Mad dogs and Irishmen

Tommy Tiernan’s Little Cracker to be shown on Sky 1

Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan

TOMMY TIERNAN will join Dylan Moran, Joanna Lumley, Omid Djalili, and Caroline Quentin in this year’s run of Sky 1’s excellent short comedy-drama series Little Crackers.

For the last three years, in the run-up to Christmas, Sky has asked a comedian and/or actor to write and star in - and sometimes direct - a 15 minute piece based on or inspired by an event in his/her life.

Tommy’s episode will be broadcast on Sky 1 on Wednesday December 12 at 9pm and will star Tommy, Marie Mullen (best known for her stage work with Druid ), and comedian and impersonator Ronni Ancona. As well as writing the episode, Tommy also directs, an area he has been keen to get into for some time.

“When I was in my late teens and early 20s, going to stand up and music gigs, before I got on stage myself, I had this sense that I was in the wrong place, that I should be on stage,” Tommy tells me during our Monday afternoon conversation, “and that is how it has been with directing.

“I have lots of ideas and images in my mind I would like to realise and see on screen. I can’t do them in my stand up, it’s something you have to see,” he continues. “I drive by Ardrahan a lot and there is a cross there in the graveyard and it casts an amazing silhouette on a hill and in my mind I can see Christ’s arms coming

down to Mary his mother and Mary Magdalene, and he gets down off the cross and walks, and I always think ‘Wow! What is that the start of?’

So when Tommy asked Sky if he could direct his Little Crackers episode, and was told ‘Yes’ he jumped at the chance.

“People give me permission to do these things because of laughter and unless laughter is involved, people are not going to want to see an alabaster Jesus walking around Ardrahan,” he laughs. “I can’t get lost in high falutin’ notions!”

Set in the 1970s, Tommy’s Little Cracker centres on a father who is going through a tough time and a pet dog suffering from constipation. Dad goes to seek help from a therapist who advises him to unleash his “inner canine” and bark his stress out. However mayhem ensues when the dog and Dad’s medicine gets mislaid. How much of the show is based on real events?

“It is based on reality

but if there was a tribunal of enquiry they’d find a lot of loopholes,” he says. “It’s based on two things, and I have been very liberal with those re-enactments - when I was a kid and taking my dog to the vet, and when I was in my late 30s, going to a psychiatrist, who made me bark like a dog. You can become too trapped in your head and he thought I needed to loosen up and that I could do this through barking. When I came out of the session I could feel the benefits, and I was also aware it might turn into good material.”

In the episode, Ronni Ancona plays the wife but Tommy feels the Scottish comedy great was “criminally under-used”. “It’s almost a straight role,” he says. “It’s like having a Rolls Royce for a day and just sitting in it, not taking it out for a drive.”

Marie Mullen, the actress and co-founder of Druid, plays the character of the mother. “She is a wild Irish woman, who lives in England, is racist, and addicted to perception drugs,” says Tommy. “Her grandson was born in England and it’s a source of tension and distress that her own flesh and blood speaks back to her in an English accent.

“Marie’s comic timing is brilliant. I saw her in the DruidMurphy series, playing the old lady behind the bar in Conversations On A Homecoming. To me she is Heroin - in terms of her power, she is pure uncut opium, the real deal.”

As this was Tommy’s debut directing for television, how did he find the experience?

“I was looking for the comedy of the moment and I got a great response from the actors,” he says. “I am in awe of what actors do. In terms of my own acting, I never felt I was doing it right when directed by others, but directing myself, I was able to do it as I wanted it to be done. What I wasn’t very good at was putting myself on camera. I would be more interested in filming the other person than myself, but the producers would say ‘You have to have yourself in that shot’. I must look again at some of the Woody Allen movies and see how he does it.”

The episode was shot in England, but with the success of Chris O’Dowd’s wonderful Moone Boy, Sky is interested in commissioning another Irish set comedy. The broadcaster was impressed enough by Tommy’s Little Cracker to consider the possibility of developing a show based on its characters.

“It’s to be confirmed but we are hopeful,” says Tommy. “If it does happen I want it made in Ireland, and I will insist it is shot in Galway. It would be a wonderful prospect and I hope we will be doing it next summer.”

As well as Little Crackers, December also sees Tommy undertake his World Tour Of Galway, where he will play the Stationhouse Theatre, Clifden (Wednesday 12 ); Lady Gregory Hotel, Gort (Thursday 13 ); Carlton Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe (Friday 14 ); Seapoint Ballroom, Salthill (Saturday 15 ); Raheen Woods Hotel, Athenry (Wednesday 19 ); Claregalway Hotel, Claregalway (Thursday 20 ); Ard Rí House Hotel, Tuam (Friday 21 ); and the Loughrea Hotel & Spa (Saturday 22 ).

“Going around the different counties for this ‘World Tour’ - we’re doing Cork at the moment - is brilliant,” says Tommy. “It’s a fierce adventure of a life and I really appreciate it.”

Tickets are €28 from www.ticketmaster.ie and the venues. For the Seapoint show tickets are also available from www.roisindubh.net

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