Despite being a house-hold name in Ireland and having had major UK success (winner of 1998 Perrier Award), there was something niggling Tommy Tiernan about where he ranks internationally as a stand-up.
In 2004, Tommy received an unprecedented standing ovation at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival. For him, this was an indication that his material travelled and translated well for a North American audience. Armed with a US manager and promoter, Tommy set about making in-roads on the highly competitive US market.
The journey was long, starting with 10 minute sets in some New York clubs, and working his way up from there. Thinking it might be interesting enough to document, he took his trusty camera crew along to capture a sense of the journey that took him from the hotel rooms of Mullingar and Leitrim to the comedy clubs of New York, Washington DC, Nebraska, San Francisco, Sacramento, Texas and Los Angeles, in his bid to make a name for himself as a comedian in America.
As far as Tommy’s concerned, America is the home of stand-up. His comedy heroes (Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby) are all American. For the Navan man not to dip his toes into the American comedy scene and be judged by his peers, would be the equivalent of a rock band being content to brag about being ‘big in Japan’.
Jokerman – Tommy Tiernan in America is the television series which follows Tommy over two years on his journey from the biggest venues in Ireland to the bottom of the US comedy food chain, and beyond. Cutting from his performances at a sold-out Vicar Street to playing to a handful of locals in smoky back-street US clubs, Tommy found himself sweating more than usual for his pennies! In this series, he also talked candidly about what it’s like to be a comedian, confirming that the business of being funny is not always a laughing matter.
The first three episodes of this series were screened in May. Now catch the final part, after Tommy’s full New York stand-up show opened in June, and see if the funnyman realised his dream of breaking the all-important US comedy scene.