VideoComedian Tommy Tiernan's role model is Bugs Bunny
Posted by Andrea Ratuski, SCENE Producer | Monday April 15, 2013
Tommy Tiernan plays Pantages Playhouse April 16 (Just for Laughs)
He's been called the "Bono of comedy". That's because U2 is the only act that's sold more tickets in Ireland. He's the most successful Irish comedian...ever.
Tommy Tiernan brings his Irish brand of comedy to Winnipeg on April 16.
SCENE wanted to find out what makes him tick.
Canada is home to a lot of people with Irish backgrounds. What kind of responses do you get when you perform in this country?
It's usually one of bemused bewilderment. I think people are intrigued and delighted, really. I kind of get the impression that I have an old world wildness that they appreciate.
I get the feeling here that people are very mannerly and respectful and good citizens. The feeling I get when I'm on stage is a kind of delight that somebody as reckless and mannerless as me is on stage - that they enjoy the spectacle of it. They're just glad that somebody else has taken responsibility for thoughts that they're thinking.
You have a high energy style, you cover all kinds of topics from parenting to Irish culture to religion. You don't call yourself a controversial comic, but are you surprised when your material does seem to offend some people? Oh, completely! I'm utterly surprised! But I don't think that people would walk away from a show that I do and say that it was controversial.
Every media outlet has stories to tell and they depend on stories so if they want to make up a story about me then I don't have a problem with it really. But people tend to walk away from my shows worrying about my mental health rather than thinking that I'm controversial.
So they're not worried about the content, they're worried about you? Completely, which is all part of my ploy. As a seduction technique I think it's peculiar to the human race.
Is it part of your role as a comic to push boundaries? I think it's your responsibility to make people laugh, and after that then I think you just do it. The way I like to think about it is, Jesus would be the role model for Christians, Buddha for the Buddhists, and the queen for Protestants.
For comedians, it's Bugs Bunny. He's the most unreliable of leaders, really. There's something totally, wonderfully, irresponsibly magnificent about Bugs Bunny. That's who our leader is. While I'm off stage I adhere to other codes, but on stage, Bugs is my Jesus, if I'm allowed to say that.
You set a record in 2009 for the longest comedy show ever -- just over 36 hours straight. How did you prepare for that and how did you do it? I didn't really prepare for it, I prepared for it by worrying about it for a long time. The doing of it was very enjoyable, actually.
The reason I did it was I felt I got stuck in a particular style, which is a kind of loud, angry, demonic kind of stand-up and I just wanted to try and talk myself out of it. I had this notion that if I just got up on stage and kept going until that particular energy had left and maybe a more playful one had come back, that's when I would stop and that's kind of what happened. I did 36 hours and 15 minutes and over the following months I found that my style of stand-up had become more playful and a bit more joyful.
So it was like a 36 hour exorcism, then? Completely! That's a fantastic way of putting it!
You have six kids, ranging in age from one to 19. That seems like it would provide a lot of fodder for material or make for a great reality show, anyway. Do your kids like it when they become a part of your act? They're not allowed to see my act. My 19-year-old boy came to the show once when he was about 15 and we rode home together -- it was a four-hour drive -- he didn't say a word.
He just spent the whole time looking out the window. I think it was a disturbing experience for him. No, they haven't seen my show. They're too young, really.
Sounds like the exorcism didn't work.
Not all devils are bad.
Tommy Tiernan plays at Pantages Playhouse on April 16.