“ Pleasance Courtyard / 60 The Pleasance / Edinburgh. „
This man is naturally hilarious. He's lives in Bristol but for some bizarre reason performs his stand up using a gruff welsh accent, but I'm not complaining because everything that comes out of his mouth seems funnier. He's clean and doesn't swear a vast amount for cheap laughs like some other comedians and that is a real talent, to make people laugh through genuinely funny wordplay. He's energetic, exciting and clearly very intelligent. I'm not a massive laugh out loud kind of guy but there were five moments when I was rolling around in my seat and couldn't have helped if even if I'd wanted too. The only potential argument against seeing him if you need one is that you could go and see marginally funnier or preferable comedian for roughly the same amount of money. But let's face it comedy is often down to taste, but if witty lines, hilarious delivery and a gruff welsh accent float your boat, then this man's for you.
The hyperactive Bristol-born Welshman Mark Watson is one of the most impressive comedians at this years Edinburgh Fringe, and someone who really embraces the mentality of this mad month. Previous one-off shows, carried out in addition to his regular stand-up, have included an epic novel writing project with audience members and a gruelling twenty-four hour show, before last year topped it to thirty-six. This year sees Mark hosting the fourth mobile 24 Hour Jamboree to Save the Planet, beginning outside a Fringe ticket office and ending up who knows where from late on the 13th to the 14th of the month, tellingly the only day Marks regular stand-up show is not being performed (presumably due to sleeping). Those scarce tickets have already been snapped up by insane fans, but as I retain a comparative degree of normality I only attended the one-twenty-fourth-length version, compellingly titled Can I Briefly Talk to You about the Point of Life?
Marks (notice how I always use the comedians first name to pretend theyre my friend?) on-stage persona is as restless and energised as Lee Evans twelve years ago, and essentially a highly charged version of himself with all the same attitudes and world views but delivered in such a hasty manner that it seems like the ravings of a Welsh madman. This enthusiasm makes it impossible for an audience not to be drawn in to the incidents of his mundane life, mostly set on trains, and like Josie Long there is a celebration of human idiosyncrasies and failings, though Mark does explain the events that led to him developing a local nemesis. The real Mark Watson is entirely visible behind the mania and doesnt make any attempt to construct himself as any stupider or more immature than he really is, talking often about his wife and happy marriage and admitting that hes as surprised as anyone that this ever happened, though making sure to reiterate that he got her fair and square. He even takes delight in his relatively low celebrity status that has led to his last-minute appearances on comedy panel shows, and has some unique revelations from the perspective of a Never Mind the Buzzcocks panellist.
Marks greatest concern is that his show will either amuse no-one, and thus be rubbish, or create enough laughs that hell become over-confident and destroy it himself, but there doesnt seem to be any danger of that in this professional performance. Subverting the beginning of his show by standing in the middle of the audience and announcing the manner in which is to come on stage, before spending far longer than necessary worrying whether this has worked or just made things awkward, Mark is very attuned to structure, tellingly as his first novel came out on Thursday. Despite chastising himself over the amateurish nature of the preview show, which seems anything but, there are clear and amusingly desperate attempts to link the diverse monologues and ramblings of the show together in some kind of meaningful way to live up to the grandiose title, and the call-backs to earlier material are mostly relevant and insightful. And when they arent, the humour lies in Marks vocal disappointment at his own weak material.
Still, this show doesnt fall into the anecdotal trap of some of his contemporaries, such as Daniel Kitson, where laughs are derived purely from the real-life whimsy, as the proceedings are filled with well thought-out proper jokes, even some particularly gruesome ones about female anatomy that were attempted in the preview and may not make it into the definitive performance. Theres no trace of Ricky Gervais or Little Britain style bullying or prejudice in this irresistibly likeable set, as Mark instead targets inoffensive areas such as I Cant Believe its Not Butter (which he proposes renaming to I am prepared to accept that this isnt butter now, after twenty years) and momentarily struggles to find the appropriate term for a non-electric toothbrush, having to settle on acoustic (this was my favourite joke). While day-long travelling shows and writing classes keep Mark Watson firmly in the camp of obscure creativity and a cult fan base, his main stand-up has no limitations in its appeal, and it was easy to share in his delight when the theatre was packed on the first night. Possibly teetering on the edge of celebrity, though with no risk of selling out in the negative sense, Marks shows are already some of the hottest at the Fringe and will only continue to improve and expand to the point that he becomes too mainstream and renowned for this silly festival, so come and see him play in a stuffy, dark room while you can.
Mark Watson Can I Briefly Talk to You about the Point of Life plays at the large Pleasance One venue in the Pleasance Courtyard from 1st to 27th August (not 14th) at 9.10pm, lasting one hour. Prices are £10.50 to £11.50 depending on the day (£9.00 to £10.00 concessions).
Next review: BBC Stand Up Show Live!
The Pleasance Courtyard (located at 60 Pleasance) has over 300,000 visitors, fourteen venues, six bars, three cafes and every kind of entertainment under the sun. It's little wonder that for many people the Pleasance is the Fringe. 'The best of all possible worlds' The Observer.