Tiernan rant a pitiful bid to prop up a shaky career


If he hadn’t plumped for mocking Jews, he’d have come up with some other look-at-me antic, writes DAVID ADAMS

THE FOLLOWING is just some of what Tommy Tiernan had to say about Jews and the Holocaust at the Electric Picnic music festival earlier this month, as reported last weekend by the Sunday Tribune: “But these Jews, these f**king Jew c**ts come up to me. F**king Christ-killing bastards. F**king six million? I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that. No f**king problem! F**k them. Two at a time, they would have gone. Hold hands, get in there. Leave us your teeth and your glasses.”

Despite his obnoxious rant, I’m not convinced that Tiernan is anti-Semitic, for one simple reason: people like him are usually far too preoccupied with themselves to be bothered obsessing about anyone else.

Soon after he got wind of the Tribunearticle, you can be certain Tiernan was reading and re-reading it to check that his every utterance was included, calculating his chances of getting even more mileage out of it in the days ahead, knowing only too well the more offensive the remarks, the longer their media shelf life. That was the whole point of his sickening outburst.

The truth is Tommy Tiernan is just another on-the-slide, attention-seeking celebrity. If he hadn’t plumped for mocking Jews, he’d have come up with some other look-at-me antic.

He might have gone for the sympathy vote, like so many others of his ilk, and claimed that he has suffered all his life from dyslexia, or was abused as a child, or is battling some terrible addiction, without a thought for how it might detract from the plight of genuine sufferers. Just like he couldn’t have cared less about the hurt caused to others by his Holocaust rant.

To the celebrity, self is everything. Perhaps he is saving the “poor me” tactic for the future, or has used it in the past. It hardly matters. The point is this is what Z-list celebrities normally do when their novelty value begins to wear thin. With no talent to fall back on, they have to choose between becoming ever more pitiful/outrageous or simply disappearing from public view, and most go for the former. Why should we expect anything different from Tiernan? It isn’t as though he has much in the way of natural talent. Take away the far-too-contrived “shock” element from his routine, and there’s nothing left – at least nothing funny or insightful.

Doubtless Tiernan kids himself that he’s “edgy” and “courageous” and is tackling taboo subjects. But really, how can having a go at children with Down syndrome or making snide comments about missing child, Madeleine McCann, both of which he has done previously, be considered remotely edgy or courageous? Offensive, yes. But self-serving offensiveness shouldn’t be confused with humour. Anyone familiar with the outstanding comic genius of Richard Pryor or the early work of Billy Connolly will appreciate the difference.

Actually, Tiernan strikes me as dated, and, for all his bluster, as someone who always takes care to play it safe. Swearing like a trooper might have seemed daring 30 years ago; now it’s just seen as juvenile, or, as in this case, a smokescreen to cover lack of talent.

As for courage. Well, he pokes fun at Catholic priests, but then who doesn’t nowadays. He has also taken a bit of a sideswipe at Protestants in the past, and has now launched a vile attack on Jews, but how courageous is it to snipe at easy-target, minuscule religious minorities?

No, for Tiernan, location is everything. If he really wanted to be edgy and courageous, he’d be airing his thoughts on Jews and the Holocaust in, say, Tel Aviv or Haifa. If he didn’t want to travel so far, he could always do a couple of turns on the Falls Road in Belfast, and make disparaging comments about Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers. To give balance to his Northern tour, maybe a gig or two on the Shankill Road as well, and lay into the people who were killed in the Shankill bomb. But there’s no chance of it happening. Tommy wants attention, but not that badly.

None of this is to say that Tiernan’s outburst wasn’t harmful, or should have been ignored. Regardless of what he really thinks about Jews, his words can only be of encouragement to countless actual anti-Semites. The Sunday Tribunewas right to bring them to our notice, and to suggest in its editorial that the Garda should seriously consider whether Tiernan was guilty of breaching incitement to hatred legislation. If he was, celebrity should be no shield against the law.

Thanks to the Tribunearticle, as well, those who in the future may be tempted to employ Tiernan, or to go to any of his shows, can make their decision in full knowledge of his hateful anti-Jewish rant. Hopefully, via the internet, his Jewish fellow citizens and others will ensure that this includes prospective employers and audience members in the US.

We should give Tommy Tiernan all the media and public attention he so clearly craves. He may learn that too much of what you want can be a bad thing.