Carl Donnelly

Carl Donnelly

The Stand

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Reviewed by Mark Brown

If it takes a bit of bottle to be a warm-up act for a big name comedian, how much more courage is required to turn up at The Stand on Thursday night as the warm-up for an entire festival? Respect is due, therefore, to Carl Donnelly who made his way into the festival programme as an appetiser.

The point has been made many times before that a good comedian is, in essence, just an excellent liar. Donnelly - who is, if he is to be believed, 32 years old and recently divorced - is such a good liar he should be on the BBC TV show Would I Lie To You? (in fact, he might even be good enough to work for the Metropolitan Police, replacing one of its extraordinary liars from the Stephen Lawrence case).

Opening a festival which has its fair share of gag tellers, Donnelly eschews the sharp, guffaw-inducing one-liner in favour of the gently rib-tickling shaggy dog story. And why not?

From close encounters with Australian animals, to an inappropriate streaker at a 40th birthday party in Birmingham, and a fabulous fib about a storm-tossed Irish fishing boat, the Anglo-Irishman tells his tales, in their varying levels of believability, with a winning combination of affability, vulnerability and absolute earnestness. Donnelly can certainly be credited with warming up the festival sufficiently - although whether or not one is prepared to believe that he almost died trying to eat a crumpet in a oner is another matter entirely.