Carl Donnelly returns to Edinburgh this Summer with his ninth consecutive Fringe show, The Nutter on the Bus.
Last year’s show, Bad Man Tings was a sell-out in Edinburgh and Carl toured the show nationwide. This year he’s back with a brand new show and I caught up with him to discuss what it’s about, his (now legendary) Fringe posters and why thanks to his venue, he feels like it’s his very first year at the Fringe.
So, you’re back for yet another year at the Fringe...
I’m always there to be honest. The only thing I can think about is going back. It’s a standard part of the year. I’d almost be worried about how I’d feel if I took a year off.
I’ve been up every year since 2006 where I did two-and-a-half weeks and then I’v been there for the full month every year since. I can’t really imagine what it’d be like not to be there.
You’ve called your show The Nutter on the Bus this year. Why that title?
Basically, it’s sort of down to the venue and it’s linked to the show as well. I’m playing the BlundaBus this year. They’ve converted the top deck of a bus into a theatre and it’s such a funny little place. It’s a strange room for comedy but it really works.
For the last couple of years I’ve been looking at it thinking that I’d really like to play that. My agents thought I’d gone mad because it’s the smallest room I’ve ever played in Edinburgh. It’s smaller than the room I did my debut show in in 2009. It’s just 45 seats.
But it started from this idea that I wanted to play the top deck of a bus and do a show about some of my alternative lifestyle decisions. Some of which might make people feel concerned for my mental health.
Has it been different writing for a smaller audience? Or do you not really take that into account?
I don’t really think about it. When you do previews, you tend to preview to quite small numbers so you never really write it thinking about the size of the audience. I’m sure if you’re writing an arena show you have to write for the room. But on the whole, if you’re doing any theatre space between thirty and two hundred people, you can probably play them pretty similar.
The main thing in my head is that it’s going to be very intimate. I’m going to be right in the middle of them. 45 people sat right around me and it’s going to be interesting. There are little things I’ve not even thought about yet. Like whether or not I’m going to use a mic. Little technical things that I think I’m going to wait until I get up there before I figure them out.
Is it another personal show this year?
It’s more personal than last year’s show. A couple of years ago I did a show that was really personal and I really enjoyed it, but it’s quite tiring. When I toured it, by the end of it I was so sick baring my soul every night and I’d come out of a show feeling exhausted.
Last year I just wanted to do a show that was an hour of the funniest things I’ve thought of in a year. That was just fun but as much as I came out each night having an easy gig, part of me by the end of the festival felt like I’d not really pushed myself.
How long have you been working on this year’s show for?
I don’t really plan. It’s that thing where some people start writing their show in January or March, or some people leave it too late. For me, I never stop writing. I’m writing all year round. Normally what happens is that in December I'll look through my notes and see what I’ve been thinking about. And normally the makings of a show are already starting to be there so I just think “Right. I’ll just do that.”
I’ll never sit at a laptop staring at a blank page and go “Right. Let’s begin.” I normally do a show about what’s been going on in my head that year.
You’ve got another brilliant poster this year. How much time and effort goes into your posters?
I think more than most people. I get really annoyed when comedians have a bad poster because I think if you’re going to spend six months writing a show that you want strangers to come and see. you want it to be good enough that it’s warranted their time.
I think it’s such a weird decision to then not give a shit about the image that represents that show. In the last five years there’s been a real surge in good quality posters. They should have a Best Poster Award now.
I normally sit down with a mate of mine who’s a brilliant graphics designer in January and we come up with a few ideas and usually the one that he laughs at is the one that we go with.
How have the previews been going so far?
Really good actually. The show has changed loads. I did a few shows back in January which is really early and they were just really fun and the show was quite funny but it didn’t feel like I was saying what I wanted to.
I’m starting to say things now in previews where there’s almost pity in the room. I’ve not got the balance right yet, but I really want to say some stuff that will make people quite shocked to hear.
Yourself and Chris Martin are also doing The Carl Donnelly and Chris Martin Podcast Live! Are you looking forward to that?
Yeah! I think it’s going to be fun. That one is something that we’ve not really started thinking about yet because it want it to be quite loose. It’s a podcast so there’ll be guests and that will shape the show. I don’t think we’re going to release every single one.
I think we’re going to record it and release a weekly roundup of the Fringe. I think it could be quite a fun thing to do.
What are you most looking forward to about the Fringe this year?
I’m really looking forward to just performing in that venue on the bus. I’ve only ever been in it but I’ve never performed there. It’s the first time in years that I’m going into a new space to perform in. It almost feels like the first time that I’m going up again.
It’s nice and it mixes it up because having done it for so many years now it does feel like I’m just going back to do end of year exams at school or something.
Anyone in particular, you’re looking forward to seeing whilst you’re up there?
Oh there’s loads of stuff! Hannah Gadsby’s show. I’ve always liked Hannah, I really really rate her. Apparently she’s doing the show of her life so far so I’m going to see that on opening night which will hopefully set up the festival in a good way. Even though it’s meant to be a very hard going show!
Then there are people that I just love watching every year. Phil Kay, who’s the reason I’m playing the BlundaBus actually. He played it two years in a row and I just loved it. So when someone like that who I think is on form one of the best comics in the world being bonkers in that room, made me think that it’s worth giving that room a go.
I tell you whose show I think is going to be excellent this year, is John Robins. Me and John basically stared at the exact same time, we came up together, we did a package show together in 2007 and 2008 so we’ve always been mates.
In Edinburgh weirdly, he’s never really got the acclaim that he should. In the last couple of years people are starting to talk about him in a way that they should have been years ago and I have a feeling that this year’s show is going to be the one that really gets Edinburgh to realise that John Robins is outstanding.
And finally, how would you sum up this year’s show in just five words?
Funny. Honest. A bit bonkers.