IT MIGHT not have the prestige of Footlights or The comedy Store, but for those that have the passion and determination, Whitchurch and north Shropshire can provide a laugh out loud experience.

One of the area's notable comedians, Donald Mackerel spoke to Herald reporter Harry Wright about his experiences in gigging in the town, and the highs and lows of a budding comedian.

Donald is no stranger to the comedy game these days, having won Cheshire Cat Comedian of the Year 2018, finishing runner up in the Midlands Comedy Awards New Comedian of the Year 2018 and winning the Midlands Comedy Awards Best Alternative Act 2019.

But at first, getting up on stage and facing the crowd was a daunting prospect for the Whitchurch native. But thanks to some encouragement from his then partner, Donald dipped his toes into stand up in 2016.

"I've been a comedy fan since I can remember, watching Dave Allen and Blott on the Landscape with my grandfather through to the Young Ones and Bottom with schoolmates and more recently people like Julian Barratt and Fern Brady," said Donald.

"There was no opportunities to get into stand up in somewhere rural like Whitchurch and I had huge self confidence issues meaning I wouldn't get on stage even if there were.

"Luckily, I started dating a lady in 2016 who helped with my confidence issues and while at a comedy night in Shrewsbury, noted that the venue were after trial spots. I signed up for a five minute spot and it went very well."

For Donald that was just the beginning of what can often be an up and down industry.

"When it's good, it's amazing," he added. "Gigging with childhood heroes or people you know from TV or storming a gig and leaving to rapturous applause.

"When it's bad it's awful though! Dirty pubs with no audiences, long drives with nobody to talk to, promoters that don't pay you or just cancel the gig without telling you.

"I've seen a lady heckle four acts then attack her partner with a glass because she was so drunk, but then I've also had people chant my name until I came back on stage to do a five minute encore.

"It's like any other arts business – competitive and cutthroat but if you can grow a thick skin and more importantly, make people laugh with original material then it's definitely worth it, even if just as a hobby."

As with many industries, there many facets that the general public might not be familiar with, and for a local comedian, it can often be tough to make a living.

"My mum died about a year ago and my partner left me shortly afterwards, so it's hard to get on stage and make people laugh at moments like that," added Donald.

"It's also not great if you're just looking to make money – most professional club comedians have a day job or struggle with bills.

"I know of comedians that undergo medical trials to top their earnings up or live in large house shares because they just can't afford to survive.

"As far as unknown positives though, it can increase your resolve, teach you how to be positive in the face of adversity and most importantly you can become part of a large community and make many new friends.

"I also get to gig at music festivals so I can see some of my favourite bands for free with VIP treatment so there's little perks like that."

Looking back on his career so far, Donald has several good and bad moments, but even for him two particular events take the take.

"Worst moment was driving a four hour round trip for an unpaid spot for a large promoter, only to be told that they had forgotten I had applied," he said.

"They then tried to claim I'd got the dates wrong despite my email evidence, then popped me on the lineup where I made the total number of comedians up to 13 – none getting any money for performing despite it being £7 per ticket to an audience of around 80.

"I went on dead last, about 45 minutes after the audience had given up the will to live, and was roundly heckled and stared at for five minutes before driving home, wondering why I do it.

"Best moment was performing my first ever solo show at last year's Birmingham Comedy Festival to a sold out room where my last minute replacement warm up act did 15 minutes of amazing comedy and I thought I couldn't top it.

"I went on after him and took the roof off – literally everything I said had them in stitches.

"Afterwards, people were stopping to shake my hand on the way out and saying that I was the funniest and most unique act they'd ever seen which ended up with me holding it together until I got into my car and then having a little emotional moment."

For Donald, the future still remains a mystery, although he feels that future may involve a mental breakdown followed by a live manhunt on TV.

"In all honesty, I don't know," added Donald. "I've won several awards and accolades, gigged with some of my most favourite people on the planet, made new friends and lost a load of money doing so.

"I just treat it as the best hobby in the world and if it can become more than that then that's fantastic but otherwise, so long as I'm having fun then I'm happy.

"But I still predict that breakdown and manhunt."

Donald also runs free entry charity shows through Kung Fu Pug Comedy, in which he often raises money for Severn Hospice.

And he adds that anyone looking to get into comedy should contact him via Donald Mackerel's Comedy Page as he says in his own words, "I'm always willing to help".