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Storm erupts over Tommy Tiernan's Hot Press Chatroom interview

The comedian's comments about the Holocaust came in for strong criticism over the weekend.

The Hot Press Newsdesk, 21 Sep 2009

Controversy has erupted following Tommy Tiernan’s recent chinwag with Hot Press at the Electric Picnic, with TD Alan Shatter condemning the comedian as an anti-Semite. The story made the front page of the Sunday Tribune and has subsequently been taken up by the tabloids. It has also gone international, with US based 'anti-semitism' websites taking up the cudgels against the comic.

The 40-year-old comedian, widely regarded as the outstanding comic talent of his generation in Ireland, was interviewed by Olaf Tyaransen in the Hot Press Chatroom on the evening of Saturday, September 5th, after which questions were taken from the audience.

One member of the audience asked Tiernan what might have seemed an innocuous question: “Have you ever been accused of anti-Semitism?” Tommy responded by telling a story about a Jewish couple who’d approached him after a show in New York to complain about his routine. The quote that has caused the furore runs more or less as follows:

“These fuckin’ JEW CUNTS come up to me! Fuckin’ Christ-killin’ bastards!!! Fuckin’ six million? I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that. No fuckin’ problem! Fuckin’ two at a time, they would have gone! Hold hands, get in there! Leave us your teeth and your glasses!!!”

"It's obvious that Tommy is taking the piss," Hot Press editor Niall Stokes comments. "If you see or read it in context, there is a comment in there about people who are fanatical, and who can't take a joke. But to interpret it as anti-Semitism is wrongheaded in the extreme. The way I see it, he is satirising anti-Semitism, while making a more general point that we should all be able to laugh at ourselves."

However, Tiernan's remarks have been condemned by Jewish Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter, who described Tiernan’s words as “a disgusting and unacceptable outburst.”

Before Tiernan went off on his satirical rant, he had prefaced what was to come with his own thoughts about what’s acceptable on a comedy stage. “It’s all about being reckless and irresponsible and joyful, it’s not about being careful and Protestant and Scottish and mannered,” he explained. “It’s trusting your own soul and allowing whatever lunacy is inside you to come out in a special, protected environment where people know that nothing they say is being taken seriously.”

Unfortunately for Tommy, not everybody agrees. Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Alan Shatter said, “He has brought to the surface his own prejudices and what he said is more a commentary on his own personal prejudices and perspectives. Rather than this being a comic presentation, it sounds more like the deranged, demented ramblings of a complete fool which I don’t think reasonable people would remotely take seriously.”

Which begs the question: why is Alan Shatter taking him seriously?

The interview will appear in full in the the new Hot Press, out this Thursday. You can also watch it here:

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