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Interview - Paul Connell

David Cox

Jul 31, 2023

Despite not appearing in this year's Fringe Programme, thanks to an interestingly worded press release we liked the sound of Paul Connell and will be going to see his show "Ace In The Hole" at Boteco do Brasil on Lothian Street. Hopefully, after reading this interview you may join us.

So, a week before the mayhem of the festival starts. How are you feeling? 

Honestly, I am incredibly excited! I have been nervous and stressed all year about the Fringe and now that it is here, I am just excited and ready! I have worked so hard on this show. Finding the balance between funny and heartfelt has been incredibly important to me, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s reaction to it!  



To be honest we don't know a lot about you. Tell us about yourself? 


I am a short chubby blonde working-class Yorkshireman who desperately wants to be liked…I know, what a tinder bio. 


I am originally from Hull, where the most exciting things we have to brag about are a big bridge, and we were bombed a lot in World War II - so my upbringing was a real whirlwind of adventure! I never really fit in in school because I was neither smart, good looking, or athletic. I figured that means I had to be the funny guy and 20 years later I think I have finally become somewhat funny. If only all the doctors and business owners I went to school with could see me now, they would be so jealous of my ability to write a solid one liner! 


Post school I studied acting and spent many years performing in theatre before becoming a teacher at The Northern Academy of Performing Arts inspiring youngsters to go out and pursue their dreams! Then the mid-life crisis hit…at 28…which is mid-life if you’re from Hull. I realised that I was encouraging others to go out and chase down what they wanted but I wasn’t doing that myself! I quit my stable job, left my nice house in the suburbs and moved to Glasgow to chase a career in comedy - during the pandemic (good decision Paul you stupid idiot). I ended up having to work as a door-to-door salesman in the rough streets of Glasgow living in a studio flat with my cat Peach…once again – I’m an idiot. But I learned a lot. Eventually stand-up comedy came back, and I realised that I was at the very bottom of a ladder, but for once in my life it was a ladder I actually wanted to be on! 


What can we expect from " Ace In The Whole" (without giving too much away ) as I can't wait to see it? 


Ace in the Whole is mainly based around my brother Ace. That’s right my brother’s called Ace and I am called Paul…you can guess which one of us was successful with the ladies and which one of us spent his teenage years playing his GameCube listening to Avril Lavigne alone in his room. My show is about finding comedy within the tragic and giving yourself permission to laugh and move on after losing someone. My brother Ace caught covid in 2021 and passed away. Ace was by far the funniest person I knew, and we had spent our entire childhood making each other laugh, pranking each other and just generally being mischievous little rapscallions! However, after he died, I and the people around him stopped telling the funny stories and would always focus on the sad things. That frustrated me, as I knew my brother would want people to laugh and would not want his legacy to be a negative thing. After this, I started telling stories of us growing up in my stand-up set and I found that audience really related to and enjoyed them. But more importantly I felt that my brother was now back in my life, not as this sad shadow that was always lurking in the back of my mind instead as someone that was still making me, and other people, laugh. My perspective on grief is this: once you stop telling sad stories and start telling the funny stories, you can find your loved ones again. They may not be the way they were, but they are still a positive force in your life even though you cannot physically see them. I have performed this show for eight months now and every single time someone approaches me at the end and tells me a funny story about a person they have lost. It was such a beautiful surprise for me! 



How are preparations going? 


I read this question and instantly had that panic attack you have when you know you should be doing more but you’re not wise enough to work out what it is you should be doing! I am ready…I think…Yeah…I’m prepared…probably…who knows! All of the marketing is organised and I have a split bill with the wonderful comedian Eddy Mackenzie for the first 4 days of the Fringe to really tighten things up. I also performed the show at the Glasgow Comedy Festival, The Brighton Fringe, The Reykjavik Fringe and had a whole load of preview shows to get ready for the Edinburgh Fringe. I have worked hard because it is important to me to get the tone right. I want people to leave having gone on a journey with me but finish that journey feeling positive about the world. 


As the show is 8 months oldis it fully evolved or will it change throughout the festival?  


I believe it is fully evolved; however, I thought that was the case when I first performed it in Glasgow and since then it has become a completely different show! The stories will be the same and are very well rehearsed, but I also love a tangent! I enjoy chatting to the crowd and embracing the unique moments that happen in every show. The beauty of stand-up is that it is live and in live performance anything can happen! So mostly it will be the same, but every performance will have unique moments of fun.  



When did you first get into comedy? 


I think growing up in a working-class family in Hull meant that you had to have a good sense of humour.  I am also the youngest in the family and when you are the youngest in the family you got to get used to being picked on and not taking yourself seriously. Growing up, comedy was the point of life for me. The only way to get through all the boring stuff was to have a laugh while doing it. My introduction to comedy wasn’t watching a comedian or seeing the latest Jim Carrey movie, it was my brother and I trying to wind my dad up to the point of frenzy. 


Who are your comedy heroes , past and present?  


My first initial childhood comedy heroes came from watching Norman Wisdom with my dad and Mr Bean with my grandad. For some reason I loved slap stick, perhaps this is what led to me finding torturing my dad so funny! As I got older, I became obsessed with Norm Macdonald. I loved his sense of silliness and complete disregard for rules and expectations. I would say John Mulaney is a comedian who inspired me to do the more story telling style of comedy. I have always been driven to comedians who make you feel like you know them after watching their performance.   


I am very fortunate to be in a position where I often perform alongside my own comedy heroes on the Scottish comedy scene. Comedians like, Chris MacArthur-Boyd, Billy Kirkwood, Krystal Evans and Liam Withnail (and many others) are so inspirational to share the stage with and they push me to be the best comedian I can be! 


My first festival began with a midnight show in 1986 with Rowan Atkinson. What are your memories of your first festival? 


My first festival experience would be far less iconic than yours. My first festival was probably Leeds Fest when I was 18 and most of my memories involve me desperately trying to find any kind of vessel to vomit in. My first festival experience as a performer was the Hull Comedy Festival and it was when I became hooked on the idea of arts festivals. I remember being so excited that every day was just: drink, gig, drink, gig, drink, gig. After a couple of days, I was like “I want to live like this forever” then after a couple more days I was like “if I don’t have some vegetables and an early night, I’m going to die!”. But the energy of an entire city getting excited over the performing arts is a wonderful thing to see, and seeing local talent is always my favourite thing! 


What is your connection to your venue Boteco Do Brasil? 


Honestly when people think of Brazil they think ‘pasty little blonde boy from Hull’! The story behind my venue is that a very cool company called ‘Gigging It Up’ contacted me after hearing about the success of my show at the Glasgow Comedy Festival and were like ‘we want to pay for you to have your own show at a great venue’ and I was like ‘what is the catch?’ and they said ‘there is none, just turn up and be funny!’. I honestly knew very little about the venue until about 3 hours before doing this interview because I just finished performing a preview show at Boteco. Now, I am stoked because it is an awesome venue! 


We haven't been there before? Is there a separate room for comedy? 


Yes, it has a perfect space for comedy. I know that the Edinburgh Fringe is famous for calling anything a venue. Like a venue could be a karaoke machine in the produce aisle of a supermarket, or going to an old lady’s pantry (I made both of these up but would not be surprised if they are real). Boteco isn’t like that, it is a full basement (which excited me right away because all the best comedy happens in a basement) and it can comfortably seat 70 people with a full bar as well. It is pretty awesome as far as venues go! 


I am arriving in Edinburgh on Tuesday , when are you getting there? 


I will be there day one baby! I have a split bill show with the fabulous Eddy Mackenzie leading up to the start of Ace in the Whole. I am also performing on a lot of compilation shows, including one called ‘Clash of Fandoms’ in which I argue that Star Wars is better than Star Trek (easy win for me) and another show where I argue that DC is better than Marvel (slightly harder fight but I am a persuasive dude). I am going to be there almost every day and I intend to see shows and perform as much as possible! 



I will now mention that tricky word, finance. No-one nowadays seems to make any money at the festival anymore. What are your expectations? 


Well to start with, pubs in Edinburgh find it acceptable to charge £7 for a warm pint of ‘craft’ beer. That’s like 2 meal deals! There is no such thing as craft beer, all beer is crafted, get over yourselves. Charge a reasonable amount…and for god sake refrigerate it! Sorry it angers me because in Yorkshire beer is cheaper than water! Anyway, finance. I am a working-class comedian so I will have to work hard to keep myself afloat during this festival and I plan on hustling! I am flyering for several other amazing comedians as a way of making extra profit on top of my own shows. If you see me out there on the streets of Edinburgh looking tired and cold, it is because I have been flyering for 8 hours straight just to afford one single drop of ‘craft’ beer. But in all seriousness, it will be hard, but I am hoping that with enough hard work and determination I will survive! 


The Scottish capital in Edinburgh can be wild. Are you a party animal? 


As I am writing this, I am in in a Disney T-shirt, with Star Wars pyjama bottoms, eating pringles (which I am dipping in vegan mayo) and watching a documentary on sharks. So, to answer your question…I’m a wild and crazy guy! I think comedy kind of mellowed me out when it comes to partying. I used to go to dodgy bars and clubs at night and think “time to party” now I am turning up thinking “time to work”. I am social and love a drink but most of the time now in the back of my head I am thinking: “I miss my cat”.  


Your show isn't until 7.00pm. How will you pace your day? 


Most days I will be flyering for other people’s shows, plus performing smaller sets on other shows all while trying to watch as many acts as possible. My main plan is to burn myself out completely in August and then hibernate the month after. I will take the advice of Green Day and have someone “wake me up when September Ends”. 


Assuming you have any free time are there any shows or performers you fancy seeing this year? 


SO MANY!  I have a list of shows that I would recommend. There are comedians on the Scottish comedy circuit that are on the verge of doing some huge things and I want to watch their shows before they are too big and famous for me to be able to see them! Here is my list of great comedians doing great stuff: 


Liam Withnail – Chronic Boom 

Christopher Macarthur-Boyd – Scary Times 

Chris Thorburn – Cineman 

Krystal Evans – The Hottest Girl at Burn Camp 

Billy Kirkwood – Show Me Your Tattoo 

David Callaghan – Everything That’s Me Is Falling Apart 

Kathleen Hughes – One of The Girls 

Amy Matthews – I Feel Like I’m Made of Spiders 

Northern News Live! 


Come and see my show first of course! But after that watch all those shows! 

Finally, what are you most looking forward at this year's festival? 


As cheesy and cliché as it sounds…hanging out with my friends! There are so many awesome people I have gigged with all over the country and now they are going to all be in one place! The best thing about stand-up is hanging out with comedians in greenrooms before a show. No matter where you are in the country, if you’re a comedian and you walk into a room with other comedians you are immediately best friends. We are like dogs, instantly we all get along. But instead of sniffing each other’s bum holes, we share our most traumatic gig stories as a way of bonding.  


Many thanks and looking forward to seeing the show on Tuesday 8th August. 


You can catch Paul performing Ace in The Whole at Boteco do Brasil on

Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the festival (tickets here)

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