COMEDIAN and star of the award-winning Derry Girls, Tommy Tiernan will bring his live solo tour to Lighthouse, Poole’s centre for the arts, on Tuesday, March 17. He speaks to Laura Hanton about the pressure of being funny.
The 50-year-old plays Da Gerry, father of central character Erin, in the Channel 4 comedy sitcom set amidst The Troubles in Ireland. The show is centred around a group of Catholic teenage girls growing up surrounded by conflict in the 1990s.
“Derry Girls is sharp, funny, the writing is fearless and the girls are joyfully rebellious,” Tommy, who was born in Carndonagh, County Donegal, says. “It’s a comedy, but at the same time it’s a reminder of the atrocities that took place and the sad, profound reality that young people were living through it.”
Joining the show in 2018, Tommy had by that point worked as a stand-up comedian for 25 years, hosting his own chat show, The Tommy Tiernan Show, on Irish TV, and appearing on other programmes including The Late Late Show and Live at the Apollo. Tommy also starred as a suicidal priest in the final episode of Father Ted.
He admits he probably wasn’t cut out for traditional working life: “If I had a choice, I would have been an apostle,” Tommy says. “I’d have liked to just follow Jesus around for a few years.”
Despite not quite making it to apostle status, Tommy insists he leads a very “gentle” life. “I wander down to my shed mid-morning, have a big cigar and a strong pot of coffee, and spend most of my days just thinking. Having said that, when I’m on tour, the travelling can be difficult and there’s a lot of pressure. I’m contractually obliged to be funny.”
Currently performing his new show, Tomfoolery, at small venues in Ireland, Tommy is preparing for a 16-date tour of England.
“Everyone knows me very well in Ireland,” he says. “They know what to expect. In England, I’m new. I think people are excited by my lack of manners, by the way I use language.”
Tomfoolery is full of mischief and adventure, providing the combination of storytelling and stand-up comedy that Tommy is known for. “I was always the one willing to say things that other people wouldn’t,” Tommy says. “When we laugh, we feel free, and I want everyone to feel that way.”
To create his material, Tommy draws on a range of events and life experiences – such as the time he had a cameo in Ed Sheeran’s music video for Galway Girl.
“That came about when a guy who owned a garage called me and said that Ed Sheeran was filming at O’Connell’s down the road,” Tommy explains. “I went along, and Ed was happy for me to be in the background of the video, drinking a pint of Guinness.”
Tommy expresses an evident fondness of England, which he describes as nation “full of kindness, decency, and really amazing history.”
His performance at Lighthouse, Poole, will not be his first time in Dorset: “I went to Bournemouth once in the winter, and the sea did not look as inviting as I imagine it can do. Whenever I visit a new town or city, I go for a run. It helps me get a really good feel for the place.”
In 2019, Tommy toured Paddy Crazy Horse across the UK, travelling by train. “I spent years on motorways in England, driving from one Little Chef to another,” he explains. “I was slowly dying, so I decided to do it by train, and it was tremendous. Journeying through the English countryside was an absolute dream.”
Tomfoolery begins at 8pm. Tickets are £22.75, available from Lighthouse’s website or by contacting the box office.