Comedian, author and Taskmaster survivor Mark Watson is touring the UK with his new show This Can't Be It.
Ahead of his Farnham date, Mark took some time out of his busy tour schedule to discuss embracing technology during the pandemic, his new book and performing in a Portaloo...
How did you originally get into comedy?
I’d love it to be a more interesting story, but I just entered open-mic competitions when I was fresh out of the university, won one of them (with a five-minute routine, mostly about Army adverts and how macho they were), and kept going from there. People sometimes imagine there are kind of ‘overnight success’ stories in comedy, but by the time you see someone for the first time on TV, the chances are they’ve already been working towards that for years under the radar.
Has Covid-19 affected your comedy style, and what have you taken from the past 18 months?
The answer to both parts of the question is: I’ve learned the value of doing things online and finding different ways to bring comedy to an audience. My partner and I have put on drive-in shows, Zoom gigs, marathon live-streams, all sorts of other stuff. None of this replaces what we do best, but it can work as its own thing, and serve an audience who were sometimes left out of live comedy before. That’s been a good lesson to take.
What is the funniest thing an audience member has ever shouted at you?
The genuine funniest thing was not actually an audience member, but something somebody said about my comedy in an everyday situation (a plane). The story, though, is in the show, so – what can I say – people are just going to have to come to the Maltings to find out.
What can we expect from your stand-up routine?
Well, that story for a start. And also, just a lot of jokes, audience interaction (but in a non-frightening way), off-the-cuff nonsense, a bit of everything really. Except comedy songs. No songs.
We hear you have a new book coming out; can you tell us about it?
It’s called 8 Deaths (And Life After Them), and it’s an Audible Original. It’s all about the various setbacks, disappointments and embarrassments of a life in comedy – especially one like mine – and some thoughts how they can be turned into positives, or at least not knock you down as much as they feel like they will. So it’s kind of a memoir of ups and downs, and a self-help guide based on what I’ve taken from them. People seem to be responding well so far.
Can you tell us your worst joke?
I had one about Anne Frank when I was starting out which audiences used to like, but which I started to feel too guilty about (I think rightly). And also one about September 11th, same problem. I honestly can’t remember either of these punchlines because I’ve probably expelled them from my mind after getting booed once or even hearing a sharp intake of breath. But just be aware I was once a bad boy of comedy. For about ten seconds.
What’s the best venue that you have ever performed at?
I’d say probably the Sydney Opera House. But for balance, I once did a bowel-cancer awareness charity gig in a Portaloo on the South Bank. So I’ve covered the full range, I reckon.
Lastly, where can we find this life expectancy calculator app?
I’m not going to tell you what it’s called, because it will send you mad, like it has me. Or, you might make a rival stand-up comedy show about it and that also wouldn’t be good news for me.
Book tickets for Mark Watson: This Can't Be It on Fri 04 February at 8pm, here.