Although Glaswegian comic Jamie MacDonald is blind, his latest show High Vis doesn’t just focus on his disability. MacDonald does address his blindness in some of his material, most notably when describing how his friends use it to their advantage during a stag do and detailing an encounter with a particularly bigoted taxi driver, however, he also covers issues including insufferable gap year students and hotel rooms from hell.
MacDonald has an informal and easygoing charm that makes even the most edgy of jokes seem like lighthearted banter, managing to take the edge off his more risky lines. As a result, High Vis is a consistently hilarious show from a performer who has the audience in the palm of his hand.
Words: Adam Thornton
As you’d expect from a blind comedian, there’s a fair bit about Jamie MacDonald’s condition in his show. But there’s also a lovely everyman quality to this Glaswegian who provides a humorous insight into his world. So, he divulges a bit of the cheeky ‘blue badge banter’ (don’t try it yourself though) between the disabled, how his opportunistic mates use his disability to cop off with women, and his sage reaction to the council’s inability to get its act together to help him.
Elsewhere, however, he cheerfully pokes fun at elements of everyday life that we all relate to: racist taxi drivers, out-of-hand stag dos (if you haven’t been on one you’ll have seen them in action regardless) and gap-year knobheads. When a routine becomes more niche and personal, he paints a vivid portrait, lack of sight being no barrier to imagination of course.
The Aberdeenshire hotel in which he spent his honeymoon, in particular, is creatively detailed and mined for laughs with its over-sized key rings and Polish staff made to dress up in a preposterously Scottish manner. Jamie MacDonald is a performer of great warmth and wit, making it a pleasure to spend an hour in his company.
Jamie MacDonald is oblivious to a lot of things, not least because of his impaired vision. This is the premise of a well-crafted hour of storytelling and stand-up, performed in front of a receptive crowd. The majority of the set is a fascinating multi-sensory glimpse into the life of a blind man, and the challenges he faces on a daily basis – coping with curious children and crazy bus people. But threaded through the material are MacDonald’s musings on, as he sees it, the modern obsession with creating an inclusive society.
Convinced the latter was triggered by the 2012 Paralympics, MacDonald is grateful how far the world has come, but wonders how far this concept of inclusion can go. Is society’s insistence that there must be a disabled alternative to everything really a good idea? These are interesting and relevant points, which would be uncomfortable coming from a comedian without personal experience to draw on. It’s a fine example of MacDonald using his USP to his advantage, as he challenges his largely able-bodied crowd to laugh along at the absurdities of his forays into disability sports such as blind football and blind shooting.
MacDonald is nonetheless clearly encouraged by how far society has swung in favour of the physically different, since his time at high school, where he was made to feel like an outsider. He strikes you a man who just wantsto get along; a comedian who just happens to be blind. He may get to a stage in his comedy career where he doesn’t even have to address, as it were, the elephant in the room. But maybe in saying that, I am succumbing to his point about over-inclusiveness; his stories will always have a fresh perspective, even when he’s just talking about drinking in grotty local Glaswegian pubs, thanks to the extra details of smells and sounds he notices that others miss.
He wields his sole prop – his white stick – like a paintbrush to form images, and uses audio prompts for added effect. That’s something I feel he could push even more, to place his audience in the shoes of a blind person. His simple yet effective demonstration of what it’s like to be blind in an art gallery is poignant, and highlights how alienating basic pleasures can be when the rest of society takes them for granted.
In the end, MacDonald does reveal a vulnerable side – one that relies on society’s compassion, even if it is overbearing and contrived. But as a performer, he is able to embrace all this and turn it on its head, through his naturally funny and endearing comedy.
Reviewed by Jay Richardson August 2015
With Chris McCausland absent from the Fringe this year, Jamie MacDonald’s unique selling point as the festival’s blind stand-up is intact.
His condition inspires plenty of the relatively-new comic’s material. But there’s more than enough promise here to suggest it’ll become increasingly incidental as his career develops. The strapping Scot has compelling anecdotes about the bullying he experienced at school, but applies the same wry, good humour to them as the misguided attempts of his teachers to help him assimilate.
Waggishly, he protests advances in disability access and Paralympian sport as robbing him of excuses for laziness, his account of playing his one and only game of blind football hilarious in its foreseeable outcome. Supplementing a few of his dramatic recreations with light and sound effects, touches that would seem gauche for most comics, add a certain playfulness to his easy charm.
The story of him taking an audio-described tour of the National Gallery strains credibility and you’ll see the denouement coming a mile off but it’s capably set up and related all the same.
Similarly, accounts of rascally behaviour in Glasgow taxis and pubs are familiar staples, but MacDonald makes them distinctive with the droll capacity of an emerging raconteur.
Broadwaybaby.com August 2105
Jamie MacDonald is a gentle comic, even when brandishing his white cane as a weapon. Indeed, disdain aimed at bullies, gross but fantastic images of mumps/impetigo-ridden school of dances and an absurd discussion of disability and terrorism never land with the churlishness of an Andrew Lawrence ( thank goodness for that). This is an unintentionally topical hour that doesn’t call back on insensitivity for cheap laughs.
The Finest moments of tis not-so-oblivious comedian’s act are the real experience which lend themselves to hilarity, even if it might feel inappropriate. That’s not to sat he’s done without vulgar stuff. An encounter with a man who suggests reenacting a scence from Wolf of Wall Street together with the foolish antics of drunk friends quenches that public thirst. Quaint cutscences are a wonderful demonstration of the lighter comedy at work: galleries plunged into darkness, purple prom lights that match Jamie’s Fila boots of yore, an intense exchange with a rather militaristic nun.
Sometimes MAcDonald doesn’t delve far into important questions, such as why a man is judged for walking in a park alone. A potentially interesting , and admittedly hilarious, look at Islamic ‘martyrdom’ ignores the dace the the translation of Ankarun is porbalu ‘angles’ rather than ‘virgins’.
The first moments of this not-so-oblivious cimediand’s act are the real experience which lend themselves to hilarity, even if it might feel inappropriate. Blind football in goal, false your guides, properly dodgy Glasgwegian pubs, pet woes and NHS alert bells becomes interconnected struggles that MacDonald id great enough to laugh at. Who else cvan transport us to a 90’s highland Capoeira? The ultimate suggestion that today life is earlier for the perviulsy marginalised is questionable, nut the importance of MAcDonald’s perspective isn’t.
Sunday Herald Sunday 17th August
Those paralympians have raised the game not just for fellow sportsmen but for someone who, as Jamie McDonald is the first to admit, considers wearing matching socks to be a success.
The 24-year-old Glaswegian’s blindness is the meat and bones of his routine – no sentimentality from him, no patronising from u s- so a story about leaning to ski is destined to include a nasty snogging encounter up a back alley in Fort William. Thats’s because MacDonald considers himself to be more skilled on the piss than on the piste, although his ‘ear goggles’ ( i.e. a blind mans beer googles) can impair his judgement of beauty once he’s past the seven-pint mark. A good-looking charismatic guy , MacDonald is able to use his era-life circumstances to give a spin on relationships humour that would be denied to 99% of his comedy rivals. The result: one of the funniest Scots on the circuit.
Admittedly, as the user of a white stick, MacDonald can possibly get away with comments that ‘non-impaired’ comedians might not. As an example, much of the opening of MacDonald’s set is dominated by his one attempt at learning to ski, in part inspired by a mate’s insistence that he’d be rubbish at it.
MacDonald successfully mines his own experiences to great comic effects, not least when it comes to the danger he faces “flying solo” while “on the pull”. Given that he’s in his 30’s, you might be wondering when MacDonald is going to settle down, but he accepts that he’s still enjoying life too much just now to think about marriage and kids , assuming he can find a relationship which works.
This isn’t a particularly structured show; its more a ramble, with one subject leading then leading on to the next. Still, one various occasions he returns to the theme of how easy it is for non-disabled people to slip from being helpful to patronising, this certainly isn’t a show “about” disability. it’s a perceptive and boldly humorous take on what it’s like being a man who still enjoy life as a party.
THAT FUNNY BLIND GUY 2
THE GOOD, THE STAG AND THE UGLY
Jamie MacDonald, is as the title would suggest visually impaired. It’s ironic then, that in his new show he conjures some images that are nothing short of hilarious. Within minutes you’ve forgotten that he is even blind he doesn’t use his disability as a comedic crutch or as a tool for sympathy, just as another avenue for material).
Having also worked as a voiceover artist, his thick Glaswegian inflection provides a wonderfully forceful delivery, and his comic timing is impeccable. On occasion a brilliantly funny image or his gravelly drawl is the only thing sustaining trite segments about how much Scottish people drink, through.
His visual impairment has led Jamie into some awkward predicaments over the years and these are all recounted with real joy and humour, and he seems to roll with life’s punches admirably (presumably aware of the bonus that they all make for excellent stand-up material)
New, exciting and down-right hilarious, don’t miss this second in the series from Jamie MacDoanld.
Basil Davies edfestmag.com
THAT FUNNY BLIND GUY 2
THE GOOD, THE STAG AND THE UGLY
Being visually impaired Glaswegian stand-up Jamie MacDonald definitely brings new meaning to “observational humour”. If nothing else, this latest show from “That Funny Blind Guy” proves two things: that there’s definitely more than one way to see the world and that being blind doesn’t mean you can be any less than a ‘tool’ than anyone else. OK, three things: that MacDonald is also brilliant at finding, exploring and sharing the humour in his life and the world around him.
THAT FUNNY BLIND GUY
Jamie MacDonald is a Glaswegian born-and-bred wise guy whose biggest problem isn’t the fact he can’t see, but the people he meets on his travels. With a sharp wit, relaxed and charming attitude and great stories to boot, MacDonald is a Comedian not to forget in a hurry. His forty-minute set, That Funny Blind Guy is a real joy to watch.
Taking us through his big trip to London after winning a radio competition, MacDonald embraces multimedia as a means of verifying his tale. With astute observations running from porn and taxi drivers to guide dogs and the inhabitants of Leith, MacDonald’s set has people roaring with laughter throughout.
Empathetic and warm without appearing overly sentimental, MacDonald is a relatable stage presence and manages to instantly get his audience on side. While at times the sheer downward trajectory of his London-bound ventures makes it seem slightly awkward to keep laughing at his misfortune, the lasting sentiment of MacDonald’s finale gives a lasting impression of his zest for life and humour in the face of misery.
For a free show, this is unmissable and a joy to watch.
Review from Three Weeks Magazine
A brief discussion on patriotic art adequately expresses the playfullness of this uproarious outing from Mercenario Productions; as a foreign student points to a series of zealous Scottish paintings for clarification, the symbolism of ‘William Wallace, naked on his horse charging for freedom’ and ‘Alex Salmond, naked on his chaise-longue, reclining for freedom’ is left to hang in the air like a sparkly sporran. National and international rivalries are subject to much teasing as competing teachers resort to dueling and kidnap on this outrageously funny piece of theatre. In a script both deviously witty and endlessly quotable, language and meaning are prodded, juggled and pulled apart like play-dough, resulting in an excellent show that is refreshingly tongue-in-cheek in its outlook.
The Playhouse on the Fringe 1-27th August (not 13th), 4pm