Interview: Mark Watson – ‘I’m gradually tweaking things towards darkness’
Bristolian author, stand-up and professional worrier does some fretting about identity issues for his next blockbuster touring show, I’m Not Here
For someone who appears as semi-permanently stressed as Mark Watson, the prospect of boarding a 24-hour flight and not being allowed to enter the country at the other end is a troublesome scenario. Luckily for Watson, he can turn such a fraught situation to his advantage by using it as the trigger for another stand-up tour. With I’m Not Here, he has once more got his misfortune onto the nation’s stages.
‘It doesn’t take much of an incident to make me get an hour of nonsense out there. The show is structured around this journey to Australia where I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be allowed in at the other end because of a passport issue. It was totally valid but had a tiny rip in the photo page, which would technically render it invalid.’
As well as providing Watson with a sustained 24-hour neurosis, it got him pondering what this meant in terms of who and what we are as 21st century human beings. ‘I started thinking about how we have fewer physical proofs of our identity. In the old days you wouldn’t have had a problem with this scenario as you’d have a plane ticket and dozens of forms of identity. The show has become about the shift from the physical to the virtual and the fact that more of the objects that we used to depend on have been replaced by ideas of objects.'
The ex-Footlights member and former face of a popular brand of pear cider has been best known in the comedy world for his innovation and energy. Epic affairs such as the 24 Hour Jamboree to Save the Planet and Mark Watson and His Audience Write a Novel have helped him carved out a name as an event-comedy pioneer who is just as happy allowing other people time in the limelight. But as he gets older (and maybe wiser?), his solo stage shows are taking on a more personal perspective.
'My general wish for this show is for it to be quite confessional in style. I’ve always had a lot of personal anecdotes, but it’s all generally been quite light. I think I’m gradually trying to tweak things towards darkness. I tend not to regard some subjects as off-limits these days, and I’ve probably got more confidence that the audience are more interested in hearing what I want to talk about rather than me desperately trying to think about what’s funny and going with that. Having said that, I’ve always tried to maintain that no matter how serious the territory you get into, the obligation is to try and get a lot of laughs.'
Mark Watson: I’m Not Here is touring until Sat 22 Oct.