Mark Watson: I\'m Worried That I\'m Starting To Hate Almost Everyone In The World

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Oh, these Fringe shows with their clever, obtuse titles. What could Mark Watson's second Edinburgh offering possibly be about?

Startled by a mugging, the 2005 Perrier newcomer nominee seems to have spent several months of the last year in a grumpy mood, with everyone from an officious toilet attendant to a sluggish cashpoint user getting his hackles up.

He's vaguely categorised all these irritants into seven deadly sins ­ or actually six, because he has applied common sense, rather than centuries of tradition, to finally accept greed and gluttony are pretty much the same. Then, by inviting the audience to pluck icons representing each from a homemade sack of sin, he can jumble up the order of the anger-fuelled anecdotes.

It's only a vague nod to get his material to fit anything like structure. The best comics don't really need such artifice to get a laugh, and Watson ­ as this show conclusively proves ­ has joined that premier league. He is, quite simply, a very funny man, who knows instinctively how to harness that God-given skill.

First up, he's immensely likeable. Nervy, vulnerable but clearly passionate, you're on his side from the start. And as he buzzes with jittery energy, you can't help but get swept along in the breathless Welsh-accented delivery, riding his tide of adrenaline. You have no choice but to listen intently if you want to keep up, which means you are immediately attuned to the pace and rhythms of his speech, your pulse racing with his anger, so when he cracks a joke, of which there are many, you instinctively laugh.

In fact, he gets so many words in, it's as if he's adding an alternative soundtrack to the show, like a DVD commentary. Between the material, every gag is rated, every audience reaction analysed. The unyielding self-awareness even leads him to priming a 'lull' alarm, to counter the dip in energy almost every show experiences 40 minutes in. He deliberately takes a little break at that point to allow us to relax, but he can't help himself from unleashing another fast-paced routine. And throughout the show he makes jokes of his clumsiness, his ease at being distracted, or his poor choice of punter to engage in banter.

These verbal annotations serve two purposes: first, they add to that sympathetic portrait of an insecure man, and second they give him a second bite at every cherry: if a gag doesn't work, his deconstruction of it will. But more often that not, both the line and its follow-up will be received by waves of mirth, so enjoyable is Watson's company.

Minute-for-minute, this is one of the most laugh-filled shows on the Fringe. Half of them come from solid, recognisable jokes; the others from brilliant observations and his impassioned overreaction to them. The eyebrows raise, the eyes widen in incredulity and the pitch of his voice rises, as he launches yet another rant on the ridiculousness of the situations he experiences ­ even though, in truth, they're perfectly everyday occurrences.

Watson's something of a hero of the Fringe, thanks to his awesome efforts at marathon running-times. This year, he's also writing a book while he's here. But let's not overlook the fact that even on the level playing field of an hour-long show, all experimental ideas aside, he is quite simply a gifted comedian who can hold a room in constant laughter, simply by talking to them.Reviewd by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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