Everybody’s Irish?

Tommy Tiernan, Lil’ Bush
March 4, 2008 1:30:11 PM


Tommy Tiernan is an Irishman, a son of Erin. He comes from the holy land of Ireland. Did I mention that he also happens to be of Irish descent? Should these facts escape you for any reason before you watch his hour-long special on Comedy Central on March 14 (11 pm), not to worry: two and a half seconds of his stand-up routine will suffice to reapprise you of them fully. Filmed before a boozily partisan crowd in Chicago, Something Mental kicks off with a near-parodic exhibition of broguish babble and lathering, mad-dog Irishry. Lots of cursing: fuck this and fuck that. “The English language doesn’t suit my soul! I’m condemned to speak in another man’s tongue! The English language is a brick wall between me and you, and fuck is my chisel!” Tiernan doesn’t hold a mic; he uses a headset, like a telemarketer, the better to liberate his wild Hibernian gesturing. After about five minutes, mercifully, he calms down a bit, settling back into some relaxing culture-clash comedy: Americans are infatuated with work and full of “toxic optimism,” Irish people drink a lot, etc. “ ‘Have a nice day!’ . . . That sounds like a threat to an Irish person. I’ll have whatever kind of a day I fuckin’ like. Mind your own business!”

Tiernan’s material is a weird old brew, mixing strains of unreconstructed, soluble-in-alcohol stand-up — bad jokes about Eskimos and ugly women that set the theater roaring — with something much more interesting and almost literary. He can do a lovely bit of prose when he wants to. Discoursing on sodomy, for example (“the limits of passion!”), he offers us this wistful image from his own brief experience as a dildo recipient: “Afterwards I felt like a girl. And she looked after me, so she did. Let me watch whatever I wanted to on the television . . . ” Or again, he’ll follow some dusty, old-school cracks about the pope with a breakthrough line like this: “If the statues in church could make the noises that their faces are suggesting, the place would sound like an abattoir.” In Ireland, Tiernan’s previous DVD, OK Baby, sold more 100,000 copies. The future would probably be his, if he wanted it.

Sticking to our theme of Emerald-tinted laughter: the second season of Lil’ Bush (Comedy Central, Thursdays at 10.30 pm) kicks off with an episode about the political ramifications of the St Patrick’s Day Parade. Lil’ Bush, if you haven’t seen it, is an animated work of satirical intent in which the nation’s leaders are portrayed as squabbling and unscrupulous schoolchildren. There are celebrity voiceovers. I watched the first 10 minutes of it with a face like an Easter Island statue before succumbing at last to Kevin Federline’s winning portrayal of MC Karl Rove, whose only rhyme is “trove,” as in “I believe I can Rove/I believe I can touch the trove . . . ” Iggy Pop, as Lil’ Rummy, does a lurching, loopy, characteristically Pop-like Rumsfeld impression. The show’s satire is crude, but the crudeness seems to have a moral aspect to it, as if its creators had abandoned wit in despair and flung themselves weeping into vulgarity. How do you satirize Dick Cheney? You make him bestial and non-verbal, his utterance a series of flat snarlings and his manners the tearing-off of heads. Not funny, exactly, but a resonant portrait in its way. Lil’ Bush himself is a more detailed caricature, bouncing snottily behind his desk and shouting, “We’re all Irish now!” “You don’t even know where Ireland is!” sneers Lil’ Hillary Clinton. “Sure I do,” he says, only momentarily flummoxed. “It’s . . . in our hearts. Like a free Iraq.”


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