By Carol Byrne
TOMMY Tiernan is preparing for what he calls a World Tour of Clare running from June 13-22. Speaking to The Clare Champion, he said he’s looking forward to the tour of the Banner. “It’s the second one. I did one a few years ago, it was great. I’d never been to East Clare before but I’d be a fan of Martin Hayes and the Tulla Céilí Band and all that. The last time we did Killaloe and there were great drinking sessions over at Miltown Malbay on the west coast and Spanish Point; it was a great tour.”
He has done tours of all the counties at this stage and says he enjoys seeing places a bit off the beaten track and it has given him a few new insights. “About four or five years ago, I thought it’d be more interesting, that you’d get to see more of a county, have more opportunities for story-telling. It’s a nice way to live. The last time, we did either six or eight gigs in Clare and you’d wake up in Kilkee, drive to Miltown, do a show and then head off to Lisdoon. It’s a more enjoyable way of life, to be honest with you.
“What I’ve noticed is that it’s still quite a local country in a sense. If I’m doing a show in Tipperary, they don’t really want to hear a story about Louth. They’re fine with telling stories about Limerick or Cork. It’s the same if you’re in Monaghan, they don’t really want to hear about what happened when you were in Wexford. I think people like stories about their own place and they like stories about the enemy, whoever the enemy might be!”
The degree of localism is something that intrigues him. “You might be telling a story about a county that’s only 150 miles away but you might as well be talking about Iceland or Afghanistan. They have no connection with it. Unless you make it local, they’re kind of not interested.”
The shows aren’t that scripted, with much of what is included in each one the result of things he has heard within hours of the show. “What I do is take notes during the day about stuff that happens and ideas you might get and then throw it out that night in a kind of chaotic combustion! It’s a long enough oul’ show, somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours. There would be older stories, stories you might have been telling for six or seven months, maybe from being in Australia or Canada or Irish people you met in Dubai, but that would be mixed with stuff that happened during the day.”
Time alone and having movement in his day is important to his comedy, he feels. “The key to it is spending time on your own and there’s something about the physical thing of moving. Bob Dylan said the best songs he ever wrote were on trains and buses. There’s something about the act of moving, and it might only be walking, that frees up certain parts of the mind. Even if it’s just a walk through a forest or a motorbike ride, that’s when the ideas come, when you’re in motion.”
Not having a regular show to be trotted out repeatedly keeps him interested, Tiernan adds. “It’s better, it keeps you lively. I find it more exhilarating than doing the same show night after night, there’s a deadness in that. It wouldn’t put me under pressure, it’d excite me. It’d keep my head fresh. Sometimes you get stressed but that’s just the nature of it. I wouldn’t be bored by it.”
He says he doesn’t actually watch as much comedy as most people. “Far less. I don’t listen to or watch a lot of comedy. I really like Sean Locke and there are a few Americans I like as well but I’d rarely listen to or watch other comics. The guys I like, I’d go back to a lot.
“The audience kind of keeps me on my toes. One of the ways of being original is not really being aware of what others are doing. Sometimes you come up with something you think is fresh off the presses and fantastic and you find that other people have been doing it for months or years. That’s a weakness but it suits me not to pay too much attention to what other people are doing.”
Tiernan feels the type of people who enjoy comedy hasn’t changed much and he loves seeing audiences getting into the show. “I think the audience just doesn’t want to be bored. This country has been talking about money for the last 10 years, so there can be a boredom with that. It can be refreshing not to talk about it. The thrill for me is feeling that you’re on some kind of a new adventure and seeing people laugh. They laugh more at a show than they would at anything else, they wouldn’t get the opportunity to laugh that hard or consistently at television or they wouldn’t laugh that hard in conversation for an hour and a half. The release of that and seeing people moving like that, rocking back and forth in the chair, it’s fabulous to see it,” he concluded.