'Words were not meant to wound'

Tiernan defends against 'anti-Semitism'

Tommy Tiernan has launched a staunch defence of his comments about Jewish people which he says were not intended maliciously and were ‘taken so far out of context that I am quite bewildered’.

The comic says he is ‘greatly upset by the thought that these comments have caused hurt to others as this was never my intention’.

Controversy flared at the weekend over an interview at the Electric Picnic festival in which Tiernan invoked the Holocaust by saying: ‘These Jews, these fucking Jew cunts come up to me. Fucking Christ killing bastards. Fucking six million? I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that. No fucking problem. Two at a time they would have gone. Hold hands, get in there, leave us your teeth and your glasses…’

The comments came in a Q&A session in which Tiernan was asked about the bounds of comedy. He replied stand-up was all about ‘being reckless and irresponsible and allowing whatever lunacy is within you to come out’ in the protected environment of a comedy club.

The contentious lines were his imagined response to some Jewish people ‘so aflame with righteousness’ who complained after one of his shows in America.

At the weekend, Fine Gael politician Alan Shatter, who is Jewish, said the outburst was ‘disgusting and unacceptable… the deranged, demented ramblings of a complete fool’.

And now Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has joined the condemnation, saying during a Mass that Tiernan's comments were 'offensive to the Jewish community and offensive to all who feel revulsion concerning the Holocaust, one of the most horrific events in human history'.

Tiernan issued a full statement on the affair on his website.

It read: ‘Firstly, I would like to say that as a private individual I am greatly upset by the thought that these comments have caused hurt to others as this was never my intention; yet, the Electric Picnic public interview with Hot Press Magazine has been taken so far out of context that I am quite bewildered.

‘The things that I said in front of a live audience were in an attempt to explain my belief that one of the duties of the comic performer is to be reckless and irresponsible and that the things that they say should NEVER be taken out of context.

‘If you read the full transcript or listen to the podcast you will see that I preface my rant by saying that it should not be taken seriously and as such, the rant took place as an example of my argument. While it is out of context, which it most definitely is now, it seems callous cruel and ignorant.

‘This is not the first time that something like this has happened and it probably won’t be the last. However, as a public performer I can only hope that whatever wild, irresponsible and reckless things that come into my head will be taken in the context in which they were said.’

Niall Stokes, the editor of entertainment magazine Hot Press, who chaired the Q&A session, said: ‘If you see or read it in context, there is a comment in there about people who are fanatical and who can’t take a joke. But to interpret it as anti-Semitism is wrongheaded in the extreme. The way I see it, he is satirising anti-Semitism, while making a more general point that we should all be able to laugh at ourselves.’

Tiernan also posted the full Q&A session at the Co Laois festival on his website here. The contentious comments come towards the end.

Published: 22 Sep 2009

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