Back in the room

Eleanor Tiernan spoke to David Hennessy ahead of the London Irish Centre’s forthcoming Irish Comedy Club.

“I can’t wait,” comedian Eleanor Tiernan tells The Irish World of the forthcoming Irish Comedy Club at London Irish Centre.

Eleanor headlines on Wednesday 24 November when she will be joined by Kevin O’Connell and Conor Drum while Ryan Gough will MC the event.

Eleanor says: “I love going down to London Irish Centre.

“It’s such a great spot, the gig should have nice little buzz to it.”

What can punters who come along expect from Eleanor’s show? “I talk a little bit about the pandemic and what that was like for comedians.

“I guess there was a sense of theatre around the whole pandemic because there were times when you knew the rules were a bit silly but you had to do them anyway because we bought into the whole thing.

“I guess I feel like there’s good comedy in the whole situation of whenever you’re just doing something for an easy life rather than because you actually genuinely believe in them.

“I guess that’s some of the stuff I’ll be doing.

“There were times when I was in a café and I was sitting right beside is the counter and if I was sitting down, I didn’t need to wear a mask but if I took one step to go up to the counter, you had to wear a mask.

“It just felt like a farce sometimes.

“Obviously, it’s just because the rules  are made up in an office somewhere and there’s going to be situations where they just feel ridiculous.

“I think it’s quite funny, and quite nice as well, that we all just kind of went along with them because we all just collectively wanted to get through it and get back to normal again.”

Fest Mag describe Eleanor’s style as “deceptively sharp”, while Birmingham Mail say she is, ‘Friendly, affable and funny’.

Irish audiences will recognise her form writing and performing on RTE’s The Savage Eye.

She has also played Dolores in Bridget and Eamon.

Based in London for years now, Eleanor has featured on Stand Up For Live Comedy(BBC3), Comedy Central’s The Alternative Comedy Experience and she has supported acts including Stewart Lee, Tig Notaro, Ardal O’Hanlon, Jason Manford, Jason Byrne and Reginald D. Hunter.

She has also been a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz and Where’s the F in News? And The Blame Game (BBC Northern Ireland).

With all her plans derailed by the pandemic, Eleanor found herself performing online but missing a vital part of the experience.

“Comedians just had to figure out how to be creative in different ways, find different ways of performing and using whatever skills you have to try and get through it.

“There were some zoom gigs where you perform comedy online to people who were in their sitting rooms.

“They were good, I felt like it met the needs of the time. We needed something like that but then also, I found it very strange to just finish your set and then you’re just at home. You’re sitting there on your own afterwards. You just have to close down the laptop. There was something very unusual about that.

“Normally the great thing about a live gig is that afterwards everybody gets to have a little bit of a chat, talk about what you enjoyed about the gig and form a consensus.

“But that isn’t there with a zoom gig or anything that happens online.

“You have to go off and I guess you have to have that on your own.

“I felt like that was the bit missing in the zoom gigs that we did.

“I’m glad that we’re back to live performance, so we can have a bit of a chat about it afterwards.”

Eleanor has been known to talk about issues like Brexit and the modern nature of celebrity.

Are these chats afterwards important as they give people the chance to converse about serious issues brought up in a comedy show? “Yeah, that’s part of it. That’s part of the debrief.

“It’s a little moment that happens, I wouldn’t have been aware of it really until we were trying to do gigs online.

“And for a while I was like, ‘The gig just doesn’t feel finished when you close the laptop afterwards’. It took me a while to realize that’s why, we’re not getting to have those conversations afterwards where I guess you process it emotionally,” she laughs.

“That’s what a therapist would call it or something.

“Yeah, definitely glad to be back in the room with people.”

Eleanor lives in Hackney in East London and says the pandemic has given her a greater affinity for the city.

“I was here throughout the whole pandemic.

“I think being in a place when something big happens, it kind of roots you in  that place then.

“You feel a bit more connected to it.

“I definitely feel like being in London during the pandemic kind of deepens your connection to the place because you’ve been through something together collectively.

“There was that moment where we were clapping for the NHS.

“I was on my street clapping for the NHS.

“I guess it was maybe a bit of an empty gesture but at the same time, it was all we could do at the time.

“In hindsight maybe it feels a bit sentimental.

“But I remember during it there was a little boy across the street who used to come out- And you don’t really talk to your neighbours so much in London. It’s kind of a thing- But there was a little boy who used to come out and after a couple of weeks, you start waving at each other and just connections start to form.

“I definitely feel like an aspect of connectedness happened despite all the horrible stuff that was going on during the pandemic.

“Ireland is always going to be my home.

“But it’s good when the place you’re living in starts to feel a bit like that as well.”

The comedian could have easily found herself in Australia throughout the pandemic as she was due to fly out there in March last year.

“That was quite close to happening actually.

“If you remember the pandemic was in March 2020 and I was due to go to Australia on 25 March and I was going to go there for six weeks for a comedy festival and some other shows.

“It got cancelled but if the flight had been a week earlier, that exact thing could have happened. I could have found myself out in Australia.

“Obviously, they locked down pretty severe over there.

“It could have been a situation where I had been unable to get home for quite a while.

“But I do have family in Australia, so that wouldn’t be too bad either.

“I would have to outstay my welcome in their places.”

Eleanor was set to bring her show Enjoying the Spotlight Responsibly to Soho Theatre last May.

Of course, these shows didn’t happen.

While there was a slight disappointment there, Eleanor says this was insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

“Yeah, it’s a level of frustration. Your own personal situation obviously matters.

“But we were seeing so much actual real hardship that people were going through, all that stuff that we saw: People saying goodbye to loved ones and things like that.

“A comedy show in that context doesn’t matter at all.

“Having said that, I’m very happy to be back open again.

“To be able to do gigs, to be able to perform for people, make them laugh- It feels great again.

“It feels like there’s a nice quality to the attention that is in the room.

“I think it’s something I noticed in gigs now is that people are a little bit more present or something and it makes for a much better comedy gig, I think.

“Before I think we were in our heads.

“I was the same, just that little bit of thinking three steps down the line instead of just being where you are at the moment.

“It took the pandemic to kind of slow that part of my brain down.

“Now there’s a chance in the gigs to really explore that and just enjoy the simple thing of being in a room with  a microphone and stage.

“It’s a lucky position really.”

Eleanor performs at the Irish Comedy Club at London Irish Centre on Wednesday 24 November.

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