Musician Damien Dempsey was the first guest on Saturday night’s Tommy Tiernan Show and he was keen to share news of his new show at the Abbey Theatre — though he was hesitant to reveal too much of his material, much to the host’s dismay.
When pressed for details on his show, Tales from the Holywell, Dempsey said: “I’d be giving away half the show”. He said audiences will find some parts funny, but he refused to share details.
“You have to give me an example,” Tiernan asked, to which Dempsey said: “You can fuck off, come to the show.” Dempsey touched upon his sense of spirituality, revealing he felt he was forwarned of his father’s death when he placed his hand on a passage tomb in Co Meath.
“Someone whispered to me, ‘someone's gonna die close to you but don’t worry, this goes on forever, this isn't the end’. Two weeks later, my dad got Covid.”
He said he would “love to see the Church come back [in popularity] and break its links with Rome,” adding: “It just needs to change because I think we were always pretty spiritual people. I hate to see people not believing anything anymore.”
The musician shared some insights into his personal life, going into detail about why he does not want to be a father.
“I was eight years younger than my brothers, my two parents were out working so I was alone a lot of the time and that’s just the way I like it.”
Tiernan’s second guest was global diversity, equity and inclusion leader Sheree Atcheson, who spoke of growing up in Co Tyrone after her parents adopted her from Sri Lanka in the early 1990s.
“Growing up back home, my brother faced a lot of racism. We were called the N-word. We had to go different routes home from school and stuff like that, because we were brown.”
She said the challenges she faced growing up spurred her on to become successful. “In all honesty, I succeeded out of spite.” Atcheson, who has a career in STEM, says she works to help people and businesses embrace diversity and her conversation with the host touched upon a topic that has been making headlines in Tiernan’s life in recent days.
Last week Tiernan apologised to RTÉ presenter Emer O'Neill after he made a joke in a Vicar Street show that O'Neill described as racist and offensive and he told Atcheson he sometimes speaks without thinking when performing comedy.
“So many people speak and never think,” Atcheson said, referencing people who have unconscious bias. Tiernan admitted it is “certainly something that I do in stand-up, you don’t think.”
Atcheson asked if that is something that should be done, to which Tiernan responded: “There's a theoretical argument in terms of it being a platform for irresponsibility to be made. Now, is not the place to make it, I'm not the person. Stand-up is just an odd one. You never want people to be hurt.”
Atcheson works with companies like Google and Facebook to help this address biases within their workforce. “Many people lack awareness outside of our wee bubble. I just wish people would burst that bubble more often,” she said.
Finally, Tiernan was joined by writer, campaigner and life coach Alana Kirk, who shared how she rebuilt her life in her 40s after a tumultuous period.
She said she “had seven pregnancies and three babies” in a five-year period, swiftly followed by five years of raising her children and caring for her mother who had experienced a “catastrophic stroke” just days after Kirk’s third child was born.
“So many women face that now because our parents are living older. We're having children later, that crushing care model of trying to look after parents and children at the same time. Four years into that my marriage ended and nine months after that happened, my mom died in my arms.”
She said after a period of grief and huge fear, she wrote a blog, got a book deal and went back to college. Now she helps women redefine their midlife years.
“This is a completely new way of living. We've never had this extended midlife before,” she said, adding it has been extended by life expectancy increasing dramatically. “You used to be old by 55 and now people are starting afresh at 55, new relationships or careers or all kinds of things.”