It’s not unreasonable to presume that anyone with the inclination to purchase a book emblazoned with Tommy Tiernan’s smirking face is aware of the somewhat unique format of the TV show which provides the subject matter for his first published work, writes Damien O'Meara

The Tommy Tiernan Show; the chat show which defies convention by having the host have no idea of the guests booked until they walk out, and in the case of some, while aware of their name, is comfortably devoid of a notion as to why they are sitting before him in a TV studio until he is in midst of interrogating them.

It is a format which appears so simple it is a wonder it hasn’t been done before. An outlier in a world where guests all too often solely put themselves forward for interview in the course of the promotion of a specific product or event, a meticulous merry-go-round of pre-ordained conversations recounting the same stories and anecdotes rehearsed and often rehashed as if they have never before heard the question asked.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

In the introduction to the book, a selection of extracts from twenty-one interviews carried out to date, Tiernan offers an insight into his approach and a reflection on why the format has spawned four series with a fifth currently being recorded. Recounting his nervousness at interviewing U2’s Adam Clayton, he points to his intention to always seek common ground with his guest, the importance he places on listening with curiosity and embracing the bravery to trust the question that enters his head. Many of us who wield microphones in the name of employment would envy a world where the interviewer operates without the predetermined baggage that many of us carry into such encounters - 'what does my audience expect to hear from a notable guest, despite probably having heard it before’.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

The attraction to many of the interviews featured is Tiernan method of, not insensitively, but bullishly tackling areas in a means not often imaginable in more polished or conventional settings; Bob Geldof’s encounters with grief, Father Brian D’Arcy recounting personal experiences of abuse, Joanne McNally’s bulimia, Christy Dignam’s battles with cancer and addiction.

All emerge, not from a line of questioning but from something much closer to honest conversation and what comes across as Tiernan’s genuine desire to understand his subjects better or seek an insight into the doors they open. It is a book littered with well-known names, the most intriguing passages often come from the individuals who are as new to us as they are to the host. Elizabeth Oakes, an embalmer who has developed an eco-friendlier means of cremation. Then 19-year-old Ciara-Beth Ní Ghríofa who has campaigned on behalf of people with autism. Ifrah Ahmed who recounts the barbarity of female genital mutilation in her native Somalia.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

The challenge a publication of this kind faces is reaching a target market, the vast amount of whom, if enamoured by the host, will have most likely either watched the series or sought out the content, almost all of which is available online. The enticement on the cover that the book "includes previously unseen material" aims presumably to encourage devotees to part with their money but may equally leave you asking if the content is that impressive why was it not included in the interview’s principal medium of production in the first place.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

There’s a quote about the art of broadcast interviews attributed to the American TV presenter Barbara Walters which summarises the standard dynamic as "when you're interviewing someone, you're in control. When you're being interviewed, you think you're in control, but you're not." Whoever is in charge in this setting, they have conspired to ensure that Tiernan’s natural sense of inquisition shines through in print.

Review: Damien O'Meara