FRINGE PREVIEW – Carl Donnelly – How Do You Solve A Problem Like Carl Donnelly? (Underbelly)

August 5th – 29th (not 16th)
8.55-9.55pm, Underbelly

Carl Donnelly

Carl Donnelly

Carl Donnelly is caught in the No Man’s Land between anonymity and not quite being famous. How Do You Solve A Problem Like Carl Donnelly? sees this laid-back comedian ruminate on that fact as he returns once again to the Fringe, where he was nominated as an Edinburgh Comedy Best Newcomer last year.

His podcast with fellow comic Chris Martin is listed by the Guardian in their top ten comedy podcasts, and as well as touring with the likes of Russell Howard and Rhod Gilbert, he’s appeared on television in Grouchy Young Men and The Comedy Store.

Unlikely to be stuck in the not-quite-famous limbo for long, Carl tells us about this year’s show and remembers some stories from Fringes past.

Tell us a little bit about your show – where’s it happening, what’s it about, why should people come to see it?

My show is at the Underbelly each night at 20:55 and is basically a collection of stories about how different my life is now compared to how it was at the start of the last decade.

It covers my degeneracy and how I grew out of it to become a successful comedian and normal member of society (although I still have the odd lapse!)

What do you think the best things about the Edinburgh Fringe are?

The best thing is that there is an unbelievable amount of things to see or do throughout the month. At any point of any day you can just find something entertaining.

The rest of the year you have to make plans to see something amazing whereas at the Fringe you just have to wander around for five minutes and something will pop up!

The best thing about the Fringe as a performer is the sense of achievement you get at the end having lasted the month without causing serious harm to yourself!

What changes have you seen – good or bad – over the years?

The Free Fringe Festival is probably the biggest change over the last five years. I did my first ever Edinburgh show with a couple of other guys in 2006 as part of the Free Fringe and there were maybe four or five venues with a bunch of shows each day. There are now four or five hundred shows in a large number of free venues.

The positive side of this is that it gives people a chance to perform if they can’t afford to do so in one of the bigger main venues. The down side is that there is less quality control in the Free venues which sometimes leads to a lower quality of show.

Where are your favourite places in the city?

Climbing Arthur’s Seat is a great way of clearing a hangover. The Mosque Kitchen is amazing if you want good cheap food.

Bruntsfield Links free Pitch and Putt course is a nice place for a round of golf to relax away from the craziness of the Fringe.

The Rowan Tree (the bar at The Caves venue) is the best place to have a coffee and snack in between shows.

Finally, the Meadows is a cool place to chill out on a sunny day. When there, keep your eyes peeled for the comedians playing football (every couple of days) as it is quite a sight seeing 20 comics insulting each other for 90 minutes!

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s happened to you at the Fringe?

It is one of those places where so many funny and strange things happen that it is impossible to narrow it down to one thing.

A little run-down just to give you an idea of the sorts of things that go on: in my time at the Fringe I have: finished a late show by spraying a C02 Fire Extinguisher into my mouth, performed a gig in my pants having lost a bet, caused a gig to be cancelled for the remainder of the Fringe, seen a comedian wet himself onstage (on purpose) and had the police called to my festival flat due to an overzealous game of hide and seek!

Describe, if you can, your ‘average’ Edinburgh Fringe day…

Wake up around 11 groggy from a late show and more alcohol than was originally intended. Breakfast/Lunch while trying to avoid reading reviews.

Give in and read reviews.

Feel depressed/happy.

Go out to either see shows or do embarrassing PR exercise. Dinner/Relax before doing my show.

Get nervous.

Do show.

Feel depressed/happy.

Start drinking. Do late show while drinking. Carry on drinking.



If money was no object, what publicity stunt would you do to promote your show?

I would hire a selection of the biggest most famous comedians in the country right now to flyer for my show during which they would all cite me as their “inspiration”

Who else are you planning or hoping to see?

There are so many comedy shows I want to see this year, particularly comics doing their first shows such as Greg Davies, Seann Walsh, Roisin Connaty & Doc Brown.

I’ll also be seeing Phil Kay as many times as I can as he is the one comedian who encapsulates everything that is great about the Fringe. I believe he is doing five shows a day this year!

A few others that I’m excited about are Kevin Eldon, Arj Barker, Tommy Tiernan, and Addy Van Der Borgh.

I do plan to see some theatre and music as well but will let these be spur of the moment choices!

What do you have planned after the Fringe?

I’d like to say a month of rest and recovery but I’m actually climbing Ben Nevis two and a half weeks after the Fringe to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society! I see it as offsetting the fact I’ll be spending a month being selfish and egotistical in Edinburgh it will be nice to do something for someone else.

If people want to sponsor me they can go to

Sum up your show in three words for us?

Best Show Ever!

Complete this joke for us: “A man walks into a Fringe show…”

….sits down and spends ten minutes listening before he realises it’s not the show he bought a ticket for so gets up and sheepishly makes his way to the door causing the comedian to ask why he was leaving so soon.

The man explains what has happened. The comedian questions how it took him ten minutes to realise his mistake, the audience laugh at which point the man makes a dash for it.

Everyone laughs as he exits. The comedian feels a bit guilty for mocking the man’s embarrassment (TRUE STORY FROM MY EDINBURGH SHOW LAST YEAR)

You can buy tickets for Carl’s show from the Underbelly website.

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