Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The Frontline and – oh vey! – Tommy Tiernan

RTE’s new current affairs session The Frontline enjoyed a good start to its run last night. Sure, there were a couple of opening night niggles – they need to make the type on the info-ticker a lot bolder, Pat Kenny …

Tue, Sep 22, 2009, 13:53


RTE’s new current affairs session The Frontline enjoyed a good start to its run last night. Sure, there were a couple of opening night niggles – they need to make the type on the info-ticker a lot bolder, Pat Kenny seemed a little hurried and harrassed as if he was trying to cram a two hour show into an hour and, wow, so that’s what Eamon Dunphy looks like without the services of the RTE make-up department – but these are ones which can be sorted out with time. Well, maybe not the latter.

More importantly, the format, and how it served last night’s Nama subject matter, hit the nail on the head. Remember that The Frontline is replacing Questons & Answers so the most important thing for the new show is to get away from bland, set-piece questions from the audience and even blander set-piece answers from the panel. Instead of that hoary formula (which did serve Q&A well for a few years before it became the show’s downfall), we had Kenny wandering around the audience with his microphone and getting views and tales from what was going on in, as Fintan O’Toole later termed it, “the real economy”. It helped too that there didn’t seem to be as many party goons in the audience, though you had to admire the dude who used the opportunity to hawk a few houses in the midlands. Oh, and can someone please find an alternative use for Tom Parlon?

Interestingly, the weakest link in the show was Kenny’s interview with Brian Lenihan. The Minister for Finance wiggled like a worm on the end of a fishing line and managed to escape relatively unscathed from the encounter. Sure, he wouldn’t have been so lucky in an one-on-one with, say Vinny Browne, but it’s also doubtful if Kenny would have been so lax on his radio show or if Browne would have been as thorough if he’d to keep a live studio audience engaged. Again, chalk it down to the opening night test-run. By the time The Frontline is a dozen shows into its run, government ministers might think twice about coming on the show.

We’re unlikely, though, to see the unfunniest man in Ireland on the show and thank goodness for that. Yet again, he finds himself in the soup and, once again, he is probably laughing away to beat the band at the crack he has created.

We speak, of course, of Tommy Tiernan, a comedian who has enjoyed huge success in Ireland by taking on the persona of that mad, loud, drunken gobshite in a woolly jumper that you cross the street to avoid. Thousands of Irish people, though, obviously don’t feel the same way and they have spent good money to sit through a few hours of Tiernan ranting, roaring and cursing at them. You keep hoping that he’s going to get some success elsewhere so he can go away and annoy other people, but then you realise that Tiernan is never going to do that. He’s as parochial as the parish pump.

Yet again, Tiernan is in what he sees as his natural home (ie the limelight) after cracking a few Holocaust gags during a public interview at the recent Electric Picnic. Note, this wasn’t part of his actual show in the comedy teepee, this was a public interview so Tiernan’s high-faluting cant about specially-protected comedy environments does not apply. Naturally, because it’s Ireland and it’s Tiernan, the audience laughed their socks off. Tiernan, he’s such a hoot. He’s a mad bastard, a mad fecking bastard. Yahoo!

Since the Trib ran the story on Sunday (and fair play to Ken Sweeney for digging it up), there has been a lot of fuming. This happens a lot with Tiernan so you could say that it has become his shtick: take a dig at some controversial subject and then sit back to wait for the reaction. We’ve been here before with Tiernan with his Madeline McCann and crucifixion gags, to name just two which kept Liveline in clover for days.

But eventually folks will tire of the eejit who shouted “feck!” and will move along. Yes, there is such a thing as edgy comedy and some comedians are absolutely fantastic at juggling controversial subjects to the consternation and discomfort of their audience. But not Tiernan. When he takes on an edgy subject, all you get are the rants and raves of a very unfunny and increasingly deluded individual. It’s about time we sighed and moved on. Bet Pat Kenny is glad he doesn’t have to invite Tiernan onto his TV show ever again.