Hot Press Legends Series: Jason O'Toole Goes One-On-One with Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan would be the first to admit that his style of humour can be unpredictable, loud, wild, out of control – so much so that he’s bound to cross the line at some stage. He’s caused uproar on more than one occasion following appearances on The Late Late Show. And the 47-year-old has been hauled over the coals by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission for controversial TV performances.

It is surprising therefore that someone in RTÉ had the balls to give the stand-up comedian his own TV show. It’s equally astonishing that Tommy managed not to piss off members of either the PC brigade or the Anti-Happiness League with his off-the-wall antics in the show.

“I’ve been slightly surprised at the free rein RTÉ have given me,” Tommy confesses, as he sits down in his home in Galway for this exclusive Hot Press Interview.

Mind you, Tommy had to sign some legal documents – probably indemnities against potential libel actions! – before RTÉ allowed him off the leash. But don’t bother asking him what the small print said. “I can’t even remember what it was and I don’t think I even read it. It was libel, I think, that they were concerned about. Perhaps I should’ve read what I signed. But so far so good,” he laughs.

The Tommy Tiernan Show is a brilliantly simple concept: the host and the audience have no idea what guests will appear until they walk out onto the stage. Half the time, Tommy doesn’t have any idea who the guest is. But it’s a format that works superbly: the show has gone down a bomb with audiences who clearly love the unpredictability of the unscripted show. “I don’t have somebody in my ear like most other chat show hosts, who would have a little earpiece and one of the producers upstairs suggesting, ‘Go this way. Go that way. Get him to recant that. You need to address this issue from the other prospective now’. There’s none of that,” Tommy states.

It is, as they say, all down to Tommy.

Jason O’Toole: When you Google your new TV show, the first image that pops up is one of your guests literally riding you! (It was the 20-times UK champion jockey, A.P. McCoy – J. O’T).

Tommy Tiernan: You couldn’t plan that! I think what makes the show worth doing is that it’s a space where things are allowed to happen, rather then it being decided in advance by the powers-that-be. Whoever comes on has to be in the same headspace of, ‘Anything could happen here!’ And those spaces don’t really exist on television. Sport is the only one I can think of where the outcome hasn’t been pre-determined. It probably happens more often on radio. But it rarely happens on TV. Even a show like Graham Norton’s: that’s a funny show, but a fierce amount of pre-production goes into it. There’s something about this one that suits me. It’s not a highfalutin idea. We haven’t reinvented the wheel. It’s just two people talking.

Did you model it on Graham Norton’s in any way?

No. Graham is phenomenal. He’s definitely added a sparkle and laughter to the chat show format. The only model I had in my head was: I really like David Letterman, and his ability to be very conversationally funny with his guests is inspiring. And that’s one of the challenges a comedian should face: the ability to be funny in conversation. If you’re not funny in conversation I would suggest that you’re not really a comedian: you’re an actor pretending to be a comedian (laughs). I think Frank Skinner’s very good at it. But there’s no other show that I know of on television that tries to do this thing. The guests have to be up for it as well. They have to be aware that I mightn’t know who they are.

Do you ever get embarrassed when you don’t know whom you’re interviewing?

Ah, not at all, no. They might (laughs). We did 18 guests altogether and I had no idea who at least nine of them were. Vogue Williams came out. I’d heard her name, but I didn’t really know who she was. A fine looking girl. Out she strode in a tight red dress and she said to me, ‘You haven’t a clue who I am, do you?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t.’

How could you not know Vogue Williams?

I guess there are lots of people in the public eye these days and it’s hard to keep track of them all. I mean, when you were growing up there was only nine or ten famous people and now there could be 900 (laughs). And it’s very hard to know who’s who. John Grant was on the show. He’s brilliant. John would be a huge presence on the indie music scene – but he was up for the adventure of doing an interview with somebody who had no idea of who he was.

What do you think of the RTÉ thing of constantly interviewing people from other RTÉ programmes on the Late Late and the Ray D’Arcy Show?

I suppose it happens a good bit on the BBC and on Channel 4 as well. It’s a small pool here – you probably couldn’t do a chat show without anybody from RTÉ being on it. I think the trap we’ve maybe got ourselves into is only interviewing people who’ve got something to sell. And maybe the net should be cast a little wider. Look for interesting people rather than people who are selling something.

Are you going to sign on for a second season?

We don’t know yet. I hope so. I think it’s definitely struck a chord. The unpredictability seems to have resonated with people. It’s different from those interviews where everything has been decided; the guests have agreed to the questions they want to answer; the producers have come up with a list of questions. And it’s a little bit like the death notices on Galway Bay FM!

What do you think of the Ray D’Arcy Show?

I’m always working every Friday and Saturday night, so I’ve only ever seen Ray’s show when I’ve been on it (laughs). He was a guest on my show.

Are you Ray D’Arcy’s lovechild? You always seem to be on his radio show and you were one of his first guests on his TV show!

Ray is only about six or seven years older than me. If I am his lovechild it was an early adoption that he went in for, rather than procreative offspring!

Would you like to host the Late Late?

I’d prefer to go on for a minute just before the news at six o’clock – but that slot has been very well nailed at this stage! I think a minute’s sincere improvised conversation between two strangers instead of the Angelus could do the nation a power of good.

I heard that you once wanted to join the priesthood?

Yes, for sure. I was hugely influenced by The Waterboys and their album This Is The Sea. If Mike Scott was Pope, I definitely would’ve joined the priesthood when I left school. I signed up for a retreat with the Redemptorists in Galway and was very close to joining. And the turning point was when this young fella, another seminarian, was saying to me that he had a special devotion towards Our Lady. And I remember at the time having more of a special devotion towards Belinda Carlisle! She was a slightly more approachable Goddess. She was tangible at least. I know that Belinda Carlisle existed in more places than just my imagination – she was an actual human being, who lived in a house in California that I could visit if I wanted to. Whereas the Virgin Mary was always just slightly beyond my imaginative and my physical grasp. So, I realised, there and then, that I was in the wrong hotel and I had to leave.

Did you have lots of impure thoughts about Belinda Calisle?

I wouldn’t say they were impure. A lot of them were admirational. A lot of them would’ve been me laying flowers at her feet and just painting her toes. I ran the gamut of daydreaming when it came to Belinda!

How important was chasing women and sex for you in your formative years?

I was a very late developer really. I’ve always had girlfriends from the age of about seven or eight. I’ve always yearned for the company of decent females and I’ve been blessed with it. I’ve always had it. But it was never a thing of scoring in that sense: it was always to do with company. I went to an all-boys secondary school, so the only women in your life really were your sisters and your mother – and they were the least concerned with your existence. You’d be forced to look outside the house for company. Female friends have always been a huge need of mine. But it was more about company.

How old were you when you lost your virginity?

Uh, I was 19. I was quite late – back then in the late 1980s, it was usually around 14!

Did you question your own sexuality growing up?

I still question my sexuality! Not so much my orientation, which I’m very convinced of at this stage (laughs). But I’d be consistently questioning my hunger – not orientation. It’s like a fella who loves burgers and he asks himself, ‘Do I really want another burger? Have you ever thought of hotdogs?’

What was your reaction to reading about how George Hook enjoyed wearing women’s knickers?

As long as he doesn’t want to wear my woman’s knickers, I don’t mind. Sex by its nature is dirty. So, all sex is dirty. We should almost expect it. So, everybody has to be into something. No matter who you are you have to be into something. I think finding out about different person’s predilections, we should use them educationally and informatively (laughs), as opposed to sneering at them. So, if George has stuff to teach us, we should all be ready to learn. I wouldn’t think less of him because of it.

What’s your kink?

I like to do it during the Angelus! And get it done before the bell stops ringing. That’s my thing.

If you could have a no strings one-night stand with any woman, other than your wife, with whom would it be?

Belinda Carlisle.

We’re back to her again!

(Laughs) Yeah. She’s held herself together fairly well over the years. I’m not even sure if she’s still alive. But Belinda would do me. Or, if not her, then the rabbit in the Cadbury’s Carmel add. Do you remember her? She’s gorgeous. Fair play to her.

As someone in the limelight, you must have groupies and women propositioning you?

I’m still waiting for that to happen! I can’t think of an incident where I’ve been propositioned like that. Maybe it’s an Irish thing. American comics might get it. Aboriginal comedians might get it. I would say the vast majority of comedians I know wouldn’t have got it either. Now people will throw me the friendly eye. And maybe you’d get more of those than your looks deserve because you’re on stage. But I get the friendly eye from auld wans as well, like! Women in their 90s come up to me with a sparkle behind their bifocals. They’re all women: you’ve got to receive them all generously. You might have fantasised before you got into stand-up that you’d be the comedic version of Jim Morrison and that kind of stuff would happen to you, but it doesn’t. It might happen in America – they seem to be slightly wilder over there. I wouldn’t be expecting it in Breaffy House in Castlebar on a Thursday night, that’s for sure.

You’ve six kids. Did you set out wanting a big family or are you just a hewer to go?

See, like, I’m 47. To have six rides in my life isn’t that much of an achievement! If each child was the product of a thousand rides you could take some kind of physical pride in it. But it can often be the first time, it can often to be the second or third or fourth time. So, it’s nothing about being prolific at all. It’s just being very focused.

So, you’ve got a good aim?

Yes. If conception was ever an Olympic sport, I’d represent the country.

You must be fierce athletic in the sack!

Again, I don’t know what manuals you’re reading on procreation that you think it’s about your use of physical ability – there’s only one bit of you that needs to be focused! And is it even four percent of your body total? Jesus! No. It’s like being a boxer, you know, where all you have to do is clench one fist and you’re in the ring. It’s as easy as that.

Did you ever think about getting a vasectomy?

No, not really. I’d be afraid that I’d come up with a load of set-ups but no punch lines!

I read Nigel Farage allegedly has a new lover – is there anything sexual appealing about that man?

We’ve all got the same holes in the dark, Jason. If apertures are what you’re after, once the lights are off it’s the great democracy of darkness.

Do you think he’s attractive?

At gun point! But otherwise, no.

Does your wife get embarrassed by any of your antics – like when you have a guy riding you on TV – or when you spill the beans about your sex life?

She does get embarrassed. I think it’s something you learn to live with. It’s like having somebody with Tourette’s in the family. If you have somebody with Tourette’s in the family and you bring them to Tesco’s, they’re going to curse in the aisles and shout ‘arse’ and ‘tits’. So, I think my wife and I – we’re in the show business kind of spectrum of autism. She probably thinks to herself, ‘This is part of who my husband is. This glamorous autism is part of his nature’.

Has she ever given you the cold shoulder?

Oh, yes, for sure. But because what I do is unplanned – it’s instinctive; it’s loud; it’s slightly out of control – you are bound to cross the line at some stage. Sometimes it takes a nod from your missus or the crowd to say, ‘Okay. I’d tighten your grip on that pony for a minute, Tommy’. I’ve never crossed the line calamitously, as far as she’s concerned. There’s been the odd impure infringement, but nothing that would bring us to court.

Prostitution is one the oldest professions in the world. The Irish government are talking about introducing the so-called Swedish model.

Who’s she now?

But is it right to criminalise the buyer and not the seller?

If someone is lonely and they need that kind of physical healing of time spent with a woman, I don’t think that should be criminalised. If his only way of getting it is a kind above-board legal transaction, then I think that should happen. We need to be kind towards one another and our needs. I feel the way we’re handling it at the moment is very much under the carpet and very much repressed.

It’s legal in many other European countries…

And sometimes it takes seeing it in other countries to rid you of your fear of it. I know from touring around Europe that there’s a huge dark side to prostitution because of its illegality. There’s a fierce thuggery and violence to some of the woman’s lives that are involved in prostitution. But there is a way: I remember being in Berlin and seeing these women on the street corners and talking to a friend of mine about it and he said, ‘Yeah. It’s all very out and all very open. And they have a union and they look after one another’. That seems to me to be much more mature response to something that seems to be needed. Now, a lot of people involved in it would say if you can do that where the women are protected then that would be a huge achievement. There’s two things going on: one is that you have to protect the women and the men who are involved in prostitution as their way of life. And the other thing is you have to be kind towards people’s needs as well. A lot of this stems from an oppression of sexuality and it would be great if we all got to the far side of that.

What’s the worst sin you can commit?

The sin of rationality. I think rationality is a crime against your imagination.

Are you still quite religious?

I think so. But I’m religious in the way that I’m balding: it’s very natural. It’s not an effort. And it’s not dogmatic. Any oppressed people are forced to find believe in a bigger picture. I think the fact that we were oppressed, the fact that it rains a lot, the fact that we love talking – that’s the trinity of need that you have to have for a religious imagination: poverty, rain and isolation. God is a shoo-in after that. It’s very hard to believe in God after you win the Lotto and have everything you want. But when you’ve nothing and it’s raining and you’re alone – you’re ripe for God’s plucking then, I’ll tell you.

Do you really believe that the son of God came down in a little village in the Middle East over 2,000 years ago?

I think there’s a strong possibility that we are all son and daughters of God. I’d be very interested in the story, but I wouldn’t take it literally at all, no.

What about the fellas responsible for the gospels: how could they actually remember exactly what had happened and what he said, when they wrote them 100 years later?

Well, as you know yourself, you could never question the integrity of journalists! And that’s what they were really, wasn’t it? So, I guess whatever they said, it must be true, Jason. If they wrote it, it must be true. I would say those guys are more storytellers and poets rather than journalists. I don’t believe that there was an actual boy called Jack who had magic beans and climbed up to heaven and stole a magic chicken! But I believe the story is worth contemplating! Is that the story you’re talking about (laughs)? So, yeah, all stories are worth considering whether they happened or not.

Was it not an example of really bad timing: if God had only waited 2,000 years he could have used Facebook and Twitter to communicate to the whole world?

The world is so unexplainable that only something unexplainable could explain it. You’ve got to be wide open to the wonder of things. As Mike Scott said, ‘Who saw the whole of the moon?’ That’s the question we all have to answer. I’m not tied to any literal rational view of the world. I’d lean more towards Van Morrison than Richard Dawkins!

Do you really think that as long as you stick to whatever your man said 2,000 years ago, everlasting happiness awaits?

I’m a gambling man and I would gamble on bliss being our ultimate destination, for sure. Now, it’s very hard to get odds on that in Paddy Power! And saying to Paddy, ‘What are the odd on eternal bliss? And how can I collect if I win?’

If Jesus is the son of God, obviously all those Muslims are totally wrong?

Which ones now? You need to be more specific.

But aren’t they wrong to believe in Mohammad instead of Jesus?

I’ll tell you what: why don’t you draft up a letter there – a letter of formal protest. Sure, send it on to me and we’ll try and get a few signatures going.

What was your reaction to Danny Healy-Rae’s statement that ‘God above’ is in charge of the weather? And that Noah’s Ark was ‘proof’ of it…

As I said earlier, I think we live in a world that is so unexplainable that only something unexplainable can explain it. I’m a big fan of poetry and metaphor. And sometimes, I think, poetry and metaphor are closer to the truth than so-called facts. So, Danny might be ahead of us in the interpretation of reality (laughs)! It’s hard to tell at this stage.

Would you agree with Danny?

Do I think God’s in charge of the weather? He must hate Connemara if he is! You couldn’t even begin to answer that. I’ll pass on that one. I’ve no idea how to answer that.

Are you pro-choice?

My feeling on that is entirely based on compassion. But compassion isn’t dogmatic. So, in the first instance: compassion from the mother towards the life that is developing in her and for her to make the most compassionate decision in that instance. The next instance then is for her to make the most compassionate decision towards herself. And the next one then would be for society to make the most compassionate decision towards that woman. So, with those three starting points, you can see how it could end in a termination, or it could end in carrying the baby to full-term, or it can end in birth and adoption. All those three things are options if you start with compassion. It’s also important to remember, for people who are anti-abortion: if abortion does come in, it won’t be compulsory (laughs) – people will still be able to carry the child to full-term if they want!

So you hope the referendum will be passed?

I think it’s probably important that it gets passed.

What are your thoughts on euthanasia?

My comedic response would be that assisted suicide should be legal – even when she doesn’t want to die! We have so many old people and they’re slowing us down. In nomadic societies, if an old person couldn’t keep up with the tribe they were just left to the wolves. And now that we’ve lost our nomadic lifestyle it doesn’t mean we should lose the principle of the weakest to the wolves.

And your non-comedic response?

Again, it boils down to compassion – doesn’t it? – if somebody says the suffering is too much. Just going back to the abortion thing for a moment: an individual can hold an opinion that every sperm is sacred, so to speak, with the Monty Python thing. They’re entitled to that opinion and there can be great decency in that opinion. I think with euthanasia: a person might be able to believe, ‘Whatever suffering I go through, I will go through and I will not take my own life and I will not ask anybody else to help me do that’. And again, there can be great decency in that point of view. But it’s a very different kettle of fish when that becomes the law. People should probably have the right to say, ‘Enough is enough’. But there’s probably no harm in proceeding slow and carefully with these things. If somebody says, ‘Enough is enough’, you have to listen to the integrity of that.

You’ve been very open in the past about how you’ve been in and out of therapy. Are you seeing a therapist now?

No. I meditate at the moment. I find that’s really good. It creates a buffer zone between what you might be feeling and your ability stand back from it. So, that’s a helpful tool. If I was going to suggest something to anybody really in terms of adventure and a mental health technique – I’m not sure what mental health means to be honest with you – but just in terms of an adventure, meditation would be something I’d suggest to everybody over the age of 12 really. I think it’s fantastic.

Is it true that you first went to therapy at 16 because you were obsessed with a girl?

Yeah. It wasn’t so much the obsession with the girl: it was more the introduction to obsessional thought, which I never experienced before where you suddenly find yourself thinking about the same thing all day long. It’s a form of self-loathing and it’s a form of physic self-harming. And with a lot of people, it’s in their mid-teens that it hits you. Up until that point, you’re very outgoing – I know I was. So it wasn’t that I wasn’t internal but hadn’t fallen into any of the potholes in my mind. And when I was 16 I did. I wasn’t aware those potholes existed. But at 16 I fell into one of them. The therapy I sought was an attempt to negotiate that. The external circumstances of it weren’t particularly interesting or dramatic, but I think it was an internal collapse of some sort. It was an attempt to try to understand me, more than anything else.

Were you in an out of therapy for a good while?

Not really. Every now and again I would do it. It wouldn’t be a constant in my life at all. It crops up every now and again. Some times people go to therapy because they’ve no friends (laughs). I mean that in jest, by the way! I guess what I’m trying to say is: a friendship can provide healing as well. At the moment, therapy would be an extremely occasional thing that I need, but not presently.

Are you on meds?

I never was on meds. I drink a lot of coffee. Is that a med? But no, I’ve never been tempted really to go down that route, or it’s never even been suggested to me. I think it’s also important that the goal shouldn’t be being well-adjusted, if what we’re becoming well-adjusted to is, as Krishnamurti said, a very sick society. So, sometimes to feel out of place and to feel ill at ease, at what’s happening all around you, is actually a sign of health rather than sickness. Now, that’s not a generic across the board evolution of pain or psychosis or neurosis or anything like that, but the thing of just becoming adjusted to a profoundly sick society shouldn’t be the aim. My fear of medication is that it’s just numbing you. Now, look, I’m speaking from inexperience here: I’ve never been on it. I’ve never been offered it. I’ve no desire to do it. Well, that phrase – I came across it again recently – to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society is no good thing.

In your darkest day, did you ever have any suicidal thoughts?

Only after Liverpool lose! But they usually end up being homicidal rather than being suicidal (laughs)! No, I’ve never been tempted that way really at all.

Sticking with sports for a moment: is rugby not just a load of fellas engaged in a more elaborate form of silly horseplay?

I’m a soccer fan and the great thing about soccer is that you’re trying to put manners on something with the wrong part of your body. And what gives soccer it’s great unpredictability is that you’re trying to control something that will always remain slightly beyond you. It adds such fantastic unpredictability. Whereas with rugby, I’m not sure the game would change that much if there was no ball! Sometimes you can’t even see the ball. It’s just lumps of men horsing into each other. I’m as passionate as the next man whenever Ireland are involved in anything, but rugby seems to be getting more and more attritional as the years go by. It’s not really my sport, no.

Is a scrum not really one of the most unattractive things you ever have been asked to set your eyeballs on?

It depends what you’re looking at! There are places where your eyes can go were it will receive no healing at all, but I tend to look at the grass for those things.

Do you enjoy a pint these days, or are you still off the drink?

Oh, yeah, I do. I came off it for eight years. I’m more fond of whiskey now than I would be of porter. I like a nice glass of the whiskey sometimes after the show. It’s a lovely, lovely drink. I like it when the kids go to bed and there’s just me and the remote control.

Did you have a problem with drink in the past?

No. That was more of a thing of excess rather than daily intoxication. When I drank, I drank too much. But I wasn’t drunk every day type of thing. But I loved being off the drink. I really enjoyed my time off the drink. And then when I went back on it, I really enjoyed it as well. Again, it’s good not to be dogmatic about anything. So, I’m really enjoying whiskey now. It was never an insurmountable problem for me at all.

After drinking, did you ever wake up the next morning mortified, thinking ‘What the fuck did I do last night?’

Jesus! I’ve come off stage sober with that feeling! It doesn’t take alcohol for me to feel like that.

What are your thoughts on Donald Trump?

He’s box office. We thought Big Brother was the beginning and the end of dramatic reality television: but little did we know that Big Brother would lead us to Trump. It’s fascinating. It’s being sold as drama on our TV sets and social media. It has turned into a TV show. You want to see the latest mad thing that Dr Evil has done. It reminds me a lot of in the early ‘80s when we all were watching Dallas and our obsession with JR Ewing.

How bad is he?

I’m glad he’s not in charge of Ireland. Trump is only dangerous if you take reality seriously! He’s not the only – from our point of view – toxic leader in the world. I read an Amnesty International report today that said in the past five years the Syrian authorities have hung 13,000 so-called dissidents in these secret cells in Damascus. Whatever about Trump, he’s not hanging 50 people a week. There’s some bad bastards out there. Trump is good television, but he hasn’t revealed himself to be as evil as some of the other people out there at the moment.

If you could give a series of executive orders in Ireland this week, what would they be?

We should get rid of days of the week. I think every day should just be a day! Heroin should be free. I think all junkies should get as much heroin as they want and then be made to live as pets with old people. We should welcome as many refugees as we possibly can – but make them all live in Leitrim. They are the first three executive orders that I’d bring in.

Do you think drugs should be legalised?

They are legalised! Jesus Christ! Coffee. Anadin. Paracetamol. You mean other drugs should be legalised? Alcohol. Sweet Jesus Christ! They’re peddling porter on every street corner. The argument isn’t that drugs should be legalised, it’s that other drugs should be legalised: our favourite drugs should be legalised. Marijuana should be legalised only if you want to see more stoned people walking around the streets. If, at whatever social gathering you’re at and you think to yourself, ‘We need more stoned people!’ And then, of course, I think those drugs should be legalised. That would be my take on it.

But you’ve obviously enjoyed the odd joint in the past?

No, not really. I was never much of a smoker. I was more of a hurry up than a slow down kind of guy!

What exactly does that mean?

What? We’re back at biblical interpretations here, Jason. Do I have to spell everything out for you? I’ll say it again: I was always more of a hurry up than a slow down type of fella!

So, have you had a line of coke and thought – wow!

I would’ve led a very sheltered upbringing (laughs). I’m as adventurous as the next person and I haven’t experienced anything unusual – or, I would say, now that I’m 47, I would more or less be on the far side of all that illegal lunacy!

In a Hot Press interview back in 2004, you talked about going on stage high on coke and ecstasy.

From what I remember, that particular thing probably only happened twice or three times. I would love some day to sacramentally – from a 13th century chalice found in the Bog of Allen – take a huge gulp from a bowl of magic mushroom soup and spend the night on Croagh Patrick and let the world know my thoughts. But for now I have to make do with fucking Barry’s Tea and whiskey – but so be it.

Who’s your favourite singer?

I would be hugely drawn to the miserable Jews! So, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, people like that. Leonard Cohen probably most of all in terms of an inspiration. The last time I cried actually – the last time I wept, as opposed to cried – I was driving from Cork City to Bantry and they had a Joe Duffy kind of memorial to his death, just the people’s testimonies about him and they played the songs. Music would be fiercely important to me.

Would you like to record an album?

I’d love to be able to do a comedic version of those American preachers that have bands behind them. I’d love to do that at some stage for fun. I was in a band. I started a band that only performed twice. We were called Clutching at Straws. We were a four-piece improvised music quarter. I would perform improvised lyrics over the band’s improvised music. I was the only one interested in doing it after the second gig. I discovered I had neither an audience nor a band at the end of it. So, if Clutching at Straws ever struck a note with the public I’d be delighted to resurrect it. But that hasn’t happened yet.

What’s your party piece?

I’ve an awful party piece. I need to update it. It’s a poem in Irish by Máirtín Ó Direáin. I was in a bar in Wexford recently, a sing-song bar. Everybody was singing all these ballads from ‘50s and from the 1800s and stuff like that. And it came around to me and I did this Irish language poem about a fella who fantasises about being back home on Inishmore and the ordinary things he would do and the peace that it would give him when he gets there. So, I recited this poem and people were so bored that it manifested as tension! I need to update my party piece.

Have ticket touts been a problem with Tommy Tiernan shows?

Not really. You’d see them. Not to the extent of, say, the U2 or the Ed Sheeran stuff. What I get with ticket touts is they physically appear like ticket touts at Anfield or Old Trafford. The tickets for Vicar Street were €35 and they were selling them there for €50. If you rocked up to Vicar Street and didn’t have a ticket, you’d get one for €50. It’s not like the U2 stuff where everything is sold and five minutes later they’re only on sale for €800. My mark-up isn’t that extreme (laughs). An extra €15 a ticket. The touts know the market – that’s the limit of my desirability.

So you’re not really as big as U2?

I think if you read between the lines that could very well be what I’m saying.

Should there be a clampdown on ticket touting?

It does seem slightly scandalous, doesn’t it?

Do you try to keep up with what is happening in Irish writing?

I’d be a huge fan of poetry. I think poetry is very similar to stand-up: it’s all about cultivating a phrase. Stand-up has more in common with poetry and the rhythms of poetry than it does with short story writing or novel writing or painting or anything. I’d be very keen to keep up with whatever’s happening poetically in Ireland. And there’s lot of great, great stuff out there.

Are we as good as a nation of scribblers as we like to think?

We are, but our greatest gift is speech. We are probably the greatest talkers in the world. I think that talking is such an underrated art form – to consciously and legitimately say that to speak is something that you can do artistically. My mouth is my musical instrument and the ability to craft a phrase or to come up with something funny, that’s my work and it’s my love and it’s my inclination. Putting it down on paper is a different kettle of fish. I think that’s a much more, for me anyway, difficult endeavour. But talking for me is where it’s at and it’s where I get my greatest enjoyment. It’s so ordinary, like. Like in the conversation that we had: we’ve created phrases that have made both of us laugh and to me that is so delightful and ordinary.

I’m loving the conversation. I feel you should invoice me for it.

(Laughs) That’s a good idea. Can you imagine? Jesus Christ! Charging for conversation!

Why haven’t you written a book?

It doesn’t suit me. There’s a lot to be said for talking. How Irish is that? The only point in writing a memoir now would be revenge! For the moment, I’m going to give the guilty the benefit of the doubt. Maybe when I’m very old.

Tommy Tiernan plays Live At The Marquee, Cork on June 24 as part of his nationwide Under The Influence tour. For the full list of dates, see tommytiernan.com

 

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