Eleanor Tiernan brings new show to Central Arts
“I didn’t realise I was doing comedy as a career until after I was in it for about 10 years!” Eleanor Tiernan admits.
Speaking to The Munster Express ahead of her gig at Waterford’s Central Arts this Friday night, Tiernan felt her first decade in the business consisted of little more than “messing around, having a laugh.” She added: “We weren’t taught career strategy at all at my school. The only job I remember the nuns suggested to us was nursing and that was for everyone no matter how well it would suit you. Luckily for any sick people I chose a different path. I think it would have helped me and maybe other people to start thinking about career strategy earlier in life though. The way the world is going, people have to take charge of their careers and there’s a lot of potential to make a wrong decision. It would be good of someone could let kids know these things before it’s too late.”
Eleanor broke into comedy back in the early 2000s, by which time the Kilkenny Cat Laughs had established itself as a fixture in the South East’s entertainment calendar, as the Dublin circuit gained venues and popularity.
“The country was awash with money,” said Eleanor, “and instead of buying a flat during the boom which would have meant sitting in frugally in the evening I started doing stand up. At the time in Waterford there was a gig running in a bar called Revolution which was such good fun at the time. I’ve also done warm ups for various acts in Waterford before but never my own show so it’s exciting to be making a new connection to the city in this way.” Her show’s title, ‘Success Without A Sex Tape’ is certainly eye-catching, and Eleanor explained the show’s genesis. “Like a lot of people, I found myself trapped within a cycle of reaching for social media and internet as a way of coping with disappointment,” she said.
“I wondered where that might take me if I allowed it to continue. Releasing a sex tape is the obvious conclusion to that question. I wondered what I would have to do to extricate myself from this pattern. ‘Success Without A Sextape’ became the mantra I have for remembering that there’s a space between other people’s opinion of me and how I choose to life my life.”
The Central Arts bio for Friday’s gig references an era of celebrity in which being caught ‘in flagrante’ via a leaked online video has become notoriously prevalent – and career enhancing. Does Eleanor find this unlikely CV addition an absurd route to success? “I don’t think it’s absurd at all,” she replied.
“Before that (Kim Kardashian/Ray J) sex tape in February 2007, there was no ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’. The show was first aired on E! 8 months later after its release. To NOT connect the two would be the absurd position to take in my opinion. Also I think there are probably some of Kim’s fans who don’t know about her sex tape but that doesn’t mean its not the reason they know who she is. Those same kids may also not know that Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) won Olympic medals even though that is undoubtedly part of why she’s in the position she is. Also, your question presumes there is something wrong with having an absurd belief in a comedy show. If the show wasn’t absurd in some way I don’t think it would be very good or funny.” It’s hard to argue with Eleanor’s take on fame – so I didn’t!
The show is also inspired by the onset of social media influencers, a celebrity subset which adolescents and young adults are as au fait with as most ‘Dadbod’ license holders are utterly ignorant of. “I don’t think (social media influencers) have no talent though (as this interviewer argued) or at least it’s not as simple as that. I think they are willing to make sacrifices that a lot of us won’t. Up until recently, people in the public eye wanted to be both respected for their abilities and paid for what they do. Influencers have decided they can do without with the respect thing and it’s working for them. It is forcing the rest of us to confront our egos in that way.”
In terms of the topic raised by her new show’s title, Eleanor Tiernan addresses this new age of celebrity with no element of piety on her behalf or, as she put it “without being a judgemental pr*ck!” She added: “It’s very tricky. However I am helped by the fact that I do not look down on people who have released sex tapes. I think they’ve very clever and it’s only the very naive who underestimate them. They worked out that you can command a huge audience by releasing them. I am not in the business of failing to give credit where it’s due. Also people who come to my shows tend to be open-minded about such matters so they wouldn’t let me away with trying to shame anyone.”
Eleanor, well-known to TV audiences through her appearances on ‘Irish Pictorial Weekly’, ‘Bridget and Eamon’ and ‘The Savage Eye’, said her show reflects on what happens when one isn’t willing to “give everything in the name of success”.
She explained: “The best decisions – and the ones I am most likely to keep – are ones that don’t require an intellectual logic. In that sense it’s not so much a decision so much as a survival technique. If we are to keep our heads in this late-stage capitalist world then we all have to, whether or not we’re aware of it, privately make a pact with ourselves about how far we are willing to go for approval or fame.”
I put it to Eleanor that we Irish, on the whole, have a natural gift for humour: the instant riposte, the clever jibe, the rocket-propelled wisecrack, the instinct for a good line. But the distinction between being naturally funny and crafting a comedy set are leagues apart. Does Eleanor have any idea as to why there’s such a distinction between spontaneous humour and doing what she’s done for the better part of 20 years, professionally drawing laughter from punters? “I honestly haven’t a clue,” she admits. “However I did listen the ‘Irishman Abroad’ podcast where Jarlath Regan interviews Padraig Harrington recently and he said some interesting things about growth and in particular the difference between amateurs and professionals. I don’t have the exact quote but it was along the lines of amateurs approach a situation where skills are needed by unquestioningly giving it everything they have while professionals ask ‘what does this situation need and what skills do I have that could help to resolve it?’. It seemed like a mature way to approach problems and I wondered if it might apply to areas outside of golf too.”
The venue itself also plays a role to play in creating a memorable night for comic and theatregoer alike, according to Eleanor Tiernan. “The more I do comedy I feel the experience the audience have at a comedy show has less and less to do with the comedian and more with how they are treated by the venue and the surroundings they are in,” she said. “There is a way of greeting people at the front door that instills a feeling that this is a place they should be excited to be in and that the show is one they should be excited to be at. The staff at Vicar Street in Dublin are experts at creating that particular feeling. There’s a theatre in Derry where instead of using hard men bouncers, all of the security staff are old ladies. I like that the venue is relying on the respect we have for older people as a means of instilling respect in the audience. I think that’s interesting.”
‘Success without a Sextape’ is, according to the show’s bio, “the new lifestyle for people who can’t be bothered giving 110 per cent”. Rest assured, Eleanor will have much more to say on all of the above this Friday night!
Eleanor’s show is a Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) event.
Tickets priced €12 are available at www.centralarts.ie