Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan, the master puppeteer and the world's smallest imaginary fiddle

Tommy Tiernan epitomises the Irish comic. He’s fierce craic, small yet larger than life, and adopts a persona at once endearingly innocent and wickedly cheeky. The Ulster Hall plays host to the funny man whose rapport with the audience makes him feel like an old childhood friend.

Tiernan suggests the lighting operator has pulled a sicky, as he scuttles into the shadows dodging the static stage spotlight. He proposes doing the gig in darkness. 'Stick 50p in the meter, Tommy!' shouts a voice from the crowd. For the remainder he makes the best of the minimalist stage lighting.

'I took a bus tour to Sandy Row the other day,' Tiernan begins. 'There’s just something about royal bunting that chain smoking, tattooed, bald-headed Protestant men love, isn’t there?' But it’s all friendly banter, he adds, devilishly.

The Donegal native recounts tales of family life. He yarns about the ‘snoring prevention equipment’ ordered from the internet to satisfy his wife. 'I had a strap across my jaw, a strip across my nose, a mouth guard. "No dear, I’ll tend to our crying child," as I stand at the bottom of the baby’s cot resembling Hannibal Lector.'

A father-daughter bonding trip results in a ‘blue’ John Terry chant at a Liverpool away game. Father and daughter somehow find themselves joining in.

Tiernan is the master puppeteer, a seasoned performer who holds a firm grip over tonight's 800 strong gathering. Speaking of religion, lunacy, logic and normality, he declares: 'I’d rather be alone in a darkened room playing the world’s smallest fiddle than live an average life.' Cue the dramatic climax...

Standing stage right, the puppeteer imitates death. A long, eerie silence cuts through the Ulster Hall. Tiernan takes his final breath as we are introduced, unexpectedly, to the ‘lighting operator’. The burning, static spotlight quickly fades as we’re thrown into darkness. The silence echoes.

One with good eyesight notices the silhouette now standing centre stage. Is it our host, playing the worlds smallest imaginary fiddle, alone (not quite) in a darkened room?

A backdrop of purple neon lights suddenly illuminates proceedings, clouds of stage smoke bellow from behind the canvas, and an eruption of traditional Irish music breaks the silence. Tiernan dances across the stage like a freed prisoner. In unison, the audience join in with thunderous clapping, feet pounding the deck, entrapped in the raconteur’s web of charm.

Certainly one of the best structured comedy sets Belfast has seen in recent months, this is an eccentric performance that many will find hard to forget.