Think about any chat show you can think of - be it anything from 'The Late Late Show' over to the likes of 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' or 'Jimmy Kimmel Live!'.
It doesn't matter whether the format is more skewed towards comedy, the format involves prepared questions and interviewees who are there to push something. It could be a new movie, a new book, whatever it is - they're there to plug, and the host is there to do the dance around.
Literally every TV interview you see is a dance between asking questions about the thing they're plugging, and the questions people really want answers to.
'The Tommy Tiernan Show' flies in the face of several conventions of chat show TV. For one, Tommy Tiernan never knows who's coming out to talk to him. This means every single one of his questions is on the fly, as he reacts and thinks of them, allowing for a more natural flow of conversation.
— Gary Widger (@GaryWidger) May 4, 2019
There's no publicist ringing in his ears, urging him to mention some piece of content in order to ensure he'll get another guest in from the same publicist. Moreover, it's not the same round of guests that are doing the rounds everywhere.
The first show back last night included an interview with Irish footballer Paul McGrath speaking openly about his social anxiety, his memories of Aston Villa, and how he copes on a day-to-day basis. Another interview featured Shane Lowry talking about how the money in golf changed his life.
What interviewer would think to ask that, much less give of his own experience in the telling? Tiernan opened the question by giving an anecdote of how he was broke for most of his twenties, and came into money by 34 - and spent it on buying a boat and a mobile home "shipped from Germany."
Jesus lads. Paul McGrath is being unbelievably honest on #TommyTiernan - you couldn’t but admire and love him. What a player. And now just doing his best. Doing his best to not hurt any more people in his own words. You’d wish him health and happiness. In spades.
— Marcus Ó Buachalla (@ohfadabee) May 4, 2019
That level of honesty isn't just rare in Irish chat shows - it's rare anywhere. Most chat show hosts, with the exception of maybe David Letterman, rarely skew towards self-deprecation. Even fewer would dare go into an interview with no questions prepped on the guest in front of them.
Yet, for all of Tommy Tiernan's protestations that he's not arsed doing research, the format and the level of intelligence involved in it is the secret weapon. You can't fake those kind of moments in his show, and they can't be readily reduced to a YouTube-friendly clip either.
Moreover, the guests themselves want to be there. They're not there to push anything, other than to have an open and frank chat - be it funny, serious, whatever - with someone who's listening, and wants to understand them.
The best thing about @Tommedian as an interviewer is that he doesn’t give a single shit about the conventions of talkshow hosting - he just chats to people he’s genuinely interested in, and it’s brilliant. #TommyTiernan
— Philip O'Connor (@philipoconnor) May 4, 2019
So often, chat shows are remembered by the moments in which there's an off-kilter moment that nobody plans for. A question will be asked that sparks an unexpected response, a joke may not land in the way it's expected, or even an audience reaction will be provoked when unintended.
'The Tommy Tiernan Show' lives in that zone in every episode, allowing for an authentic experience that is so desperately lacking in most TV today.