Comedian Carl Donnelly chats ahead of visit to Tunbridge Wells

Comedian Carl Donnelly chats ahead of visit to Tunbridge Wells

This Christmas, the Therapy Room is holding three fantastic comedy events at the Victorian Theatre at Salomons, Tunbridge Wells, featuring top comics including Carl Donnelly, Jarred Christmas, Marcel Lucont and Lloyd Griffith. (See below for full details.)

Carl Donnelly takes time out of his busy schedule to chat to John Rappaport about comedy, grooming and the perils of dealing with hecklers…

So Carl, you used to rock a more relaxed look, replete with bouffant hair, whereas now you’re sharply dressed and groomed. Why the change?
Age was the main thing. The long curly hair and hoodies felt right in my 20s but I felt like I needed to smarten up as I entered my 30s. I don’t think I’ll ever be a suit-wearing type but I like to at least look like I’ve made an effort. I also don’t like it when comedians settle on a ‘look’ and stay like that because they think their audience expects them to. If you want to change your look, then do it; never worry about what the response will be.

Having been on TV (BBC’s Mock the Week, Dave’s One Night Stand), what is the most significant difference between TV and club night stand up?
There are obviously far more rules in what you can and can’t say on television. That’s why live comedy is so much more enjoyable (for acts as well as audiences) – you can all essentially say whatever you want. That possibility of spontaneity is the beauty of stand up. Television takes all that spontaneity out and leaves a diluted, edited version, which can of course be funny but doesn’t have nearly the same energy and excitement.

You have your own regular podcast and have been on radio many times (BBC Radio 4’s 28 Acts in 28 Minutes, LBC’s Comedy Cabaret). Do you prefer radio to performing on TV?
Definitely. I think radio allows a bit more freedom and trusts performers more than television does. Fighting Talk on Five Live was an example. It’s an hour a week, which is live and still manages to be funny and is successful. Television would be way too scared to commission an afternoon hour-long comedy show.

Have you got any funny Christmas tales to share with our audience?
My Christmas tales are all horrible so I’m hesitant to tell audiences. I was a bit of a tearaway in my youth so we used to do horrible things that I’m ashamed of now (such as stealing people’s Christmas displays from outside their houses). I luckily saw the error of my ways and now celebrate it like everyone else by overindulging and watching telly!

Hecklers can ruin a show. Do you have a particular method for dealing with them?
I just respond honestly in the moment. I never use stock put-downs. If it’s a funny heckle, I’ll laugh and acknowledge it. If it’s bad I’ll happily mock the person for their failure. If it’s mean, I’ll actually point out how horrible they’ve been, which tends to be a good way of dealing with it because it reminds everyone that social mores needn’t go out the window just because it’s a comedy show. We’re not animals. I think we should all just try and get along for the evening.

Finally, have you got any New Year resolutions?
I’m going to India for the whole of January so will make my resolutions there I think. It will probably be something ridiculous and difficult (this year I went vegan so it will probably be on that scale).

Therapy Room Comedy Club at the Victorian Theatre, Salomons, Tunbridge Wells

Tues Dec 17 – Carl Donnelly, Marcel Lucont, Lloyd Griffith plus live music from The Swinging Little Big Band
Wed Dec 18 – Jarred Christmas, Carl Donnelly, Marcel Lucont and Lloyd Griffith MC
Thurs Dec 19 – Jarred Christmas, Carl Donnelly, Matt Rees and Ian Smith MC

All shows start at 8.30pm. Tickets cost £38 to include a two-course meal and disco, or £16 for the show and disco only. To book call 0844 884 1133 or visit

Photo courtesy of Andrew Cotterill