The bloke next to me has been separated from his mates and man he needs a friend. He's lost control of his body, laughter juddering him off his seat. He turns to me for support, his face half in hysteria, half in anguish – he whispers: "What's happening?"
Then the lights go out.
Dan Tiernan's debut is like being hit in the face by sheet lightning. It's as if the genre of comedy has compressed inside him and become an unstable compound – and now all the comedy is exploding out of him.
He talks about school days both as a child in special education and as an adult working as a dinner lady. He's preoccupied with his mum's boyfriend Nick and – perhaps the closest he gets to sincerity – coming to terms with what he can or can't do for his sister Phoebe's leukaemia. But every line, talking about his sexuality, living on his own for the first time, is undercut with a swerve into maniacal exaggeration and absurdity. He comes head first, turning with ferocity on the audience, before he's crashing into the back wall. Tiernan needles us with uncomfortable, offensive slang – the kind he may have been on the receiving end of. Are we being led to ridicule, are we laughing at him? There's no time to think as we're hit with the next crashing wave his berserk, unpredictable delivery and punchlines bring. We're drowning in our own giggles.
When the lights fail it's a genuine tech balls up (in a stand-up show with only the bare necessities of tech) – something to do with a hydrant getting knocked over and a hapless debate goes on behind us about finding a switch. Tiernan, now lit by the audience's phone torches, doesn't fuck about and launches into an off-the-cuff tirade against the techie, giving him an entire backstory and Tiernan's fruitless attempts to sack him. Maybe it's true; maybe the techie has Stockholm Syndrome. To be trapped in a room with Tiernan is like being aggressively tickled, a hostage to our own laughter.