Mayo is a county that is close to the heart of one of Ireland’s top funnymen Tommy Tiernan - a place with which he feels a certain kind of kinship.
“Whether it’s real or imagined, I don’t know, but I feel like it’s a county the Tiernans could prosper in,” he quips, in his trademark brogue.
He is certainly no stranger to the county, having played in venues the length and breadth of the red and green territory.
Next month, Tiernan is setting off on what he has dubbed his ‘world tour of Mayo’ - eight performances over 10 days in Castlebar, Westport, Belmullet, Claremorris, Kiltimagh, Cong and Ballina.
He attributes much of his fondness for Mayo to his familial Kilmaine roots but the scenic beauty of the county appeals to him too.
“Mayo is big sky county,” he surmises - a sort of Montana of the west of Ireland. “The sky just seems to get bigger in Mayo. I always thought that’s why the footballers never won an All-Ireland, because every time the ball went up, they got distracted by the clouds.” It’s an interesting take on Mayo’s much-documented footballing woes but it’s the kind of everyday ‘Irishness’ that appeals in Tiernan’s material.
For his latest tour, audiences can expect all new material inspired by his favourite sources - “emigration, alcohol, religion, women and children.”
The material comes straight from his heart, he says, and although he has toured all over the world, his heart is firmly invested in his Irish tours.
“I’ve discovered that a three-star hotel with a slightly warm carpet is the ideal environment for what I do,” he jokes.
It’s been almost two decades since Tiernan delivered his first stand-up performance in the King’s Head pub in Galway.
Over the intervening years he has grown to become Ireland’s most successful comedian, a household name, touring constantly and performing all over the world, in both small, intimate settings and to packed out arenas.
However, his particular brand of bald comedy has landed him in some hot water from time to time.
But he points out that that’s not how he sets out to make his mark - he is not deliberately controversial.
“There is the odd thing every now and again - not much - but you only have to do it now and again to get a reputation,” he says.
“I don’t think anyone who comes to a show would think it’s controversial. It’s a bit of craic and if you say something people don’t like, they let you know about it. You know when you’ve made a mistake.
There’s a thin line between racism and having the craic and you only find out when you’ve crossed, according to Tiernan.
He certainly has no intentions to curb his material and insists you have to keep things “loose and wild”. “You have to keep taking the chances,” he says.
Just what it is about him that appeals to so many, Tiernan can’t quite put his finger on.
“Ask the crowds. I don’t know. I can’t understand or predict my connection with the Irish people. It just happens,” he says. “It’s not contrived and it’s not part of any plan. It’s just the way things are - and long may it continue.”
No doubt comedy fans across Mayo are happy for it to continue long into the future too.
Tommy Tiernan kicks off his Mayo tour on July 3 in Matt Molloy’s, Westport, followed by the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, on July 4; Hotel Ballina on July 5; Park Hotel, Kiltimagh on July 6; The Lodge at Ashford Castle on July 10; The Welcome Inn Hotel, Castlebar, on July 11; the Leisure Centre, Belmullet, on July 12 and returning to Westport again to the Castlecourt Hotel on July 13.
Tickets for the Mayo shows are available at www.ticketmaster.ie and from the venues.
For more information, visit www.tommytiernan.com