Tommy Tiernan

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Tommy Tiernan
Born (1969-06-16) 16 June 1969 (age 46)
Carndonagh, County Donegal, Ireland
Medium Stand-up, television, radio
Nationality Irish
Years active 1992-present
Genres Satire, Observational comedy
Influences Lenny Bruce
Brian O'Nolan
Spouse Yvonne McMahon (2009-present)
Children 6

Tommy Tiernan (/ˈtɪərnən/; born 16 June 1969) is an Irish comedian, actor and writer. He and Hector Ó hEochagáin presented The Tommy and Hector Show on i102-104FM. Tiernan also featured in Father Ted as Fr. Kevin.

Life and work[edit]

Early life[edit]

Tiernan was born in Carndonagh, County Donegal.[1] His father is a native of County Kerry while his mother is from County Limerick. He moved, with his family, from County Cork as a child. After spells living in Zambia and London, he attended the same school as Irish television presenter Hector Ó hEochagáin and Dylan Moran, in St. Patrick's Classical School, Navan, County Meath, a Roman Catholic junior seminary.[2][3] He later attended a boarding school, Garbally College, in Ballinasloe, County Galway.[citation needed]


Tiernan has appeared several times on The Late Late Show. In the United States he has appeared several times on the Late Show with David Letterman.[4] Recently[when?] he appeared on the Michael McIntyre Comedy Roadshow, Lee Mack Show, DAVE's One NIght Stand and joined comedic legends Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble at Laughs in the Park.

In 2009, Tiernan set the Guinness World Record for the longest stand-up comedy show by an individual achieving 36 hours and 15 minutes at Nuns Island in Galway (12 April 2009).[5] Later in 2009 that record was broken by Australian Comedian Lindsay Webb. However, the new record now stands at 40 hours, and was set on 23 September 2010 by the American Comedian Bob Marley.

In "Going to America", the final episode of the clerical sitcom Father Ted, Tiernan plays a young priest whose suicide attempt is foiled by Ted at "It's Great Being a Priest '98". He is later cured of depression by the "Theme From Shaft", but subsequently relapses after overhearing the Radiohead song "Exit Music (For a Film)".

In the 1999 Channel 4 sitcom Small Potatoes, Tiernan took the lead role of Ed Blewitt, an underachiever who works in an east London video rental shop. It ran for 13 episodes over 2 seasons, ending in 2001.[6]

In 2008, Tommy and Hector Ó hEochagáin formed as a radio duo on The Tommy and Hector Show on i102-104FM after hinting at a desire to be on the radio, months before on The Late Late Show. Speaking about his role, Tommy said, "I’ve always wanted to have loads of craic on the radio. What better way to have a mountain of devilment than to do a show with my best friend."[7] Following the success of their show on iRadio Northwest, the show moved to the nationwide slot of Saturday 10am-12pm on 2FM.

Tiernan will be starring in his own TV show on Sky television. It deals profoundly with the life of a psychiatric patient and his mother.[8]

Comic style[edit]

When he started out he had an ambition to be like Lenny Bruce.[9] He doesn't regard himself as being, like Lenny Bruce, a comedian with a message.[9] Tiernan admits that his sense of humour is controversial, but claims that it is based on instinct and denies there is any malice or meanness in it.[9]


Down syndrome[edit]

In 2007, some families of people with Down syndrome complained about a routine in his act about people with the condition.[10] It had caused some surprise to some of the families as Tiernan has run a marathon in support of Down Syndrome Ireland.[10]

The Late Late Show (2008)[edit]

An appearance on The Late Late Show in 2008 led to complaints about his jokes involving a methadone user, eastern European immigrant accents, buying a motorbike from an injured biker, and a film idea about gay Traveller spacemen seeking a cure for gayness, eight of which were upheld by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. Previous routines which went largely without remark included a comic reference to disproportionate American reaction to 9/11 and a long comic repetition on the indifferent Israeli attitude to foreign criticism of Israeli occupations of surrounding land.[11][12][13]

Holocaust remarks[edit]

In September 2009, while attending a pre-performance public question and answer session at Electric Picnic in County Laois, Tiernan responded to a question concerning antisemitism by making remarks about the Holocaust and comments about Jews and the death of Christ while he was interviewed by Olaf Tyaransen,[14] stating "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! Fuck them.".[15] He was responding to an audience member who asked if he had ever been accused of antisemitism.[16]

The response of the audience was criticised by Alan Shatter as "disappointing" and also said "I would regard it as particularly sad that people found that sort of outburst in any way amusing".[16]

Tommy Tiernan released a statement that said he had not meant to cause offence and that his words had been taken out of context.[17] He said that the comments were part of an attempt to explain his belief that comedians have a duty to be irresponsible and reckless, to allow "whatever lunacy is within you to come out" and that they should never be taken out of context.[17] He added that the statements that had caused controversy had been preceded by a statement not to take the rant seriously.[17]

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin also criticised the remarks, describing them as "offensive to the Jewish community", "offensive to all who feel revulsion concerning the Holocaust, one of the most horrific events in human history” and “I can only decry the comments as insensitive and hurtful to the suffering of the victims and to a memory which is sacred".[18]

Holocaust Education Trust Ireland condemned Tiernan's statements as "appalling".[18] Ruairi Quinn, chairman of the Trust, said that "as someone in the public eye, he has to take responsibility for his racist comments. We are equally concerned about the report of the audience’s reaction, which appears to have endorsed, sustained and enjoyed his comments. We would hope that the Irish public will choose to stay away from such racist ‘entertainment’ in future”.[18] The Trust also said it "utterly condemns Mr Tiernan's anti-Semitic outburst and calls upon him to repudiate completely and apologise unreservedly for the comments about the Holocaust and the Jews he is reported to have made" and "This incident highlights the necessity and relevance of the role of Holocaust education in order to educate and inform people in Ireland about the Holocaust, intolerance and anti-Semitism."[18]

Louis Lentin said Tiernan should be denied a visa for his shows in the U.S. in October.[19] Lentin said Tiernan's Electric Picnic comments were "disgraceful", and "extraordinarily racist." "He doesn't realise what he has said. He doesn't realise the seriousness of it. You can't make a joke about the Holocaust and just because you say it is a joke does not make it funny or acceptable".[19]

Rabbi Robert Alper who is also a comedian said that Tommy Tiernan's statement on the subject was an attempt to weasel out of the situation.[20] Rabbi Alper also said about Tiernan's claim that comedians have a duty to be irresponsible: "To me that's really stupid. I don't think that comedians should be reckless or irresponsible. Comedians should be concerned about the feelings of other human beings. It's hurtful. Comedians (in America) don't do anti-semitic things. I've rarely heard of it. There are plenty of tasteless comedians out there but none of them pick on a group of people."[20] He also did not consider Tiernan's statement to be an apology, suggesting that Tiernan should say "I'm sorry".[20] Hot Press magazine editor Niall Stokes later said, "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."

Olaf Tyaransen wrote that neither he nor Tommy Tiernan had anticipated the subsequent response to unreserved comments made by the comedian during an afternoon interview hosted by Hot Press magazine at the Electric Picnic — an end-of-season arts & music festival.[14] Tyaransen said the last question asked from the floor about a dogged charge of anti-Semitism led to the comments at issue, and part of Tiernan's response recounted criticism of his routine by a Jewish couple after a show in New York.[14] Olaf Tyaransen claimed Tiernan's subsequent ideas had been taken out of context, though he personally held the comedian's monologue as 'very funny' and said as much on Marian Finucane's RTÉ Radio 1 show on 26 September 2009.

Personal life[edit]

Tiernan married Yvonne, his partner and manager, on 9 August 2009 in County Monaghan. They have three children. He also has three children from a previous relationship with Jayme Street with whom he shared a home in Galway. The two met when they joined a Christian community based on the Aran Islands, but broke up in October 2002.[21] Tiernan is a supporter of Liverpool F.C..[22] He has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.[23]


In 1996, Tiernan won the Channel 4 "So You Think You're Funny" award. Two years later he was awarded the Perrier Comedy Award at the 1998 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won the Best Stand-Up Award at the British Comedy Awards. In 2003, he won the Nokia Best of the Fest Award and the Orange People Choice Award at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival.[citation needed] In 2006, he won Ireland's Funniest Living Person Award at the People of the Year Awards.[citation needed]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Tommy Tiernan: Comedian profile — biography from the Comedy Zone website, retrieved 28 November 2006.
  3. ^ Where you're smiling, Charles Nevin, The Guardian, 19 November 2005, retrieved 12 February 2010
  4. ^ [1].
  5. ^ "Tommy Tiernan sets new comedy world record". Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  6. ^ IMDB: Small Potatoes (TV Series 1999–2001)
  7. ^ McDonald, Brian. "Comic strip Tommy and Hector get exposure for show". Retrieved 2 April, 2009.
  8. ^ "Sky's the limit as comic Tommy Tiernan lands TV series". 15 March 2013.
  9. ^ a b c "Testament according to Tommy", Keith Duggan, The Irish Times, 4 April 2009.
  10. ^ a b "Comic refuses to drop Down Syndrome jokes", 27 November 2007, retrieved 23 September 2009.
  11. ^ Tiernan's Traveller joke leads to uproar, Geraldine Gittens, Evening Herald, 30 October 2008, retrieved 23 September 2009
  12. ^ BCC upholds complaints against RTÉ show, RTE News, 8 January 2009, retrieved 23 September 2009
  13. ^ Complaint made by: Mr. B. Archibald on behalf of Pavee Point Ref. No. 383/08, Broadcasting Complaints Commission of Ireland, September 2008, retrieved 25 September 2009
  14. ^ a b c "How could reporter take my interview with Tommy out of context?", Olaft Tyaransen, Evening Herald, 25 September 2009.
  15. ^ 'TIERNAN MUST SAY SORRY FOR HURTFUL JEWISH SLUR' - The Mirror, 5 October 2009
  16. ^ a b "Six million? I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that. No f**kng problem! F**k them. Two at a time, they would have gone. Hold hands, get in there! Leave us your teeth and your glasses", Ken Sweeney, Entertainment Editor, Sunday Tribune, 20 September 2009
  17. ^ a b c 'Words were not meant to wound',, retrieved 22 September 2009
  18. ^ a b c d "Remarks on Holocaust offensive, says archbishop", Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times, 23 September 2009.
  19. ^ a b "Tiernan should be denied US visa, says filmmaker", Ken Sweeney, Sunday Tribune, 27 September 2009, retrieved 26 January 2010
  20. ^ a b c "Tiernan says he's sorry for Jewish jibes", Geraldine Gittens, Evening Herald, 23 September 2009.
  21. ^ "Comic Tommy calls in wedding guru to oversee his special day"., Lorna Nolan, Evening Herald, 8 August 2009, retrieved 12 February 2010.
  22. ^ "Tommy Tiernan Picture". The Kop. Retrieved 10 October 2011. 
  23. ^ "Tommy Tiernan". 25 November 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 

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