Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Mark Watson - Flaws

In 2011 I went and saw Mark Watson live. You can read the review here if you want. I loved it. He was a break from the normal stand-up. Most will have a lesser-known stand up perform half an hour of material, before an interval and then the main event. The comedian then slips off, comes back on stage, and then disappears after receiving a few more laughs. Mark Watson does none of that, and it's brilliant. One could be mistaken for thinking he has no clue what is going on; but I think it's more a demonstration that he knows better than most comedians, what is happening.

On Sunday, I went and saw him again at The Gulbenkian, Canterbury, and it was very much a similar format to when I saw him on his 'Request Routes' tour. Not much has changed, apart from having slightly more facial hair, being spectacleless, and less Welsh.

'Flaws' has no definable beginning. Last time he began by speaking to the audience via typing on a laptop screen. This time he came on stage and began jogging on a treadmill, of which a microphone stand placed conveniently in front. This, as he put it, was his warm up. He chatted to the audience, and made general observations about the audience for nearly 10 minutes. He then walked off stage before immediately reappearing and commencing the show.

He is incredibly endearing, and it's hard to not fall in love with him, just a little bit. His body language is always relaxed, and does everything he can to break down the barrier between him and his audience, such as holding the microphone low. Another technique, and perhaps a more sinister one, is looking up members of the audience on Twitter. The amount he knew one member of the audience, such as televisual habits and pets, is a scary reminder of the times we live.

As always, his comedy comes from his real life. To reuse a sentence from my last review of Watson, 'He is very much the raconteur'. However, unlike last time, this was much more personal. In this tour, unsurprisingly, he talks about the flaws which have obviously, over the past year or so, made themselves apparent to him. He shows that there is a faint line between comedy and tragedy, as his main topics for discussion cover his reliance on drink ("If only there was a word like workaholic that describes drinking too much alcohol"), and hating, and losing confidence in, his own work. It then made me look at his 2011 tour in a different, darker, and unexpected light, as the veil was lifted.

But don't be thinking that this is a serious and dark show, because it is quite the opposite. He is refreshingly honest, but perhaps only showing the funny side of his problems. It is isn't until afterwards that you actually realise how frank he was. At the time, it is incredibly funny. Particularly when he opens up about his breaking point, which was at a Thomas the Tank Engine film premier with his toddler.

In a unique twist, he recreates the moment for the audience, for a quick moment of audience participation, props and music. You sit there in awe of what nightmare he has created in just a few moments, and it had the audience in fits of laughter. However, like always with a Canterbury audience, it's hard work for a comedian to get the audience to participate.

The show consists of a lot more than just chronicling his despair from the past year or so, as many of those themes are broken up by tangents about songs, his 'personal' relationship with Madonna, and irritation at Keep Calm merchandise. It is put together beautifully. And unlike a lot comedy shows, it has final message, which is quite enlightening and optimistic; "Being human is bloody hard" but, to paraphrase, we can find comfort in remembering that we're better than cats and worms. And then after checking the time with an audience member like he seems to always do, he did his usual self-promotional admin before leaving the stage.

I certainly hope I get the opportunity to see him next time he tours (not that he has even finished this tour yet), as I find real joy in seeing him live. He has become like a friend, and I probably know more about him than I do most of my friends. The one qualm with this show was that, despite still consisting of over 90 minutes of material, it didn't feel long enough. And if that's the only negative point I can think of, then it isn't bad going.

The last stand up show I went to see was at The O2, and coming back to this few-hundred seater, I appreciate it's intimacy a lot more. Comedy just isn't the same in those places and you can never beat a small, local theatre. And if you can see a brilliant comedian like Mark Watson at one, then you can't wish for anything better.

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