The bold and brash stand up veteran, Tommy Tiernan, would have to be pretty pleased with himself you would think. His ‘one show only’ gig Out of the Whirlwind as part of the MICF 2016 was an almost sell out in the near 2500 seat three level venue at Hamer Hall on Sunday night. Even Tiernan himself seemed slightly overwhelmed when the first stepped out to see the sheer magnitude of the Arts Centre venue, but quickly switched to joyful revelation at how full it was proving how loved he is here in Australia as he is by his Irish compatriots back home. And by gosh there seemed to be a lot of his kinfolk in the audience that night when he did the obligatory nationality call out – over half the room it seemed roared with Irish pride!
Tiernan’s ability to engage and unite an audience cleverly starts with sharing the escapades of his road trip from Perth to Adelaide, creating lots of familiar, funny anecdotes. From the dangers of kangaroos, aliens’ perceptions of our desolate outback, to misleading townships and questioning why is Australia not completely solared by the sun – Tiernan had everyone laughing with uproarious agreeance. This moves to more global despair about our current day politicians although Tiernan surprises us with his facetious adoration of Donald Trump because as he says ‘it’s like we’re all living in a reality tv show’. No leader is spared as he mocks North Korean pyjama wearer Kim Jong-un, the dangers of crossing Russian President Putin, the recent naughty dabbling of UK PM David Cameron and even how disregarded our Aussie pollies are on the European stage.
Tiernan more than once declares that you have to be careful what you say on stage, but to be honest we all know with him there is no topic off limits and he moves through a series of daring questions he does not understand. From homosexual marriage rights (again thunderous approval), obesity, or how to deal with Isis, Tiernan both comically challenges and delights his fans. But the loudest laughs were reserved for his flashback to his school days being the pawn between two teachers who clearly knew he was not aware of what fallopian tubes were. Priceless! During the whole show, Tiernan’s experience shows especially when dealing with audience member intrusions, for they become more fun sidesteps, such as mocking the vocal Sinn Fein supporters in the room who he deems as ‘so tough from the other side of the world’ or teasing a guy who cares more about the Scottish football scores than being at the show. Moving out of these darker waters, Tiernan closes the first half with a hilarious personal tale with some Irish travellers / gypsies where the running gag of repetition with them, an Indian storekeeper, a Nigerian taxi driver, and a Chinese man all lead up to the punch line with a Belgium tourist. His knack for moving from a whisper to a building crescendo (and sometimes along a windy path) results in a whirlwind hit at the end, the crowd roaring with laughter and leaving on a high after 45 minutes of engaging entertainment.
Act Two has the audience chomping at the bit for more chuckles but a diversion about the centenary of the Easter Uprising seems a weird way to begin. However, in true Tiernan roundabout style we are treated to perhaps an even funnier and more relatable second half with the focus turning to relationships, bodies and gender. With quick quips about how women and men like to take breaks from each other differently – resulting in a hilarious physical re-enactment of a cowboy riding into the wind, we are exposed to his comical mid life crisis realisations about balding, Viagra, and encountering a young hunky man in the change room where a ‘horn’ meeting a ‘soft Mickey’ garnered huge hoots of laughter. After sharing that he’s left the wife and six kids at home, which he regards as ‘only a shelter where people share the same name’ he leads into many familial jokes about soulmates, the need to listen and then moves into more fun, risqué territory with the foreplay delights of boobs and balls.
A natural storyteller, Tiernan creates high energy and delivers loads of laughs. Admittedly there were a few lulls in the audience at certain more politically incorrect segments of Act 1 but Tiernan’s 20 year stand up experience made sure he moved on quickly and built up to another segment or punchline. With a strong following here and overseas, Tiernan’s humour provokes, entertains but is never smutty. He is one of the few comedians who could fill the three levels of Hamer Hall and raise the roof multiple times throughout the 90 minute gig through collective laughter. If you missed him this time make sure he is on your ‘must see’ list next year or book a ticket pronto to his shows in Sydney and New Zealand or even the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August – he is that good!