Carl Donnelly has played Leicester Comedy Festival eight times in the last ten years, and he’s coming back for his ninth – and this time, maybe you can join him. We managed to catch him for a few questions…
I tend to ask comedians how they got into comedy – it’s a good opening gambit, and one which usually gets an answer talking about idolising various comedians since childhood – not so with Carl. “I had never seen live comedy until my early twenties,” he confesses. “I had dropped out of university and was doing jobs that I didn’t like or have any interest in. My girlfriend at the time was a big comedy fan and she got me into it and then strangely started telling me I should give it a go… I got to do five minutes in front of an audience for the first time. Doing that gig and it going well is the reason I am a stand-up today.”
From these humble beginnings, a mighty comedy career was born. Carl is a double Edinburgh Comedy Award Nominee, as well as a former winner of the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year (clearly the more prestigious award). At the risk of dropping a hefty cliché, he’s also one of the busiest men in showbusiness – he has a brand new show every year, guaranteeing a whole new experience every festival. That’s a pretty good list for a man who, by his own words, “accidentally fell into comedy”. Not only is he dedicated to the craft, but he’s also dedicated to the Leicester Comedy Festival. What keeps him coming back? “I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve only ever played nice cool venues. The last few years have been at the Cookie and feel most at home there. It’s a great room, perfect size for someone with my following and everyone involved in running the place are great fun and make you feel like coming back.”
Carl’s new show, Bad Man Tings, comes to Leicester this February following a sold-out and critically-acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, tackling whether you can be happy and funny. It’s markedly different from his last show. “At the level I’m at, I feel lucky that one year I can write a deeply personal story-based show about depression and anxiety and the next year I can write a silly observational show… This year’s show is the upbeat silly one! I think my comedy is constantly changing. I’d hate to build myself a persona or style that I felt I had to stick to.” This, says Carl, helps him avoid the pressure that some comedians can suffer to do more of the same to keep the fans happy.
Talking of fans, Carl’s offering a great opportunity on this tour to anyone who thinks they’re funny enough – a guest spot on the Carl Donnelly and Chris Martin Comedy Podcast. “Unfortunately, Chris is leaving me temporarily as is heading to America for five months. Him going and getting settled in over there coincides with my tour so I thought it’d be funny to do some silly podcasts in his absence where I get audience members to join me backstage pre-show to sit in for Chris.” This is a fantastic opportunity for any fan who wants to have a go at comedy themselves, and something that not many comedians offer. Carl is quick to play down his kindness, however. According to him, “It’s sort of a nationwide hunt for a member of the public who is better at being my podcast partner than he is.”
Carl Donnelly’s show Bad Man Tings is at The Cookie on February 15th. If you’d like to be a guest on Carl’s podcast, tweet @CarlDonnelly or visit www.carlandchrispodcast.com.