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Outside it's America
In Ireland, he’s the biggest name in comedy – a superstar who can pack them into live shows and shift DVDs by the jumboload. But having conquered his homeland, Tommy Tiernan faced the question: where to from here? The answer was America, the Holy Grail for anyone in the entertainment business. The story of his battle to win hearts and minds is captured in Jokerman – Tommy Tiernan Takes On America, a documentary series that is about to hit the screens on RTE. But first, there’s the important matter of a Hot Press interview to attend to.
Olaf Tyaransen, 17 May 2006
For someone who’s widely considered to be this country’s very best stand-up comedian, the normally industrious Tommy Tiernan has been keeping a fairly low profile of late.
There is a reason. The 36-year-old Navan-born, controversialist has his sights set on cracking America. What’s more, the campaign is beginning to take effect.
Having gotten about as big as it’s possible to get on this side of the pond, Tiernan has chosen not to rest on his laurels, but to instead go to the bottom of the American comedy food chain and see if he can make his name over there. For Tiernan, America is his Mecca – not just where it’s at, but where it’s always been at. After all, the US was home to most of his comedy heroes (Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor). For the 1998 Perrier Award winner not to dip his toes into the Stateside scene and be judged by his peers would be something akin to a rock band being content to boast about being “big in Japan.” Or so his press release says.
Jokerman – Tommy Tiernan Takes On America is a new documentary television series which tells the story of his U.S. invasion to date. Filmed and produced by Galway-based Power Pictures (the same company behind his last foray onto the small screen, the critically acclaimed Supertramp – Tommy Tiernan’s Walking Tour of Ireland), it follows him on a two-year journey which takes him from playing the biggest venues in Ireland and the UK to gigging as a ten-minute opening act in the small comedy clubs of cities like New York, Washington DC, Texas and LA. Or from virtually ubiquitous to virtually anonymous.
RTE will screen the first three episodes of Jokerman, beginning on RTE 2 on Monday, 8th of May, and running for three consecutive weeks. In the autumn, after he’s performed his full-length stand-up show in New York this summer, they’ll repeat the first three, with the fourth and final episode as a denouement.
So the pressure’s really on, but you wouldn’t think it today. It’s a sun-drenched Thursday afternoon in Salthill. Tommy greets me with a grin on the seafront balcony of the Galway Bay Hotel. He seems to be in fine fettle. He’s got the shades on – but, once we get stuck into this interview, it becomes obvious that the gloves are off.