Carl Donnelly: Jive Ass Honky | Review by Steve Bennett
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Carl Donnelly: Jive Ass Honky

Note: This review is from 2015

Review by Steve Bennett

The blurb for recent divorcé Carl Donnelly’s seventh Edinburgh hour describes it as a show about ‘therapy, depression, relationships, body issues and parents’. Which sounds less like a hilarity-fest and more like a well-meaning health awareness leaflet.

But it’s really just another anecdotal show from a personable, if not perfectly adjusted, man about the state of his life and some of the more embarrassing incidents from it. The arty black and white posters around town depict a smartened-up Donnelly in a thoughtful light, as if some French philosopher-poet, which is rather at odds with the hapless man on stage.

When someone in the audience suggests that Donnelly’s using comedy as therapy, he assures us that he’s getting plenty of real therapy as it is, thank you very much. And while usual treatment involves talking to someone for an hour who sits quietly, nods gently, takes notes and doesn’t laugh, this is all about the funnies. As a critic, I nod gently, take a note of it and don’t laugh.

Despite his claims of no overarching theme, there is one: about how men don’t share their emotions and hide behind a wall of humour that’s not always healthy. And he’s well aware of the irony of a comedian saying that.

For what does he do, but laugh off his insecurities, whether it be body issues caused by his gynecomastia – odds-on this is the only Fringe show to deploy that word – or recalling the time he removed the hair from his intimate regions in a woefully misjudged attempt to impress a new girlfriend. Revealing such a self-inflicted humiliation is clearly funny, and Donnelly knows it, as he chuckles through his madness.

Similarly, he floats the idea that the only sex stories we’re interested in is when it goes wrong, else it’s just bragging. And, yep, he’s got a couple those too. To prove the opposite, he passes on a story he was told that he admits is anticlimactic. Even though we know the story has a disappointing ending, he hooks us in like the skilled raconteur he is – and lo and behold it’s a letdown when we’re robbed of the conclusion we crave.

Immature pranks, random observations and moments of cringe all feed into this easy, affable hour filled with chuckles if not the huge belly-laughs of a killer routine.

But the show is pushed beyond the sum of its parts by that underpinning theme – and a bold climax of the sort people like Edinburgh shows to end on, which is clearly (and entertainingly) still causing Donnelly visible discomfort while it’s still a new experience for him. But even then the drama is undercut by a strong comic payoff which once again reveals what an idiot Donnelly can be.

Review date: 7 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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