Tommy Tiernan, the pride of Galway and Navan, Co Meath, won the prestigious Perrier Comedy Prize at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his critically-acclaimed, sell-out show, Undivine Comedy. Tiernan becomes the second Navan comic to win the award, Dylan Moran having scored first for Navan in 1996.
It's one thing for a comedy show to wow audiences, but to score with the critics adds the cream to the strawberries. One of Tommy Tiernan's biggest fans during the tree-week run has been Daily Telegraph arts critic Kate Bassett. After first seeing the show at Edinburgh's Pleasance Theatre, Bassett wrote, "I might have to go and see Tommy Tiernan a second time. Not only has this young Irishman made me laugh more than any other comedian at the [Edinburgh] festival, he's also taking stand-up to a higher plane".
Tiernan first established himself as a comic force to be reckoned with in shows like Eamonn Kelly's Religious Knowledge, originally staged a couple of years ago as a lunchtime offering at The King's Head and then, more recently, in a full-length version of the play staged at the Town Hall Theatre.
Cutting his teeth in Galway Youth Theatre, Tiernan progressed to stage work with Punchbag Theatre Company, Flying Pigs, and ultimately the sharp humour and social observation of Religious Knowledge.
At the same time, he was honing his skills as a strikingly original stand-up comedian, not afraid to take pot-shots at himself nor to throw a comic light on some of the darker regions of the soul, ours as well as his. A foretaste of his Perrier success came two years ago when he won the talent-spotting competition called So You Think You're Funny? at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Tiernan also managed to join that select group of Irish entertainers who've provoked strong reactions because of the nature of their material. Last year, after he did a religiously-tinged routine on The Late Late Show, callers filled the phone lines with howls of outrage. As the old saying goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity and, in fact, the Late show incident is the basis for his Edinburgh show.
Kate Bassett's review in the Daily Telegraph highlights at least some of the reasons for Tiernan's success: "In the Irish tradition, he's a delightful natural talker and a great storyteller, with a tinkerish twinkle and some beautiful, funny turns of phrase...Not every day do you come across an observational comic who takes time to contemplate the state of a man's soul."
Tommy Tiernan now joins the prestigious ranks of former winners of the Perrier Award such as Eddie Izzard, Jack Dee, Jo Brand, Steve Coogan, Sean Hughes, and Bill Bailey. Galway Advertiser 1998