Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Carl Donnelly: Jive Ass Honky, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Jay Richardson
Whatever mental health baggage Carl Donnelly has carted around Edinburgh over the course of recent Fringes, he’s always delivered on stage, and so it proves here. Although he doesn’t subscribe to the tears of a clown cliché, and offers a balanced, thoughtful and honest assessment of his travails, he recounts at length a family history of psychological instability; his struggles to connect with women in a post-feminist world post-divorce; and the body dysmorphia that has plagued him since his youth. But hey, none of it is half as depressing as it sounds, he suggests, reassuring himself as much as us.
As a comic, he finds it difficult to fully engage with his therapist without seeking laughs. And at an unconscious level, he seems to engineer socially embarrassing situations on public transport, where he inadvertently becomes an inexplicable creep. Furthermore, the assured façade he projects on stage crumbles when he’s actually alone with a woman, his hopes for a seductive hour during an accidentally booked sleazy retreat dashed because of his over-excited gaucheness.
Growing up alongside emotionally stunted family and friends, who maliciously, hilariously prank him when he’s at his lowest ebb, Donnelly reacts hard, willingly sharing a friend’s intense sexual experience on a train and his podcast co-host Chris Martin’s intimate grooming procedure, a regime that he’s also followed to his cost. The desire to lay things out in the open ultimately prompts him to reveal his gynecomastia, an emasculating condition that he nevertheless fronts up to with expressive courage. Although this never quite scales the peaks of some of his other recent hours, Donnelly in full confessional mode remains a drolly revelatory listen who draws you in with his vulnerability and keeps you hooked with the amusing lessons he distils from his darker moments.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), run ended
Published in The Scotsman on 29 August 2015
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