Tommy Tiernan Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto ON, April 15

Tommy Tiernan Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto ON, April 15
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Tommy Tiernan resembled a stork picking his way through a minefield Wednesday night as he — with delightful deliberation — inched his way across the Bluma Appel Theatre stage, one wary step after another. Ten years past would have seen him sprinting and bounding from one side of the stage to another as if catching up on a strict regimen of exercise, but it seems time is slowly gaining on the 45-year-old Irish comedian.
 
Having always been somewhat of a physical comedian, Tiernan has not insensibly discarded his blur of physical bustle in favour of a more measured stage presence. But his material has lost none of its fervour.  Tiernan has always excelled at lending hilariously inappropriate intensity to topics of a traditionally mundane nature. He speaks of racism and sexual faux pas in hushed tones, only to explode with magnificent incredulity at the prospect of actively raising a child.
 
Fresh off a show in Ottawa, which he referred to as a "Disneyland for serious people," Tommy was at the top of his game. His audience was not without its hecklers (while technically befitting the term, the culprits weren't quite in the business of heckling so much as attempting to make small talk with the performer). Tiernan's response was professional; brash enough to dissuade further interruptions, but genuine and unperturbed enough to give the abrupt so-and-sos in question the connection they presumably wanted. One audience member momentarily — if unintentionally — derailed the show due to her incessant laughter, which can only be described (as Tiernan himself attested) as a piercing squawk. Out of what may have been sincere concern, Tiernan paused to address the woman, fearing she might succumb to oxygen deprivation.
 
A difficult comedian to pin down as far as creed or values go, Tiernan declared religious faith in a specific doctrine to be folly, only to come down hard on dogmatic belief in the theory of evolution for the same reason, claiming that both are "just stories" — an odd opinion to hold insofar as Tiernan's entire act revolves around stories.
 
Tiernan is no purveyor of the one-liner. His 90-minute set hung entirely on his storytelling ability. While he was certainly not without punch lines, his humour was in the telling, rather than the conclusion. His set had the effect of a whodunit affair, dragging the audience deeper and deeper into his exasperated queries and qualms until they were as desperate for answers as he was. Desperation is Tiernan's driving force, one that manifests as a twisted sort of glee.