The Irish comedian returns to D.C. for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Several years ago, Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan was about to take the stage as an opener at a D.C. comedy club when he was approached by the promoter. The evening was being headlined by a family-orientated comedian, and the promoter asked Tiernan not to curse. Fire, meet gasoline.
“I went out and I told the audience what the promoter had said to me,” Tiernan says. “I started cursing and they loved it.”
For Tiernan, who isn’t a shock comic (“I don’t have the discipline to be a shock comic,” he laughs) the offense wasn’t that he was being told what to say. It’s that the promoter decided what the audience could or should hear and had pre-determined what they could handle.
Pushing the boundaries of what an audience can handle has been part of Tiernan’s M.O. in his 30-plus year career as a stand-up and actor. He got into hot water at the start of the year with a joke that eventually cost him a sponsor deal on The Tommy Tiernan Show. Tiernan publicly apologized and moved on. This wasn’t the first time he was in this sort of predicament and it most likely won’t be his last. For Tiernan, that’s the whole point of comedy.
“I’m like a sailboat that has received many, many gusts of wind,” Tiernan says. “So really, the [jokes] people are offended by — it’s less than half a percent of what I do. 99.5% of the time the stuff that I say people roll with. You’re always taking chances in standup. Always. I’m always looking for the laugh that finally liberates us. The problem with that is liberation is found hiding behind tension. So, you travel towards the tension, and the bigger the tension, the bigger the laugh. I really am slightly wayward and sometimes people get bothered by stuff that I say, but it happens so infrequently that I thought those days were over. But seemingly not, and people have the right to be offended, and they have the liberty to proceed however they want to proceed after they take offense.”
No topic seems to be off limits for Tiernan’s material, and that includes a recent diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) which he speaks to in his stand-up. As it turns out, that was a misdiagnosis by his therapist.
“It ended up I actually don’t have it, which is probably something that somebody who does have it would say,” Tiernan says.
Instead, newly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Tiernan has a slight problem with the name.
“The bit I struggle with is the ‘disorder,’” Tiernan says. “I think it should just be called ‘Attention Deficit Reality.’ I’m not sure there’s a central way of being that people should have and that any deviations from that can be classified as a ‘disorder.’”
Though the ADD diagnosis personally makes more sense for Tiernan than the BPD, the source of the diagnosis from a psychotherapist close to his heart gives Tiernan pause.
“The interesting thing about the ADD diagnosis was that it was my wife who diagnosed me,” Tiernan says. “I’m not so sure how trustworthy that is.”
Tommy Tiernan will play the Lincoln Theatre Saturday, May 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $40 and can be purchased here. To learn more about Tommy Tiernan and his comedy, follow him on Instagram @officialtommedian.
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