Comedian Jake Donaldson is partially blind, or partially sighted, depending on your outlook on life, but what’s it really like to be a visually impaired comedian?

With tickets to his four-week stand-up show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe now available, Jake is keen to dispel misunderstandings about sight loss. “Sometimes people come up to me and say, 'You’re not actually blind though, are you? That’s just made up for your comedy.’ Just because someone isn’t wearing dark glasses and accompanied by a guide dog, it doesn’t mean they’re not visually impaired,” he says.

Jake (30) from Newcastle Upon Tyne has been writing and performing comedy since he was a teenager. Having performed previously at the Fringe and at comedy clubs across the UK, his work also includes his 2022 show, Neurotica, now streaming on Amazon Prime and NextUp.

“I always enjoyed comedy when I was little, and I spent all my pocket money on stand-up DVDs or tickets to see comedians rather than CDs and clothes like most of my friends,” he says. “I joined comedy groups at university, and we performed shows together, I got the bug then and ever since, I’ve been pursuing stand-up.”



This year’s show, Spectacle, will explore Jake’s sight loss journey. The show will feature a unique use of light and sound to create a sensory experience for audiences. “My eyesight is something that I’ve had to deal with my whole life,” says Jake. “But it’s now in my 30s that I’m really facing the reality of being visually impaired and what that means for my future. Spectacle feels like a new level of performance for me. I think it will give audiences a new sense of perspective about how they see the world – literally as well as an hour of laughs.”

Off stage, Jake has been supported by his local Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO), a service managed in hospitals across the UK by leading sight loss charity RNIB and other providers. Alongside practical support to help people maintain their independence, they also offer emotional reassurance. Jake adds, “My ECLO has been great, he’s been really instrumental in helping me come to terms with the reality of my sight loss.”

Jake is not the only comedian with sight loss on the comedy circuit, but he is usually the only one on the bill. “It’s rare for multiple visually impaired performers to get booked on the same gig because bookers assume we’ll all be similar,” he says. “In reality, we’re all varied in our styles and kinds of comedy we do.”



And what about venue accessibility?

“In the past, I have been discounted from gigs because the venue was not reachable by public transport, and they automatically assumed I don’t have access to someone who could drive me, but this has thankfully only happened a few times.

“I’m lucky in that, for the most part, I’m usually able to navigate most venues with the sight I do have and my guide cane. However, often comedy gigs happen in rooms above pubs or comedy clubs in dark basements which could easily prove difficult for performers in terms of accessibility. The vast majority of bookers and promoters I’ve personally worked with have been super helpful, accommodating and understanding about my access requirements.”

What’s next for Jake?

Spectacle is a show that I’m incredibly proud of and I can’t wait for audiences to experience it. I want to continue making comedy and sharing it with the wider world. I’m really excited about building my own audience through touring because I love being a comedian. I will continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and create new and exciting shows in the future.”

Spectacle is at Just the Tonic The Mash House (Venue 288) at 6.40pm from 111 and 1325 August 2024.