Double Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Carl Donnelly found himself in an unusual position, at the age of 34 – writing a new comedy show that wasn’t born out of relationship trauma or angst.
Finding peace in a functioning relationship, career and plant-based diet, Carl is now pondering why 34 statistically might just be the happiest year of your life.
In his eighth show Bad Man Tings (Brighton Komedia, March 23), Carl has moved away from the material on masculinity and depression which comprised Jive Ass Honky last year. Exploring what it means to be a white liberal today, he’s now looking at societal components including Generation Z, health fads, Netflix documentaries and Kanye West, he says.
“The show has changed over the time since I first started doing it for Edinburgh last year and then going on tour, but originally it was about how weird it was to write a show when I was not depressed! A few shows before, I had been going through a divorce. I was in therapy. But then last time was the first time I had been writing a show when I was in a good place and happy.
“I was 34, and I read this article saying that statistically 34 is the happiest year of your life. I didn’t know whether it was because my circumstances had changed or whether I was actually a walking cliché. But I suppose by the time you reach 34, you have got a bit more life behind you and a slightly-greater sense of self-awareness and calm than you had perhaps when you were in your mid-20s. I was thinking I might be OK now. I am one of those 30-something people that have not got children. I have started yoga instead. I have gone for the mindfulness approach! I just found it really refreshing to write a show where I didn’t have to be quite so self-indulgent and talk about all my woes. I always tried to do it in as light-hearted a way as possible, but found that with this show I was looking out a bit more, more my impressions about other things as well.”
Carl turned professional nine years ago and has been doing comedy for 11 years. It was rapid progress in those first two: “I started before the comedy boom, all the Live at the Apollo and Mock the Week. I started at a time when not many people were trying to be stand-ups. I didn’t even realise it was a career. Now I think it is much harder for new comedians trying to get started. I think there is now a much greater awareness that it is a viable career. If a 15-year-old says to his parents now ‘I want to be a stand-up’, I think there would be a much better reaction than there would have been 15 years ago. But there is certainly a lot more competition now. But I wouldn’t say that it is over-crowded because everyone is doing their own thing and everyone should follow their own dreams. But it is now a much harder place. Ten years ago, there just wasn’t the gold rush that there is now.”
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