Tiernan’s set is a good example of how to convey the amusing peculiarities of your culture and upbringing, without relying too much on an audience’s familiarity with it. Born in small-town Ireland in the only county to vote no to gay marriage – Roscommon – she has a dark, resigned bitterness to her, a slightly defeated Celtic cynicism. She invites us into this worldview via anecdotes drawn from her childhood and the news, without ever assuming we are going to know the background to it. London comics take note next time you plan to drop local references in front of an Edinburgh audience.
The gay marriage votes makes a big chunk of her material. Some of it is “found” comedy, drawn from tweets people sent about Roscommon when it voted no. Many are indeed very funny, but you can’t credit her for that. However, her skill is in assembling the context in which these work, and when she brings all the gay marriage material together in a video projection at the end, you see how neatly it’s been done.
She carries around a comical jadedness, which on the basis of what she says here might have its source in her relationship with her social worker mother. She recounts phoning her to find she’s too busy looking after other people’s neglected kids to look after her own. (Tiernan’s a cousin to Tommy, if you want to read more into her family background.) There’s also the disappointment of her own career to draw on, a future in civil engineering she gave up to pursue comedy, when her teachers thought she should have made something of her life.
Some allowances have to be made. She seems unsettled this evening, grasping for the mic stand as if for security. She even fluffs a line, revealing the punchline and ruining the joke. But when she’s in full flow, it’s clear she has a way with an anecdote. There’s maybe even faint echoes of Dylan Moran in her approach. It’s a good set, in one of the best of the free venues.