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Hushed Tommy still has that magic spark

"Basic Irish decency" -- that's Tommy Tiernan's motto. Well, it's not really a motto, is it? More a way of life to explain some of the stranger habits and traits bestowed upon the fine people of Ireland.

Such as sleeping with someone on a blind date because they travelled a long distance to be there. Or "dropping a block" on an English labourer to make room for an out-of-work Irishman.

Do these things happen? They do in Tiernan's head. And what a whimsical place that must be.

The older he gets, the louder and more animated he becomes. It's Tiernan's thing -- shout at an audience and they'll laugh harder. But Stray Sod is that little bit different from what we've come to expect from the bearded storyteller in the waistcoat. For a start, the 43-year-old comedian spends much of the second half in a constant state of hush, preferring instead to whisper his jokes down the microphone. Why he does this, we're not entirely sure.


It's a tad confusing, if only because the material (sex; erectile dysfunction; women who interrupt men when they're telling stories) is surprisingly weak.

He has always had an interest in some of the more surreal elements of stand-up, extracting everyday occurrences from every corner of the island, before ripping them apart and stitching them back together.

He's also an athletic performer. Nobody does a better funny walk than Tiernan. But sometimes his feet float just a bit too far from the ground, and the humour, though well-timed and passionately presented, feels muddled and forced.

He's still got that magic spark that makes Tiernan such a watchable entertainer. Even on a bad day, he's in another league. The first 45 minutes of Stray Sod features some of the best routines and gags we've ever heard from the guy.

Tiernan is at his best when discussing his family, especially his youngest son. With a bit of luck, he'll eventually refocus and deliver a consistent show. HHHII

> Stray Sod at Vicar Street until January 27. See Vicarstreet.ie