Mark Watson is a:-
"naturally funny man"
Written by James Rampton
MARK Watson is a naturally funny man.
To prove the point, the stand up, who is the father of a newborn baby, begins
our chat by telling me how shattered he is. "My phone is currently at
three% power, which is a reasonable metaphor for the state of my life right now.
The difference is that I'm not as easy to charge up as a phone. Coffee is my
equivalent of aphone charger, but it's not as reliable. But both my phone and I
are just about getting through most days!"
You'll be delighted to learn that Mark is bringing this trademark wry, self
deprecating sense of humour to a theatre near you very soon. Following a sell
out run at the Edinburgh Festival, this magnetic comedian is embarking on a most
welcome 65 date national tour with his wonderfully entertaining new show,
entitled "Flaws". In the show, which marks his 10th Anniversary in
comedy, Mark explores why, despite our lack of perfection and poor decision
making, humans are still pretty spectacular.
Even though he may not possess the answer to all of life's most serious
questions, the comic reflects with his customary hilarity on the process of
growing up, including the terrifying ageing process, parenthood and the fear of
passing terrible traits onto your children.
In this thought provoking adventure, he examines human character defects and the
effects his own flaws have had on his life. This is Mark's most personal and
funniest show to date.
When we meet in a North London cafe in the run up to the tour, Mark shows
himself to be a rare example of a comedian who is as engaging off stage as he is
on it. He makes for brilliant company; our hour together is punctuated by the
sound of laughter.
The stand up, who in 2006 won both the Panel Prize at:- 'The If.comedie
Awards' and the:- 'Time Out Critics' Choice Award', can be
summed up by all those adjectives beginning with:- 'C' like:-
charming, comic, chaotic and completely compelling.
But I'm not the only fan of this marvellously self effacing stand up. The
critics have also been queuing up to praise the comedian who is widely regarded
as one of the finest acts on the circuit.
The Times called him:- "The highest achiever the Edinburgh Festival has
seen this decade. A huge comic presence." Meanwhile, The Guardian
described him as:- "A prodigy", and the Daily Telegraph said he
was:- "Simply exhilarating".
Mark is a peerless live force, and he simply can't wait to be performing stand
up once again. The comedian, who has also recently starred with Henning Wehn in
Dave's new show, Road To Rio, explains just why he loves the live arena so much.
"The buzz you get from a live show is pretty unique. You walk out on stage and
you get an immediate, huge sense of love and affection from the audience. It is
only comedy where you get such an instant response and where the stakes are so
The comic, who on radio has presented the well regarded shows, Mark Watson Makes
The World Substantially Better, 100 Million or Bust and Mark Watson's Live
Address to the Nation, continues that:- "People instinctively feel that
stand up must be terrifying because the performer is so exposed. There is
no doubt that I find it nerve wracking. Comedians who feel no anxiety have
simply become machines. But in a live show, at least you are in control. With
TV, what you do might only be reflected in 5% of the final edit; you're just a
cog in the wheel. Even if you do well, you're at the mercy of casual audiences
who might decide they don't like you within 5 minutes and write nasty things
about you on the Internet. But when it's your tour, matters are purely in your
own hands. Yes, you're on your own and vulnerable, but the flipside is that you
have autonomy. Even if they hate it, you can say that:-
'At least it had integrity. I've successfully performed a show which I
wholeheartedly believe in, even if they didn't like it!'"
Mark, a fully fledged Edinburgh Fringe legend who has in the past manfully
performed marathon 36 hour shows, carries on that he finds touring the most
rewarding of all experiences. "It's so satisfying. Most comedians want to
get to the point where rather than being just another act on the bill, they are
touring under their own name. I don't aspire to much more than having a couple
of hundred people who've bought a ticket with my name on it; even though some of
them might not know who the hell I am! Then you're given artistic licence
because people have actually paid to see you. That's a great feeling. On tour,
you're delivering something that feels like it's entirely your own product, for
want of a better word. That's pretty satisfying."
The stand up, whose debut DVD:- "Mark Watson Live", is available
now, goes on to outline what subjects he will be covering in "Flaws".
"It's not unusual that, like me, a comedian claims to be performing:-
'His darkest, most personal show'. Hardly anyone
has written an entry to the Edinburgh programme saying:-
'I don't give a toss – I'm just going through the motions with a trawl through
my old routines'. These days PR people stop us telling the truth like
that in our blurbs! So a lot of observational comedy is performed by people like
me talking about things that have gone wrong. I've now been a professional
comedian for 10 years, and it seemed like the natural point to reflect on what
I've done. I couldn't help observing that most of the time has been spent making
money from telling people about my personal inadequacies. So 'Flaws' is about
how my hapless stage persona has at some point become a hapless human being."
The comedian, who has also appeared on We Need Answers, Never Mind the Buzzcocks,
Mock the Week, Would I Lie to You, Have I Got News for You, Live at the Apollo,
Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow and Channel 4's Comedy Gala, continues that:-
"The stuff I talk about on stage is not that different from my real life.
I have a definite shtick – a slightly manic nervous energy which makes something
of my incompetence and general failings. But that's actually very similar to how
I conduct my life. The effect of that on my mental well being is ambiguous. If
you're performing a version of yourself, it's quite easy to lose track of where
your real self begins and ends. In the show, I say that in my twenties I felt
that it was fun to tell anecdotes about the different ways I'd screwed up.
You're allowed to be a shambles in your twenties. But it is sobering to realise
that you've got no better as a 35 year old and that if you don't shape up,
you'll be a 50 year old who has still not got to grips with the basic pillars of
life. I have 2 children and a mortgage and still walk this strange tightrope
between a seemingly respectable life and complete chaos!"
Mark, a Cambridge graduate and former Footlights performer who is one of the
most intelligent and articulate comedians around, proceeds to go into further
detail about the show. "I'm interested in the whole idea of flaws and
fallibility. Perfection is not possible or desirable for humans. The denial of
human quirks and flaws is not healthy. But the fact that you know others have
flaws doesn't necessarily comfort you. I support the perennially underachieving
football team Bristol City, but their local rivals Bristol Rovers are even
worse. They're in freefall. People saying to me:- 'It
could be worse – you could support Rovers', doesn't really help. I'd like
my team to do well rather than take comfort from the failures of others. There's
only so much consolation you can get from the idea of someone else doing worse."
So, Mark adds:- "In 'Flaws,' I try to improve myself and find role models
to aspire to. My lack of confidence and self esteem has powered my shows and my
decisions in life. But if you look at the opposite, aggressively confident
people, a lot of their qualities are loathsome. In correcting your flaws, you
might actually move towards something even worse. Self improvement is very
As you can see, it is a pleasure to spend time in the company of this immensely
likable comedian. Never very far away from the next gag, Mark closes by joking
how relieved he is, after the exhaustion of new fatherhood, to be indulging in a
sneaky rest on tour.
"My life is out of control." smiles Mark, who is also a successful
novelist and whose latest book, Hotel Alpha, has just been published. "So
going on tour will be a great relief – I can't get out on the road quickly
enough! Performing the show has become the least stressful part of my day. All I
have to do is stand up and talk for an hour; that eclipses all my other
problems. Yesterday I did a warm up gig in Eastbourne. It was three hours
drive there, and I knew that when I got back to bed I'd have to get up almost
immediately with the new baby. So that hour on stage was the lowest stress I
felt all day!"
He concludes that:- "Yes, the rigours of touring are considerable. But
when you're on the road, people are scrabbling round at home doing much less
glamorous things. When comedians complain about touring, I assume they haven't
got families. Certainly there have been times at home when I've been delighted
to say:- 'You know I'd love to stay and deal with this
plumbing crisis, but sadly Bromsgrove awaits!'"
And the cafe once more fills with the sound of laughter.
If all that gets you interested, well take
note, as he will be performing at Liverpool's Unity Theatre, from 16 February to
17 February 2015, to book tickets call:- 0844 873 2888 or go
online. Also for more about Mark and other
tour dates and venues go to:-
Heads up -
'Drifters' (1929) with live score from Jason Singh - Preston
IF you like the films, take
Continental, Preston, will be
hosting a fantastic night, on 5 February 2015, from 8pm. this event
will see beatboxer, vocal sculptor and sound artist, Jason
Singh performing a live
vocal score to John Grierson's 1929 silent film:- 'Drifters'.
Using techniques of pre-recorded vocal sequences, live vocal
processing and sampling, Jason will be creating a sonic backdrop of
ambient textures, experimental atmospheres and rhythms created
solely by the use of the voice to accompany the film. Born in London
and now based in Manchester, Jason's work is rooted in inspiring
people to engage in exciting creative experiences, through
performance and participation. He has worked with numerous
organisations across the UK, developing beatboxing and vocal
sculpting as an art form. This quest has taking him to events like:-
Glastonbury Festival, the National Portrait Gallery, the VandA
Museum, the BFI and the Whitworth Art Gallery. If you do not know
who John Grierson was and you don't know his work, John was an
influential Scottish documentary filmmaker, who is often considered
the father of British documentary. Premiering in London alongside
Battleship Potemkin in 1929, his film 'Drifters'
follows North Sea herring fishermen through their dramatic daily
To book tickets for this show,
Other UK venues and dates are as follows:-
8 February - Birmingham MAC
9 February - Scunthorpe - Café INDIEpendent
1 February - London - Canada Water Culture Space
This 2015 tour is supported by Arts Council England.
Did you know? This re-run of
'Drifters', was premiered at
Manchester's Cornerhouse Cinema and has been seen in cinemas and
venues from Orkney to Iceland already!
Venue note for Preston - Under 16's must be accompanied by an adult.
Also the venue cannot issue refunds to under 16's who are not
accompanied by an adult.
Waterways Museum secures Heritage Lottery Fund Grant
THE Canal and River Trust
staff and volunteers at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere
Port, are celebrating after receiving confirmation of a grant of
£790,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as well as invaluable
match funding of over £50,000 from the Wolfson Foundation.
The HLF support will fund 3 key initiatives getting underway early
in 2015 as part of the museum's 'Window on the World'
project. The 1st strand will see new exhibitions and interactive
displays created, including hands on activities for visitors of all
ages, on the currently derelict historic slipway which occupies a
unique position overlooking the River Mersey Estuary and Manchester
Ship Canal. The other elements of the project will see the
restoration of 2 of the most nationally important boats in the
museum's collection – Mossdale and George. Each will be used to
inspire new audiences about the history of wide boats and their role
in the industrial development of the North West region.
The preservation of Mossdale has been made possible by the grant
from the Wolfson Foundation.
Mossdale, the last remaining all wooden 'Mersey flat',
it to be preserved, displayed and interpreted at the museum. George,
a rare surviving horse drawn 'short boat' will be
fully restored back to working order and will return to her original
role as a working wide boat. Rather than carrying cargoes, George
will offer a varied programme of activities and unique learning
opportunities as part of a community outreach and education project
on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and at the Museum during the winter
Through these working boats, the project will celebrate the lives of
the many ordinary people upon whose efforts the Industrial
Revolution was built and encourage people of all ages to engage with
their waterways heritage and the rich industrial history of the
The National Waterways Museum project's vision is to tell the story
of Ellesmere Port as a 'Window on the World' – a once
thriving port which was an important transhipment facility between
canal craft and seagoing ships.
Ellesmere Port provided a link
from the 2,000 miles of inland waterways to the River Mersey Estuary
and the world markets beyond. The Town's prime location enabled its
transformation into an industrial powerhouse, which played a pivotal
role in the industrialization of the North West.
This great news follows the recent announcements of Heritage Lottery
Fund support for the Gloucester Waterways Museum (£994,000) and
towards restoration of locks on the Grantham Canal (£830,500).
Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said:-
"Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we've been able
to fund a number of projects exploring the North West's waterways.
We're delighted to help secure the future of 2 of Ellesmere Port's
nationally important historic vessels and provide a fascinating
gateway into their heritage and importance to the region's rich
Canal and River Trust, Chief Executive Richard Parry, said:-
"I am delighted that our partners at the Heritage Lottery Fund
continue to recognise the importance and historic significance of
the UK's canal network. Today's announcement will see over £2.6m HLF
committed investment into the 2,000 mile network; helping to bring
it to life for more and more people. As a relatively new charity, we
are particularly delighted with the support being given by the
Wolfson Foundation; a significant funder of museums and galleries in
the UK; and look forward to a successful partnership with them. The
National Waterway Museum showcases the history of the canals and the
lives and times of the people who worked on them to its visitors of
all ages. The museum is also home to our national archive and
collection. As well as re-vitalising the Museum, this grant will
enhance our educational programme, and bring the history of the
customers warned of possible disruption
IF you are on TalkTalk, the
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the service for short periods of time. This email maintenance will
taking place, according to TalkTalk, on the 27 January, 28 January
and 29 January 2015, between:- 00:05 GMT and 06:00 GMT.
"During the upgrades some customers may be unable to login and use
the service for short periods of time." said TalkTalk.