An uncontrolled mouth, a minister for craic, and a randy aunt walk into a henhouse together. Not a joke set-up, though the jokes are there, but a podcast born in the pandemic and now one of Ireland’s most widely listened to, with millions of downloads from all over the world, Spiddal to Salt Lake City, Toronto to Tasmania.
This is Tommy, Hector and Laurita, and the henhouse in question is down the back of Tommy Tiernan’s garden in Galway. Tiernan is the uncontrolled mouth in the room, as he refers to himself at one point, and plays God the Father in this particular Holy Trinity. Prone to philosophy and wild and raucous preaching, he directs the tone and cadence of the whole like a seasoned conductor.
His long relationship with fellow Navan man Hector O hEochagáin is also a well-worn road: there’s a tenderness between them, a fraternal affection that translates in their easy banter honed over years on iRadio and RTÉ. Here, though, on the The Tommy, Hector & Laurita Podcast, they are delightfully unleashed together. Unconstrained by national broadcaster diktats or content directors, they can range through subjects from Italia 90 to Buddhist tenets, to matters prostate with a kind of two-shorten-the-road glee and stumble.
The format is loose: we’re largely in the People Just Having a Chat podcast genre, though there’s clearly practice here too, with some stories that have been told and honed and polished until they gleam
Laurita Blewitt, the “token woman” as she calls herself (it’s Tiernan who refers to her as the randy aunt), is actually more the straight man in this triple act, occasionally pearl clutching, sometimes a scold. But over the course of the hundred-plus episodes, she finds a voice between the grandstands, an Ah hereness that keeps her co-hosts from getting too carried away with their own hilarity. She gets some zingers in too.
The format is loose: we’re largely in the People Just Having a Chat podcast genre, though there’s clearly practice here too, with some stories that have been told and honed and polished until they gleam, while others meander off like shaggy dogs on a boreen. But the advantage of this general unscriptedness is the intimacy that informality can bring, the possibility that something new and revelatory will slip out. The risk is self-indulgence, thigh-slapping yukkery on high volume, humour as a way to keep your guard up. Tommy, Hector and Laurita represent this bargain made: at best it’s sharp and honest and surprising. (See also: funny). But at times it’s two men shouting over a woman in a pub, or failing to read the room.
It’s all performance for a particular audience, and if you’re not of a certain age and persuasion, the references to Calor Gas heaters and Radiomulsion (Hector, we had this luminous delicacy in my house too, just to validate your memories) might not strike the same chord. But the language is rich and revelrous, from the man with “eyebrows like nettles” to the barking sofa of a dog and more, with poetry threaded through and stories wound around each other until they tie themselves in knots.
The gift two years in is in the glimpses of the people behind the performance, whose uncontrolled mouths and limitless craic unpeel a little to show us more of who they are behind, or rather within, it all. It’s funny and philosophical, and essentialist and annoying. (Tommy, just get your prostate checked already). Ultimately, Tommy, Hector and Laurita elevate having the chats to an artform. We’re the ones sitting at the next table over and cry-laughing into our pints.