Don't mention the Magners: Mark Watson
Newbury Comedy Festival: Mark Watson and Danny Bhoy at The Corn Exchange, Newbury, on Saturday, July 17
WHEN I told someone I was going to see Mark Watson, they asked if he was a singer. What I should have replied was “no, he’s the guy from the Magners pear cider advert”, because Watson fears this has been his main contribution to society. He explores this in his Edinburgh Fringe show Do I Know You?, showcased during Newbury Comedy Festival in a double-header with Danny Bhoy.
On tour last year, Watson explained, he suffered a crisis of confidence, brought on by too much time alone in hotel rooms and his looming 30th birthday, leading him to question his choice of career and his place in the world. Looking to his two heroes, Barack Obama and Derren Brown, he considered that if he had as much power of them, he would be unable to resist the urge to abuse it in the most schoolboy manner.
While Watson’s comedy is not of the “laugh until your sides hurt” school, his material is consistent, even in its developmental stage, and his little self-deprecating asides to the audience that draw you in and create a genuine warmth in the room. He also drew pleasure from attempting to play a trick on a member of the audience who left the auditorium, enjoying it all the more when the man scuppered his plan by hiding rather than returning to his seat.
Watson’s show had a redemptive element, as he detailed the joy of new fatherhood, a teacher’s impact on his eventual career, and his efforts to tell off minor wrongdoers by booing at them and converse with strangers - even those who only recognise him from the cider advert.
Watson described his performance as “rambling”, and he apologised several times, both for swearing - even though it was in the context of mentioning a viscous comment about him posted on a Youtube page - and for the content of the show, which he is currently honing for Edinburgh next month. However, he did not appear to lack confidence - he has now dropped the Welsh accent he used to perform with in favour of his “real” voice - and he had nothing to be sorry for. Apart from that advertising campaign, maybe.
The lesser-known Danny Bhoy was an excellent complement to Watson. Also previewing his Edinburgh Fringe show, By Royal Disappointment, this handsome Scot considered how Chamberlain would have worded a text message declaring war on Germany - “Invade Poland? Not cool :-( “ - and how annoying a Scrabble opponent Shakespeare would be with his propensity to invent new words.
The main theme of Bhoy’s hour was the social awkwardness that ruined his introduction to the Queen, and means he remembers his big moment on US TV’s The Late Show With David Letterman only for a backstage meeting with film star Matt Damon when he told him he’d “never seen Titanic”. Damon wasn’t in Titanic. That was Leonardo DiCaprio.
It was a well-honed show, wrapped and ready for Edinburgh Fringe. He’s been performing stand-up for over a decade, and is apparently already big in Australia. I reckon the Aussies are on to something with this one.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, July 22