Comedian, novelist, and all round funny bloke Mark Watson speaks with Emily Garside about his new tour, pride, shame, and dreams.
What can audiences expect from you this time around?
Well, the last show was quite unusually personal – for me, at least – and I plan to go further down that road this time. I’m gradually getting bolder at talking about stuff that’s interesting to me, not purely playing everything for laughs. So this show is about things like ‘identity in a digital age’. But it’s also got an awful of jokes in it. I haven’t gone THAT far away from that agenda. I think people like that in a comedy show.
What are the best/worst things about touring a show?
Touring is a matter of drinking wine, staying up late, writing on trains (that is, on trains using a laptop, not defacing them), making playlists and clocking up an astonishing number of miles. All these things have the potential to be both the best and the worst thing about touring. On the whole I really enjoy it, for all its drawbacks; it’s pretty satisfying to find an audience that cares specifically about you and your material.
Is there a big difference between ‘Mark Watson: Comedian’ and ‘Mark Watson, man doing his shopping’?
Essentially, ‘Mark Watson: Comedian’ is me saying all the things I walk around with, but never vocalise. That means that the on-stage person is a lot more frantic, full of rage, extroverted – but none of that is exactly a ‘persona’. It’s better described as an exaggerated version of my real self. It’s like a form of therapy where you get paid rather than the other way around.
Was there a definitive moment both when you decided that pursuing comedy was the path for you?
Weirdly I wouldn’t say there was a definitive moment. There were certain triggers – for example, I was in debating club at school and one of the judges disapprovingly said I ‘should get into stand-up comedy’. And then much later when I did my first Edinburgh show in 2005 I do remember people paying to see me for the first time, and thinking ‘maybe this could actually happen’. But unless you’re someone like John Bishop, I don’t think it ever hits you that you have definitely ‘made it’. Even now I sometimes expect everything to be taken away from me – for someone to inform me that there’s been a mistake and this isn’t a career after all.
Who was your inspiration as a younger comedian?
I hadn’t seen much comedy (as I mention above) when I was starting out, so I learned ‘on the job’ really. Comics like Dara Ó Briain and Adam Hills taught me my craft purely in the sense that I watched and learned from them. I was a big music-goer in my younger days, so a lot of my early inspirations were actually bands, like Welsh heroes Super Furry Animals. It was from music shows that I got the taste for creating an exciting live event.
Are there any goals or new directions you’re working towards?
Oh, lots. I have plenty of writing projects – more novels, plays, that sort of thing. But mostly my aim is to continue doing what I’m doing, just better. I think that’s the only aspiration you can realistically have. I mean, you should aim high, but you shouldn’t ‘aim for success’ – you should try to master your craft and hope that’s good enough.
What if anything would you prefer to erase from your history (or at least perhaps internet record)?
There’s an awful lot. I’d like to delete all the instances of me hurting people. Can you make that happen? Thanks.
And to balance that last one, what currently are you most proud of so far?
The marathon shows I’ve done (for Comic Relief and otherwise), just because it’s the only work I can really point to and say that nobody else could have done it. Even if that’s purely because nobody else would be stupid enough to.
Mark Watson: I’m Not Here, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Thu 10 Mar. Tickets: £18. Info: 019 7062 3232 / www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk; Sherman Cymru, Cardiff, Sat 12 Mar. Tickets: £18. Info: 029 2064 6900 / www.shermancymru.co.uk
words EMILY GARSIDE