Tommy Tiernan’s Compelling, Funny and Frequently Dark Tomfoolery

When I settled in for Tommy Tiernan’s latest Just for Laughs solo show Tomfoolery, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean I really had no clue.

The show was recommended to me and all I knew going in was that Tiernan is a comedian, Irish, and clearly doesn’t mind a solid name pun in his show title (but who doesn’t). That and some of my colleagues had seen him at previous JFLs and said he was great.

So without as much as a glance at him on YouTube, I sat down in the Gesù among a packed house of people who, for the most part, were familiar with Tiernan. We were treated to an hour of very intimate, sometimes physical, frequently quite dark, largely observational comedic storytelling.

The lack of a visible mic, mic stand and glass of water, the expected props of a standup set, let Tiernan move around the space and contort his body to play some of the characters in his stories. It felt more like a one-man theatre show, but with plenty of laughs, some of them uncomfortable laughs.

Tiernan’s subject matter ranged from the domestic (including a great, crowd-pleasing impression of his favourite dog) to finally flying again to a bunch of stuff that if I was going to put trigger warnings in front of them, I’d probably have to use them all. Yes, the show gets quite dark, and the humour comes from Tiernan’s reaction to that darkness, generally as a participant in the story he is telling.

He is a compelling storyteller who really knows how to draw the audience in with softer, more serious tones before the punchline. The thing is, the serious part is as real as the joke, and both make a point.

There is something in Tiernan’s delivery and approach that reminds me of later George Carlin material. Funny because it’s serious, true and making a point.

The one part of the show that didn’t land, at least not with me and some of the audience, was Tiernan’s bit about the Pope’s visit to Canada to apologize to the First Nations. I wasn’t really sure what angle his sarcasm was coming from.

Barring that, this was a compelling and funny show. It obviously isn’t for everyone, but those who like their humour a bit uncomfortable and dark will love it.

Tommy Tiernan: Tomfoolery runs three more times, July 28, 29 and 30, at Gesù, 1200 de Bleury, tickets available through hahaha.com

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