Tommy Tiernan: I’m learning to relax and have fun

Tommy Tiernan returns to Cork next summer for Live at the Marquee. He speaks here to Roisin Burke about everything, from his new show, his range of material and views on the censoring old Christmas songs.
Tommy Tiernan: I’m learning to relax and have fun

Tommy Tiernan performing at Live At The Marquee. The comedian brings his new show, Paddy Crazy Horse, back to the Cork venue on July 4. Pic: Darragh Kane

Sex, God, kids and women are the topics for discussion in Tommy Tiernan’s new show Paddy Crazy Horse, which is coming to Cork in the summer.

Tommy recently spoke the Evening Echo about his Live at the Marquee gig in July and said he was looking forward to performing in the big blue tent.

“I feel very familiar with the city. I’m down here two or three times a year at least gigging.”

Tommy, who lived in Cork for a brief time back in 1988, said Cork always seems really, really up for a night out and he hopes his show hits the right note with the crowd.

“I started doing the Marquee gig again two years ago and I came off stage thinking ‘that really felt great’, and the same last year, and I thought maybe something is happening to me, that I’m learning to relax and have fun with it.

“I’m enjoying the show that I’m doing now. It feels funny to me — I hope that’s still the case in July!”

Speaking about the themes of his show, Tommy said that he tends to always talk about the same type of stuff.

“I don’t really have a huge range of things,” he admits, “but the thing that you try and do is you try and come at it from a fresh perspective all the time. So you don’t feel like you’re repeating yourself.

“You feel like you’re covering new territory, but generally speaking those are the kind of things that I would be talking about. I talk a lot about drink and the Pope in this show.”

Describing his comedy as “vulgar, kindhearted, mischevious, ruthless and hungry”, Tommy said it had taken him six months to initially put his new show together — but he was still working on it.

“You’re always putting it together, so it takes six months to get a show that is good enough to take out on the road, but the only way you get the show good enough to take out on the road is to take it out on the road.

“So I tour really small venues, 100 seaters, for three or four months and then I should have enough guff in me to take it to the bigger rooms, but you are always working on it.”

In terms of comedic inspiration, Tommy said that “solitude and dreaming” are the two main sources of material.

“Whether you are driving or running or in the shed, time spent on your own or looking out windows, you come up with a phrase and once you have a story, you can add to it.”

He said the hardest thing is to come up with the initial foundation for a story.

“After that, it is just adding sentence by sentence by sentence and one of the most creative places is actually on the stage. You come up with more material on stage than off stage.”

Tommy said he likes to take influence from all kinds of things, from people to substances, and said at the moment, Billy Connolly is his muse.

“I’ve been listening to a lot to people like Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard and learning a lot in terms of how to put a show together. How to be really relaxed on stage and creative,” he says.

Tommy said it can be difficult to come up with material, but if you can master the art of relaxing within the tension of a performance, you are quite literally laughing.

“It is difficult to come up with shows, but the best way to do it is learning how to relax. I’d be naturally funny, I don’t mean all the time, but I have a natural sense of humour and the worst way to work with that is to put pressure on it. The best way is to relax.”

“What’s in you just kind of bubbles up.

“This particular moment in the show is about learning to relax, not relaxed so much that you are not interested, you do need that level of tension, but it is about relaxing within the tension.

“I think that is the big thing that Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard can do is breathe on stage so their natural funniness comes through. That’s what I am trying to do with this one.”

Across his career of acting, presenting radio and TV shows, as well as writing and performing comedy, Tommy said his favourite thing is coming up with a funny phrase.

“The best place to be is in the middle of a really funny story, that you are telling for the first time and you know that the end of the story is really funny too,” he says.

“ That is joyous, it is like being filled with butterflies. That is the most amazing feeling. I love it.”

Despite being the creator of some of Ireland’s most beloved comedy moments over the years, Tommy said coming up with the gold doesn’t get easier.

“It probably felt easier when I was younger,” he says.

“I feel like I am in a good place with it now, but that changes. You could be working with a show for two or three years and there could be three or four months where you don’t enjoy it, but you get through it and then there could be six to seven months where you are flying. The normal ups and downs.”

Chatting about the ongoing controversy around Christmas songs, such as Fairytale of New York and Baby it’s Cold Outside, Tommy said he saw no reason to ban the music.

Discussing Baby its Cold Outside, Tommy looked at the issue in detail.

“The likelihood in that song is that he has probably put more gin than she wanted in the glass — but I do that with my wife at home, she would ask me for a glass of wine from the kitchen and I would f**king fill the glass, like,” he says.

“She might have only been hoping for half a glass, but I would put a bottle in and hope that she would throw the friendly arm around me later on.

“I would be incredibly surprised if that guy was making a joke about Rohypnol.”

In terms of repeatedly asking the woman to stay, Tommy made the point that ultimately the woman has the power to make the decision herself.

“He hasn’t locked the door, has he? It is entirely up to her. He is just trying to persuade her.

“There’s nothing wrong with the art of friendly persuasion.”

Speaking about the controversy, Tommy said that stand-up went through a period where people were taking what comedians said out of context.

Regardless, he said, it has not made him more mindful or careful on stage.

“Everything is up for grabs when you are on stage so, in this show, I absolutely try and knock a bit of craic out of the #MeToo movement,” he says.

“Totally. That is what comedy is for. You can say things in a stand-up context that aren’t acceptable if you said them in the Dáil, or on the floor of the United Nations, but they are acceptable in a comedy club because you are trying to make fun of stuff, you are trying to make fun of everything.

“We would be in a bad place if we lost our sense of humour.”

Tommy said the best comedy is good-natured, but ruthless.

“Whatever comes into your head you have to say it because once you are afraid of that, you are being too careful,” he says.

“And you will make mistakes, for sure, but I think you have to be ruthless when you are up there in terms of where the laugh is and not be afraid to say it.

“And if it is coming from a good place, which it is, it is coming from a good heart, so it might sound outlandish in your own imagination before you say it, but when people laugh you know they are kinda going, this is brilliant.”

Tommy Tiernan brings his Paddy Crazy Horse show to Live at the Marquee on July 4.

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