If my show's not good by now, there's really no excuse... | Mark Watson talks to Tommy Holgte

If my show's not good by now, there's really no excuse...

Mark Watson talks to Tommy Holgte

So, the Fringe is imminent. Is it fair to say you're a veteran now?

I suppose so. This is my 17th Fringe in a row. I've been coming since I was a student. I was pretty enchanted during the university days. It was fun then, you didn't have to worry about the difficult aspects.

I'd have been taken aback if you'd shown me I'd be here every year for 17 years. In a way I'd have thought I'd do more with my life than just live from Edinburgh to Edinburgh. But that's the way of the comedian to some extent.  It's like how other people see Christmas.

How is your show looking?

I did it as a work in progress last year, then I've toured it 84 times, so it really couldn't have been worked on any more. If it's not good by now, there's really no excuse.

The show hasn't changed too much since it started, in terms of structure.  New bits get added, but I describe it like a football team.

Some jokes are part of the spine of a team, so in that sense, some jokes were signed up a year ago, and the team has been built around them. A year ago, it was a bit like an hour of messing about, but now it is much more polished. 

It's in a venue big enough, with tickets expensive enough, that the audience deserve a well-honed hour.

How does performing it in Edinburgh compare with when you do it on tour?

It's an interesting difference, because when touring you are the audience's main night out.

In Edinburgh, you're the culmination of a day's worth of shows.

You have to take into account the audience's wellbeing, you can't just be like, 'Hey, how you doing? What about Brexit?'

I try to warm them up in a different way, but then that's what everyone in Edinburgh is trying to do isn't it? Be different.

On tour, I don't have a warm-up act, I prefer to have the audience all to myself. I think it's strange when you buy tickets for somebody, then someone you've never heard of comes on for 20 minutes, then it's straight into an interval.

I like to come on and get to know them in the first half, then 'drive it home', so to speak, over the second.

In Edinburgh though, you have to go all-out. Even an hour is 5 minutes too long really. I think 50-55 minutes is ideal. Even in the greatest shows, you can end up feeling like: 'How long is left?'

So, in being different, will you mention Cameron and the pig?

I've never been that topical so wouldn't want to shoehorn stuff in, but there are certain major news stories that you have to namecheck, so I would briefly mention the EU for example. It is, after all, one of the biggest political upheavals we will see in our lifetime.

Even me, who tries to stand aside, needs to mention it really. A lot of comics will have re-written their shows heavily to incorporate the news, some , like me, will mention it jauntily - others won't at all.

Do you prefer to keep things light, then?

Definitely. Getting silliness into my show is always a modus operandi. I have more fun when something strange happens and the audience are a living part of the show.

Like with the 24-hour shows?<.b>

Yes, it's safe to say that with a 24-hour show, the audience are very much a part of it. There is much more room to digress. In fact you are looking for any opportunity to do so!

You'll be bringing the Edinbrolympics back as well this year. How does that tend to pan out?

It's something I've done before and it certainly ticks the silliness box. I've chosen to do it at The Pleasance this year, though, as opposed to Brazil. Doing it in Brazil would be a logistical nightmare.

It's a good way for people, myself and other comics, to let off steam. There'll be a lot of throwing of fruit.

I think it is the sort of event that is indicative of the way Edinburgh is going, to be honest. There used to be loads of late night shows that were just a mixture of stand-up sets, but now there's all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff going on.

Such as?

Seeing things like Comedians' Countdown is great, and these extra-curricular shows are where Edinburgh really differs. It's what stops the festival just becoming a trade fair. There is no culture like it, and it does evolve from year-to-year.

Spank is a good one. I remember doing it last year though and got on stage at 2.20am, thinking: 'I'm too old for this!'

But your only 36!

Having two kids makes you feel older, believe me.

How does the Fringe differ now that you have bairns?

I'm much more tired! I used to throw all my creative energy into the books and shows. I still have the same hunger and creative drive and like to push myself to the limits, but my limits have changed.

I have the family coming to visit. But only for one week. My oldest lad, who is now six, broke his femur in Edinburgh when he was just two, so automatically associates the place with pain. Hopefully we can reverse that.

What does he think to your job?

Well he's old enough to see me on telly now, so that is a bit strange for him I think.

The odd thing about this job is that sometimes I'm on TV doing stand-up, then Newsnight, then Celebrity Storage Hunters, but then I'll have a book out. He is more baffled than anything, I would say.

Out of those listed above, in what environment are you most comfortable?

Writing books is the thing I'm most comfortable doing. When It's just me spending time at a computer pulling it all together. That is when I'm most at home. Quite often literally.

Then I suppose stand-up and touring is best. Radio and TV are great but live performing is much more up my street.

It's a good job I enjoy it really, otherwise I'd have made a terrible error of judgement.

Mark Watson: I'm Not Here is at Pleasance One, 9pm and Mark Watson's Edinbrolympics is on from August 18 at 11pm. Tommy Holgate: Man in the Miracle is at 1.45pm in Moriarty's Bar, Laughing Horse Free Festival.

Published: 2 Aug 2016

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