Lean, cruel comedy deliberately designed to shock

Tommy Tiernan Vicar Street, Dublin

Ed Power

TOMMY Tiernan's new show, Bovinity, seems calculated to tweak the noses of the moral majority.

In a lean and unflinching 90-minute set, the Co Meath stand-up offers japes about the disabled, pokes fun at Polish accents and holds forth on the erotic appeal of female suicide bombers (the upside of dying in such an attack, he suggests, is that the killing blow would be administered by an airborne breast).

Throughout, Tiernan delivers his comedic jabs in the style of a wild-eyed mountain man.

Pacing the stage, he is a blur of footloose, ranting energy.


The most gratifying thing about the performance is that the material is tailored to Irish sensibilities, which makes a change from the one-size-fits all gags offered by UK-based stand-ups passing through Dublin en route to Hull and Bognor Regis.

Indeed, Tiernan's at his funniest when pointing up the absurdities of modern Ireland. There are interesting riffs on living in the depths of rural Mayo while his thoughts on the isolation felt by the inhabitants of far-flung Donegal are all the more powerful because they ring so true.

Clearly, though, Tiernan is also determined to stir up controversy. Hence the profusion of gags directed at Poles and Indians (he finds it hilarious that the proprietor of a curry house in his native Navan once mistook Tiernan for an out-of-towner).

The most uncomfortable moment, though, is at the end, when he impersonates a person with Down's Syndrome.

Introducing the segment, Tiernan explains that he participates in charity work for Down Syndrome Ireland -- apparently he believes this gives him licence to laugh at disabled children.

What follows is crude, cruel and, above all, unfunny. If Tiernan's purpose is to jolt his fan-base out of its Friday night comfort-zone he has certainly succeeded.