Interview: Carl Donnelly

Edinburgh Fringe favourite Carl Donnelly’s style of comedy has landed him nominations for the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2013 and for Best Newcomer in 2009 and The Guardian have even referred to him as an “observational genius”.  Hannah Hopkins and Becca Moody got the chance to interview him just before he embarks on the UK tour of his eighth show ‘Bad Man Tings’


Are panel shows enjoyable for you to do or are they how you expected they would be?

It depends on a lot of circumstances I think. I really don’t like comedy as a competition so when it feels like comedians trying to outdo each other to be funny, it’s not for me. I’m not a competitive person so would rather sit there quietly than talk over someone else. For that reason, I don’t think i’m particularly cut out for some panel shows. Others where its more conversation based I can mentally handle. I did Alan Davies’ show and it was a joy as just felt like a chat with nice people.

What do you think makes people choose your show over others? 

I think people genuinely get to know me over the course of a show. It’s not for everyone as a lot of people quite rightly just want a comedian to make them laugh and don’t care about learning the ins and outs of their personal life. I try and make it as funny as possible obviously but also try and be as genuine as I can about my life and sometimes I reveal some pretty uncomfortable stuff. The people that really like my comedy probably like the fact that each time they see me they get the update on where I’m at personally.

What about your work makes you most proud? 

I should have read the questions in full before answering shouldn’t I as probably covered this in the last answer. I’m most proud of my comedy when I’ve had a really fun (and funny) show for everyone in the room including myself but have also revealed something about myself that I hadn’t planned to.

Which comedians would you say are your ‘crowd’?

I have a little crew of trusted comedian friends who I regularly throw ideas around with when they are at the early stage as I trust their judgement to let me know if its funny or not. Chris Martin (my podcast partner in crime) is the main one. Despite us being very different in our stand-up style, we have the exact same sense of humour. We know we can make each other laugh just by pronouncing a word weird.

Where do you get your inspirations from? 

Everywhere. I never rule out anything as a topic. I like to think that whatever happens in my life no mater how troubling or embarrassing it is, I can talk about onstage.

What’s your biggest challenge as a comedian? 

Performing when you have real life problems can be hard. I’m lucky enough to be mentally and physically in a good place now but a few years back I was struggling a lot in my personal life so there were times when getting onstage was hard (but strangely cathartic once I was up there). It’s one of those things audience members probably never consider as would assume that a comedian would cancel the show if they have problems but I’ve seen people perform when their lives are falling apart. Its amazing. I once got a phone call ten minutes before I was due onstage at the Comedy Store in London telling me my cousin had died. It knocked me for six but before I’d even managed to take the information in, I got announced onstage and had to just act like I was fine.

 Do you get a lot of hecklers and if so, how do you deal with them? What happens if (on the rare occasion) you don’t get a laugh? 

They’re actually very rare and I don’t really have a set way of dealing with them as take each one as it happens. If someone is trying to be funny and is good natured then I’m normally quite nice and silly with them as they weren’t being malicious. If someone is rude and genuinely trying to disrupt the show I can be very rude back. I’ve said some regrettable things to people before when I’ve lost my temper.

 I saw you in Edinburgh as part of last year’s Fringe Fest, what’s the best part of playing the Fringe and are there any struggles? Do you have any funny Fringe anecdotes that you can tell?

It’s the biggest arts festival in the world so just being part of that is amazing every year. You are surrounded by people putting themselves out there to create something interesting so its a very inspiring place. The pitfalls are in that it is also a party town for the month so I’ve had many times I’ve got caught up in that side and ended up in some troubling situations. I once got locked in a cave as was getting off with someone I shouldn’t have been. That anecdote is never to be fully revealed!

And finally, how did your comedy journey begin? 

I was a directionless job hating early twenties man who walked into a comedy club for the first time and saw stand up live. The moment I saw it I knew it was something I needed to try as had never felt that energy in a room. The rest is history.

What are you most looking forward to on your upcoming tour? 

Doing comedy in a few places I never have before. I was in Swindon last week and it was great fun. It’s odd in that after a few years of comedy, you’ve seen so much of the UK but after 10 years I’m still gigging in places for the first time.

Catch Carl at the Riverfront Theatre, Newport on 29th March.