Mark Watson

Mark Watson

A former Cambridge Footlighter, Mark Watson first made an impact on the comedy circuit in 2002 when he won the Daily Telegraph Open Mic competition andwas a runner-up in So You Think You're Funny?

He has become known for his Edinburgh shows (2005's 50 Years Before Death And The Awful Prospect Of Enternity was nominated for the Perrier) and his gruelling shows that last more than 24 hours. Perrier's successor, the if.comeddies, awarded the panel award for best capturing the spirit of the fringe, in 2007.

Watson won the Chortle award winner for innovation in 2005, when he was also nominated for best breakthrough act, and was nominated for best compere in 2007.

He is also a novelist, with his debut Bullet Points, published in 2003; has written for TV and in 2007 landed his first radio series, Mark Watson Makes The World Substantially Better.

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Chortle Student Comedy Award final 2018

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Edinburgh Fringe

Variety was again the watchword at this year’s Chortle Student Award final, with several stand-up styles, a couple of character-based acts and a most peculiar hybrid of the two who would eventually take the title over tough competition.

We kicked off with two comedy stalwarts. Not just perennial host Mark Watson – striking the perfect balance of taking the piss and creating an anticipatory sense of occasion – but also first contender Jamie Dalgleish, who has a fair few miles on his own comedy clock. 

Indeed, he was crowned Scottish Comedian of the Year in 2011, after a year in stand-up, but eligible for this competition since he’s returned to university, Strathclyde, as a mature student. 

This personable Glaswegian certainly delivered a tight set, hitting punchlines squarely and regularly, with a specially fine description of the cardboard cut-out policemen designed to deter shoplifters. He comes across as a bit of a glint-in-the-eye rascal, especially when suggesting some means of dispatching Ukip-voting pensioners and pranking cat-lovers.

Such material is imprinted with the quick, earthy wit of the working class areas of his hometown – as encapsulated by the perfectly-deployed phrase ‘ma granny’s fanny’ – mixed with a keen observational edge.

Ania Magliano – the first of three Cambridge students all given a deafening, and sometimes intrusive, reception from a hefty contingent from The Fens – came over as a little more practised, without Dalgleish’s fluidity. 

She had some strong material about having divorced parents and what she’s learned from feminism, though the second half of the set aimed lower, focussing entirely on dildos. This seemed cheap, relying on the subject matter alone for laughs, rather than having any great jokes about it. The first half of her set had suggested she was better than this.

Bexie Archer certainly made an entrance, taking to the stage dressed as a potted plant, an elaborate costume she brilliantly made absolutely no reference to in her entire set. She sets herself up as a nervously giggling amateur, and even though chuckling at your own jokes is supposed to be a comedy no-no, she has so much unaffected, winsome charm that it becomes infectious. She has real funny bones, barely needing to say a word before triggering the audience to laugh.

Although she hides it behind this skittish, just-happy-to-be-here persona, this Salford student also has some unexpectedly strong material. You wouldn’t expect a feminist take on pornography from such an apparent innocent, but it’s snuck in as part of a stream-of-consciousness routine. She gabbles excitedly, grasping for words, which gives her a scintillating energy and a faux vulnerability that makes audiences receptive to her fine gags.

For all those reasons, she took the crown.

James Allen, the second Salford student in a row, is clearly influenced by James Acaster, as indeed was last year’s winner, Riordan DJ. He sets out his geekish, ultra-ironic low-status position from the blocks, describing some humiliating incidents from his past as if they were a laddish boast. Though you could be impressed by his absolute dedication to making things as awkward for himself as possible.

The self-deprecation continued with an embarrassing thing he blurted out during sex, and the uselessness of the performing arts degree into which he has sunk so much money. But his gaucheness when it comes to his relationships with women and geekiness in general provides the backbone to some funny, sardonic gags.

Cambridge’s Rhiannon Shaw came on in the guise of humourless author Elsie McClutchie, from Dumfries and Galloway, giving a reading of her book, Restocking The Cupboard: A Guide To Sex In The Golden Years. 

The deliberately clumsy metaphors that title suggests are all present and correct, peppered with choice phrases such as ‘vaginal dryness of the mind’ but better yet are the sly jokes she fits around the reading, which are droll and dry in tone, the fruits of a  cunning comic mind.

Alongside Allen, Lulu Popplewell served up the most personal stand-up of the final, again mining her lonely childhood when she was a perpetual target for bullies. 

She has much more confidence now, certainly on stage, where she discusses her life with a disarming matter-of-fact honesty, especially when it comes to her battles with addiction. She’s been clean and sober for three years now, but gets very British when that revelation gets a cheer, says with a humble sarcasm: ‘I’m an inspiration, guys.’ A short section about a failed relationship was less fruitful, but this mature student from Regents University, London, clearly has something to say and the wherewithal to say it.

Alex Franklin proved a strange fish, adopting a tart Germanic accent as he proclaimed about how his life is full of existential woe, describing a day that includes random howls of terror, his miserable shift working in a ruler factory, and his paranoia that his mother is trying to poison him with a pear disguised as a grape(?) 

There are plenty of pithy, clever and offbeat lines in the tensely surreal monologue. His snippy delivery is a little harsh on the ears, and the narrative gives little to hold on to, but Franklin, the third of the Cambridge mob, can definitely write a distinctive gag,

Finally James Trickey, who also adopted a harsh, condescending demeanour. ‘Listen here, dickheads,’ is his opening gambit as he berates everyone for the way they recite their phone numbers. Such supercilious pedantry is not only taken to its hilariously odd logical conclusion, but lays the groundwork for a magnificent callback later in the set.

The arrogance continues with some stinging jokes accusing us of racism, although he does let the tough armour slip when he goes into more conversational routines, especially on how Asian people call him ‘Jame’ even though his name was supposed to be universally pronounceable. It’s a simple enough bit, but Trickey liberally garnishes with side jokes that give it a huge lift.

With such well-developed writing skills and an admirably imperious manner, this Bristol maths student took the runners-up place.

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Published: 15 Aug 2018

Far Too Happy

The Footlights gang have been nothing if not ambitious…
1/01/2009

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2001

Far Too Happy


Montreal 2009

Britcom gala 2009


Agent

Victoria at Karushi
Contact by email
Office: 0845 9005511

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