Hundreds of pairs of glasses on display in Auschwitz concentration camp

Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan is no stranger to controversy but his comments about Jews in front of a clapping and laughing audience at the recent Electric Picnic festival crossed a new line and are sure to provoke outrage in Ireland's Jewish community.

The 40-year-old prefaced his outburst by saying that what happened on a comedy stage was "about allowing whatever lunacy is inside you to come out in a special protected environment where people know that nothing they say is being taking seriously".

He then continued: "But these Jews, these f**king Jew c**ts come up to me. F**king Christ-killing bastards. F**king six million? I would have got 10 or 12 million out of that. No f**king problem! F**k them. Two at a time, they would have gone. Hold hands, get in there. Leave us your teeth and your glasses."

Tiernan made the comments at the Electric Picnic music festival on Saturday 5 September while taking part in a question-and-answer session in the Hot Press chatroom.

Following an interview with Hot Press writer Olaf Tyar­ansen, a member of the audience asked Tiernan if he had ever been accused of being anti-Semitic?

"Going by your Nazi joke and your odd Israeli joke, have you ever been accused of being anti-Semitic?" asked the audience member.

Tiernan replied: "Have I ever been accused of being anti-Semitic? I certainly have, yeah. In America, these two people waited for me after a show. I used to do this joke about… the Jews say they never killed Jesus, and the joke was, I would say the line, 'Well, it wasn't the f**king Mexicans,' was the joke, like. Yeah, Jewish people came up to me afterwards..."

He then continued with a stinging criticism of Jewish people: "Have you ever seen people whose eyes are so aflame with righteousness… The whites of their eyes are so pure and f**king white. They're just one-stream people, they're not people that have gaps for more than one train of thought. This one train of thought f**king purifies them. And these people were just that 'the Israelis are a hounded people'. And God, Olaf might have more to say about that than me, but... You know, whatever, I'm not here to hound anybody, but these people come up to me afterwards…"

Tiernan then referred to a recent comment attributed to Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle who said that he confronted any fellow comedian he heard "doing a piss-take of an accent" to tell them it was racist.

Tiernan went on: "And I thought to myself 'that kind of attitude doesn't belong on the comedic stage'. Because it's all about being reckless and irresponsible and joyful, it's not about being careful and Protestant and Scottish and mannered... It's trusting your own soul and allowing whatever lunacy is inside you to come out in a special, protected environment where people know that nothing they say is being taken seriously."

When Tiernan described Jews as "f**king Christ-killing bastards" and joked that he would have "got 10 or 12 million" during the Holocaust, the audience erupted into laughter with many applauding.

Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter, himself of the Jewish faith, said he was disappointed with the response of the crowd: "I would regard it as particularly sad that people found that sort of outburst in any way amusing."

Tiernan did not return phone calls from the Sunday Tribune this weekend.

The Trouble With Tommy

In 1997, Tiernan's first appearance on the Late Late Show, in which he mocked the crucifixion, resulted in 300 complaints to RTé.

Tiernan was unable to leave the studio for several hours for his own safety after several irate members of the public arrived at Montrose looking for him.

During his routine Tiernan used a string of expletives about the Catholic church and performed a comic routine which mocked Christ's crucifixion.

In late 2004, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCC) upheld 17 complaints about another Late Late appearance by the comedian in which he described priests as "mainly white and mainly "s**te". The routine was judged to have breached taste and decency.

Last January, the BCC found Tiernan's jokes on yet another episode of the Late Late Show were beyond acceptable standards.

The BCC upheld eight complaints after Tiernan's appearance on 24 October 2008.

The complainants denounced the comic over a joke about a Traveller. The BCC ruled the joke derogatory to the Travelling community.

Tiernan's live performances have also been controversial. In 2008, he upset some members of his audience at the Kilkenny Cat Laughs festival by telling a joke about missing toddler Madeleine McCann.

In 2007, a string of gags he told about children with Down Syndrome at a performance in Dublin's Vicar Street prompted dozens of calls to RTé's Liveline.

Tiernan, who has supported Down Syndrome causes in the past, is alleged by callers to have recounted at the gig that he had run a marathon for Down Syndrome Ireland.

But the caller claimed Tiernan then went on to joke that he hoped they asked him to run a marathon – "because the way they spoke it was hard to understand them and that they could have been asking him simply to buy them a bar of chocolate in the shop".

In answer to his critics Tiernan said: "All my friends with Down Syndrome and their families think it's funny and they are delighted to be mentioned in the show instead of being ignored or treated with pity."