Not in depth mind you, more like stepping stones on a path to better understanding – especially for a man approaching middle-age trying to discover where he’s at.
That’s the impression left after two hours in the company of one of Ireland’s leading solo performers at a packed An Grianan theatre in Donegal as the 48-year-old pondered how rapid changes in the world affect him.
Nostalgia is the thread that weaves through the evening as Tiernan questions his sexual abilities, muses upon his familial ancestry and his warped DNA inheritance, talks of his return to the Catholic fold and tackles the sensitive issue of death’s inevitability.
Somewhat morbid maybe but his two-hour show is more akin to black humor with whiplash philosophic insight. Perching his hat and scarf on the microphone stand, he wanders around the stage, sometimes staring at the floor as if looking for answers there, sometimes at the audience, all the while engaging in an informal conversation about the ebb and flow of life, offering his take on things as ‘notions’ or ‘suggestions’ rather than bold, outright statements.
Abortion: why should he, a man without a womb, have as equal a vote as a woman on the upcoming Irish referendum? And why limit a woman’s choice? Shouldn’t every woman have ‘an abortion machine’ in the home akin to a dishwasher or a microwave oven and push a child under the age of 18 into it whenever she feels the need?
Gerontology: Gone are the days when old people sat by the fireside wrapped in blankets sucking sweets. Now they want flu jabs. Who decides what age is the right one to die? 90, Tiernan suggests. Is that acceptable? Okay, let’s leave it at that so and when an old person arrives at a hospital for help we’ll just send them packing. Have them take care of themselves. Maybe then, he suggests, the motto of the health service should be, ‘You’re Not Supposed To Live Forever’ and the image one of a doctor tossing dice.
Religion: the Bible, an interesting read, but not for truth. More for entertainment, for vibes. Someone builds a huge boat because he hears a voice telling him there’s going to be a flood, eh? Maybe it should be called the Vible. Isn’t it a tad strange then that this is the very book upon which we should swear to tell the truth?
Brexit: like ‘Coronation Street,’ it’ll go on forever.
Politics: Ireland, with a gay leader. Who’d believe it? Wasn’t long ago we didn’t allow people to be left-handed.
Family: a ‘famine fries’ anecdote makes for an amusing insight into the peculiarity of Tiernan’s ancestry.
Sex: it’s harder in middle-age, he acknowledges, and not in the literal sense of the word. Best option – celery. Or, for special occasions, rhubarb. Why?
Refugees: of course, we should help them. But in Ireland, on one condition. What?
See ‘Under the Influence’ to find out the answers and how this likeable comedian still retains the effortless conversational charm that has made him the favorite of many.