Stand-Up, Pleasance Courtyard, Venue 33, 20.30 until 30th August
Carl Donnelly’s show Now That’s What I Carl Donnelly’s Vol.6 received a Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination in 2014. Whilst his act maintains the same conversational style of humour that impressed the judges last year, it is unlikely that his name will be announced on the same list for this year’s prize on Wednesday 26th.
Jive Ass Honky takes a marked turn from last year’s show by focusing on the issue of mental health. At the start of the show Donnelly admits to having body dysmorphia, which largely manifests itself in his inability to take his top off in public. It also takes form in more subtle ways, with the comic divulging, “I’m hopelessly insecure. I constantly change my look because I can’t seem to find the right one for me.” The audience immediately understands the impact of this confession. The luscious locks which feature prominently on this festival’s head shot styled poster are now lacking in the shaven head before us.
Whilst one must certainly commend Donnelly’s effort to discuss body image, specifically male-related body problems, in something as surprising as a comic setting, at times the show seems to be more an exercise in catharsis than comedic abilities. It must be said, he does get the audience laughing – there are some funny bits about hair removal and eating blueberries on a train. However, the mental health issues he discusses stick more than the jokes. This may sound more critical than intended – such issues deserve to be talked about in whatever shape or form they can take. But when judging the hilarity of a comedian’s performance, one finds this show falls short.
Donnelly’s act mimics a chat in the pub with your funniest best mate; he’s an excellent anecdote teller, his stories flowing together with ease. But to some extent this is his exact downfall. He relies too much on the stories to carry themselves than on a carefully constructed joke with specific comedic resonance.
All this being said, Donnelly’s performance is an inspiration for others to voice their own encounters with mental health, and his attempt to diversify how the issue is talked about is something worth more than an hour of laughs. Though if this is exactly what you seek, sadly you won’t find it here.
Image: Dominic Marley