Mark Watson: 'I wouldn't put it past myself to try and contact Elton John to record a song'
- Brian Donaldson
- 29 April 2020
The innovative comedian prepares for another 24-hour entertainment extravaganza
In 2004, Mark Watson was emerging as a serious talent in the stand-up world. At the Edinburgh Fringe that year, he shared the bill with Rhod Gilbert on a show entitled Stereocomics, a name that reflected the pair's Welshness (except Bristol lad Watson was only using the Welsh accent as a shield for his own natural shyness, and also because it sounded extremely funny when applied to his breakneck style of stand-up).
But he gained arguably more attention for his curating of an Overambitious 24-Hour Show which featured guests and japes aplenty, and culminated in a successful marriage proposal. In similar vein since then, he's laid on a Seemingly Impossible 36-Hour Circuit Of The World in 2006 (that escapade won him the inaugural Edinburgh Comedy Award Panel Prize), a 24-Hour Jamboree To Save The Planet the following year, and the Last Ever 24-Hour Show in 2009. Except that event proved not to be the format's swansong as he now prepares to plunge into his 24-Hour Watsonathon with monies raised going to various charities. But this one will be a little different given that he will be directing events during lockdown via webcam. Here, he tells us about getting famous people involved, worrying about his backdrop and opening proceedings up to the public.
What will be the scope of the 24-Hour Watsonathon?
The fun thing is that there is the possibility for anyone to be involved as everyone is in their house, so the potential scope of guests is enormous compared to the live shows. But at the same time I won't know what's going to happen until the night. What I'm trying to do is think of ideas, themed hours, little game-show formats, that kind of thing. It needs to be a bit more formally programmed than the live ones because with those you can rely on a lot of the audience's goodwill in the moments when you say that you're out of ideas. But no one wants to watch someone saying that to a webcam.
Will there be any bits of actual stand-up happening across the 24 hours?
In the past there wasn't much in the way of stand-up including by me, and it was little more than a deranged comedians sleepover. That's not a bad description of what this will be like. But at least once an hour I'd like to have someone good to do actual serviceable stand-up for five minutes so that people are reassured that there is genuine comedy going on. As well as comedians I've put a call out to all sorts of musicians and performers; the dream would be to have a good musical act per hour too. The theme of these shows in the past has been hounding famous people to be part of them so I wouldn't put it past myself to try and contact someone like Elton John to record a song. In fact by 18 hours in and with the inhibitions gone, there's no knowing who I might be trying to contact.
Everyone gets very concerned about their backdrop these days. What's your one going to look like during the Watsonathon?
I've done a few gigs online and been in front of a bookcase. It is a real one but looks like l've just set it up to appear clever. It looks like the living room of an academic who appears on the news. Over the course of an entire day, I wouldn't rule out trying to recreate a few famous backdrops; that might be an ongoing challenge. And what I'll try to get other people to do is to set challenges on costumes or see what things they can do in their house. It will work best if we can simultaneously get people to do weird stuff at home.
How do you prepare physically for such an event?
I've learned that any attempts to have a sleeping structure beforehand doesn't work; the more I think about how I should be sleeping, the less I actually sleep so I'll probably not try to overthink it. But physically it should be less demanding this time because I don't have to go anywhere or even stand up; psychologically it will be more challenging because broadcasting into total silence for 24 hours is a big ask even for someone with my masochistic history. Obviously, the hope is that people will interact and chip in; I've still never had the experience of talking on my own for 24 hours. I think my girlfriend is going to feel quite a lot of pressure as the one live audience member.
And this event isn't just open for professional performers is it?
Anyone can get involved. In past shows, members of the public have been the stars by doing insane stuff. Anyone can go on Twitter and find me, I'm open to things: we literally have a day to fill. So if anyone has a creative or self-sabotaging idea that might work for this, I'll be very happy to hear.
Mark Watson's 24-Hour Watsonathon starts online on Friday 1 May at 9pm. If you want to get involved or make a donation, go to his Twitter: @watsoncomedian.