the Britain’s Channel Four “So You Think You Are Funny,” award. In 1998, he won the prestigious Perrier Comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Last summer, he performed to a raucous reception at the “Just for Laughs” Montr