Saturday 10 December 2016

'I cried a bit on stage at the Sydney Opera House and had to turn my back a moment' - Tommy Tiernan

Published 29/06/2015 | 11:32

Tommy Tiernan
Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan has revealed he was reduced to tears by the welcome roar from a 4,000 strong crowd of predominantly Irish fans at the Sydney Opera House.

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The Meath comedian played two sold-out shows at the venue in 2013, and told Ryan Tubridy on 2fm that they were both very "emotional".

"To be on the other side of the world in such an iconic building, we did two sold out shows on the one night, and I just think the emotion..." he said.

"I'm one of those people, I'm so identifiably Irish, there are others as well, Damien Dempsey gets it, Christy Moore, Shane McGowan, people in the culture who are thoroughbred Irish, when we work abroad there's an extra element of kind of 'hurrah' in the room.

"And just the roar of Irishness when I walked out. The same happened in Perth.  We had 2,500 people in Perth.  I was peeking out the curtains beforehand and there were Leitrim and Sligo jerseys.

"It was emotional.  I cried a tiny bit on stage in the Opera House and I had to kind of turn my back for a moment and gird myself and gather my energies and plug on.

"It was just the roar of the exiles, people on the far side of the world from Manorhamilton, Cork, Tubercurry, Borris.  You feel their pride at being Irish, feel their delight at seeing you, and you kind of realise you have so much in common with them on the other side of the planet."

Asked whether he felt for the Irish living so far away in Australia, Tommy said he didn't feel too worried about the young people.

"They're having awful craic," he said.  "I got a lift with this Indian taxi driver in Perth and he said, 'What is going on with the Irish, you're going mental!'. 

"There's young fellas, they're working 3 weeks in the mines, 500 miles above Perth, and then they come to Perth for drinks, drugs, hoors and music for a week and then back to the mines.  They're having awful craic over there and they're young and entitled to it."

However, he added that he does feel for people who are forced to live apart from their families.

"I do feel sad for the people who are separated from their families, mammys and daddys who have to send money home," he revealed.

"I met a fella in Edmonton doing construction work over there and he was flying home to meet his six week old daughter.  Stuff that like now would sadden you and you'd lament at that."

Tommy is gearing up for a tour of the islands of Ireland and recently took part in the Festival of Writing and Ideas where he appeared on stage with Kevin Barry, again with no prepared material.

"It's great to be able to do stuff like that in front of farmers and nurses and hackney cab drivers and for them to get it and it's not an arty jazz club thing," he said.

Last year Tommy's European improv tour, in which he took the radical approach of preparing zero material for 12 nights, was charted in RTE documentary Tommy: To Tell You the Truth and the show wasn't particularly successful with audiences.

However, Tiernan told Tubridy that he's "getting better at it".

"The European tour was probably too much pressure on myself.  I tried to do 12 in a row, 12 consecutive nights in 12 different countries.  The way for them to work is to do them once a week so the head can fill up."

He said he's still committed to improv rather than stand-up shows based on relentlessly honed pre-prepared material.

"It's a wonderful intense moment of aliveness that I much prefer to repetition.  The notion of spontaneity and in the moment creation, I love it."

He added, "In order to make it a valuable experience for you and the audience there has to be an element of risk and an element of joy and recklessness and spontaneity." 

Tiernan is also poised to kick off a new radio series on 2fm.  Over the four Saturdays of July at 1pm he'll interview a guest on radio although he will have no idea who the guest is until the moment they're introduced on the show.

Of the origins of the show, he explained, "I remember the old Late Late Show they'd never tell you who the guests were before they came out and I started laughing to myself, how about if the host didn't know who the guests were either?

"I was travelling around England at the time lying in bed in Hull laughing at the notion of the host not knowing who the guests were and having to stoke up 15-20 minute conversation so I pitched it to RTE."

The show will take place in front of a live studio audience.

"You can't prepare for it," he added, "It's like being told you're in the Olympics but you haven't been told what sport.  You arrive with your pole vault, javelin, swimming togs, hammer and you're told you're doing show-jumping.  There's no way of preparing so I'll try not to."

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