Finding The Funny In A Country Childhood

As her Whale debut on July 7th approaches, ELEANOR TIERNAN reveals where that funny bone formed.

During the 1980s there was nothing that kids in Roscommon interested in drama/entertainment could look at.

Every year tThe Late Late Toy show would be dominated by shiny Dublin kids and I’d wonder who this Billy Barry man was and how I could get his attention. I was too old to be on before I realised Billy Barry was a woman.

After college, I moved to Dublin and began working as an engineer. There I joined an amateur drama group called Parnassus Arts Group – a steely group of civil servants that put on plays around Dublin. The group met in Briody’s on Marlborough St on a Tuesday and it was a tight blend of craic, mayhem and commitment to putting on the best show within our powers. I learned a lot from the gang about performance but also that no one person can take credit for performances as there’s always a huge effort from many people involved.

Then I forgot all that and started stand-up in 2004. It was during the Celtic Tiger and people spent a lot of money on entertainment at the time. It seemed like it would never end. Then the crash came and while things slowed down, comedy was lucky enough not to be completely decimated. Over the years it’s had good times and not so good but people always seem to want it.

My comic inspiration at home comes from my Dad. He has an excellent deadpan face. When we were kids there was a prank he would play on kids in the area. Sitting in the driver’s seat of his car he would beckon a kid over for their help. Then he would ask them to smell the bonnet of his car. “There’s a terrible smell of rashers off it,” he’d say.

At first the child would look at him skeptically no doubt thinking, Mr Tiernan must be gone in the head. However, his straight face was so good that they all eventually succumbed. Slowly, the child would walk towards the bonnet, lean forward and take in a breath through their nose. Sometimes Dad would let them do it twice. “Get closer,” he’d say, “take a big one”. Then when he knew the child had reached the point of genuinely asking themselves if they were spelling rashers, he would beep the horn of the car usually sending the child a few inches into the air with fright.

I never saw it not work.


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