If Tommy turned you off ... then you just can't handle the truth

Half way through RTE's documentary on Tommy Tiernan, To Tell you the Truth, which followed the comedian around Europe for two weeks as he performed 11 improvised shows, Tommy explained why he feels the need to perform.

"The only reason I'm talking to you is because I'm lonely...Why give me an appetite for something that I can't have?

"Cows love grass, and they live in fields. You know, it's perfect - you wouldn't put a cow in a car park. If you put a cow in a car park, it would come up with literature to express its existential dissatisfaction at not being able to find the stuff it really wants..."

It was a remarkable observation, in a series of gigs which laid the Navan comedian bare, open to judgement and ridicule, and yet was something that he felt was necessary.

"You get good at something, and then you get bored...so this whole adventure is about trying to live again," he explained.

"I've been doing [comedy] for 18 years...I'm tired of it now. What interests me is just getting up and talking, and seeing if that encounter between a person and a crowd, where it's totally spontaneous, can bring the adventure back into me."

It would be easy to suggest that Tommy's point is confined to his particular profession, but it's about much more than that. Tommy makes a profound point about the human condition, the way that by a certain age, we seem happy just to exist, and dread any sort of change.

Aged 44, Tommy had achieved sufficient success that he didn't need to worry where his new pay cheque was coming from. Which for him was a cue to abandon his comfort zone.

The show, needless to say, wasn't for everyone. Some described it as "troubling".

On that bastion of reasoned online discourse, boards.ie, someone said: "Just turned it off, over to Damo and Ivor!" - a comment which, ironically, cuts to the very heart of what Tiernan was trying to do.


Because just after Tiernan's insanely brave, headlong dash into the unknown was aired, RTE's next comedy offerings were the new series of Damo and Ivor and The Fear - which follow exactly the same format as before, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Tommy, meanwhile, believes that even if you think it isn't broken, you should smash it into little pieces and start again, because only in that way will you grow as a person.

Tommy Tiernan isn't just funny - he's actually got something to say. And To Tell You the Truth not only showed Tommy to be an extraordinary comedian. It also showed him to be an extraordinary man.