Tommy Tiernan: Poot

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Since poot is a fancy word for fart, it is a perfect title for Tommy Tiernan’s show, which similarly blends the highbrow and the low. And a fart is always funny, an uncontrollable reflex that reminds us of our imperfect, slowly rotting bodies and puncturing all artifice of civility.

Or maybe he just chose the word as it sounds cute and mischievous.

Tiernan’s all for laughter in response to the big issues. This show covers death, religion and mental illness, piercing the taboos that surround them as he impishly exposes the sheer idiocy of situations we tend to pussyfoot around.

He’s received a psychiatric diagnosis himself. He has borderline personality disorder, tip-toeing a line between neurosis and psychosis. But it’s a place where he seems happy, just as he’s happy with the highs and lows of a comedian’s life, swinging from the adulation on stage to the depression of the hotel room.

The joy of the performance is palpable. He gallivants around the stage like a sprite, even briefly frolicking amid a sea of bubbles. He could stake a decent claim to being the most passionate stand-up on the circuit, allowing him to emphasise every phrase and gesture to maximum effect, without seeming forced or phoney. Whether he’s whispering to draw us in or leaping about in madness, like a modern-day Lord Of Misrule.

He clearly devours ideas. He has a philosophy on everything from the effectiveness of prisons to obscure Zimbabwean singers – yep, that hack old subject. But his favourite topic is devilment – he loves the idea of mischief, whether it’s God pranking Job or putting the fun into funeral. This latter practical joke was instigated by a friend who went properly mad. But what is normal anyway?, the lively Irishman asks, we are all various levels of unhinged.

That he takes nothing entirely seriously seems to come from an acute sense of mortality. It sounds sombre to mention it, but Tiernan can have you laughing at a relative’s dying breath or a careless comment directed at his elder brother, who had a cerebral palsy. The story he tells of a childhood family safari starts off seeming to have a point about this… but ends up in broad farce, enlivened by the sheer joy of the word ‘baboon’.

It might seem a lazy thing to say about an Irish comedian, but Tiernan is a rightful heir to Dave Allen, addressing every big issue with a refreshing irrelevance. Poot, poot!

Review date: 15 Oct 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Dome

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