Have some laughs with Tommy Tiernan

When reached via phone to speak with the Times & Transcript, Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan knows that it is morning in Melbourne, Australia, where he is that day, but specific day of the week is a little murkier.

Such is the price of growing fame.

Tommy is one of the most popular comedians to come from Ireland in, well, almost ever, really. He ranks second only to U2 when it comes to ticket sales in his homeland, routinely selling out shows there and is seeing his popularity rapidly spread to other parts of the world, including Canada.

He will be taking the stage at Moncton’s famed Capitol Theatre tomorrow, starting at 7 p.m.

Early in the conversation, Tommy divulges that as a child, he moved around rather frequently, having lived in Ireland, Africa and London before eventually returning to Ireland. He jokes that because he took to touring at a young age, he just needed to find a reason to tour and figured that stand-up comedy fit the bill.

“I find that doing stand-up suits the way that my mind works and my abilities,” a polite if slightly groggy Tiernan explains from “Down Under. “It is just the way I am designed.”

Tommy’s upcoming Canadian tour is comprised of 17 shows that will take him from Newfoundland through to British Columbia. Though he has indeed gotten his feet wet performing in the United States, he says that he is coming back for an extensive run through Canada because he likes our country so much.

“I find that Canada is a much more enjoyable country to tour because as a country, Canada does not seem to be as hysterical as the States seem to be,” he says. “America seems to be a country of extremes. If you looked at America as the deranged housewife stretched to her psychic limits on some kind of cocktail of prescription drugs, Canada is the dignified husband in the backyard smoking a pipe.”

Before you start thinking that Tommy is disparaging our neighbours to the South, he clarifies that he has encountered many intelligent audiences in his travels there.

“There are some American audiences that are more intelligent than I am. As a comedian, if you have an audience that is more intelligent than you are, it is a recipe for mayhem in a positive sense.”

Tommy’s humility seems to be a cornerstone of his personality. He admits that he has no idea why his brand of humour caught on with audiences in Ireland but says that when it comes to the “why” behind his popularity, ignorance is bliss as far as he is concerned.

“My success hasn’t been something that I was able to plan,” he says. “It has been a complete surprise. I actually feel the same thing is happening in Canada that happened in Ireland. I’m unsure why Canadian audiences are responding to my stuff but there is definitely something going on there that is interesting to me.

“I truly believe that if you ever fully understand why you’re successful, it is going to be the death of your success because it then becomes something that you try to market or try to commercialize. There has to be that element of the unknown and the unknowable.”

A little more than two years ago, Tommy set the Guinness World Record for the longest Stand-Up Comedy Show by an individual, logging 36 hours and 15 minutes on stage. Although he has already had this impressive record broken, he maintains that he got out of the experience exactly what he wanted:

“Around that time, I had become frustrated at my style of stand up,” he says.

“I thought it had become too aggressive and too hectoring and thought that if I talked and talked and talked, I knew I wouldn’t be able to be aggressive for 36 plus hours. The aggression in my act had been an instinctual thing and I had determined that I had to get to the far side of that instinct.

“Six months after that marathon show, I realized that there was a new softness and a more playful instinct that had emerged in my act, which is exactly what I was looking for. Performing that marathon show was definitely a huge part of finding that.”

With a regular annual schedule that includes 150 to 200 shows every year, Tommy says those shows include three overseas tours each year. He spends the remainder of his time touring through his native Ireland.

“Performing in Ireland is nice because I can drive home after the show. The country is probably smaller than the old quarter of Montreal.”

Article published in April 26, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript