'It was like I was blacking up' | Mark Watson on his fake Welsh accent... as he reveals plans for a new 24-hour show

'It was like I was blacking up'

Mark Watson on his fake Welsh accent... as he reveals plans for a new 24-hour show


Mark Watson is to perform another 24-hour show, a decade after the last.

'I'm planning to do one next year, revive it, because next year will be the tenth anniversary of the last one in Edinburgh' he told Ricky Gervais on his Deadly Sirius podcast.

The Bristol-born comic also revealed the lengths he went to pretending to be Welsh when he started out, maintaining his fake accent even in cars with other comics.

'People did genuinely believe I was Welsh' he recalled. Having Welsh parents, 'it wasn't a huge character, it was a believable voice.

'So I'd be getting a lift back with someone and they'd be like, "have you lived in Wales all your life?" [In Welsh accent] I'd go "yes, years now, it's nice to come to London". It's one of those things everyone knows, the bigger the lie you tell, the more you have to embellish it.

'When I started it, I was only doing five minutes in pubs, like you do when you start. But then I started to be successful and was known as "that Welsh guy". So then it was too late. It was a classic Mrs Doubtfire thing. You don't expect it to work. But once it is working you go "shit". I was basically dressed as a woman. But Welsh.'

Unfortunately, the lie started to catch up with him. 'Firstly, I got invited to this dinner for young Welsh achievers' he marvelled. 'I wanted to go because at that point I was earning no money. So if I could get dinner out of it, I was like "alright!"

Welsh gigs were particularly tricky. 'Because I had family in Wales I could bluff up to a point but when it's a different language it's time to put your hands up in the air really. Also, I was starting to be invited on to radio shows like Loose Ends, BBC chat shows … so then I was like, "I'm going to have a whole conversation in a fake accent" … If real Welsh people had seen through it, I would have dropped it faster.

'But yeah, people never challenged me on it and it was getting to the stage where I was described as "Welsh comedian". Meeting real Welsh comedians, 'I was starting to feel that I was stealing a living from them.'

Indeed, when he and Rhod Gilbert appeared in new act competitions together, Gilbert would say to him: "Oh, it's a nightmare, there's two of us Welsh, so whoever goes on first, they'll get all the Welsh jokes." Things like that made me feel really bad. I started to feel like I was blacking up in a less controversial way.'

Watson would get particularly nervous speaking to the audience after Welsh gigs, so he established a cover story about coming from Bridgend, where he'd spent some of his childhood.

'At the time I had a whole fake CV' he explained. 'But I remember one time a guy called my bluff. He said "do you still go to O'Neill's?' And I was like, "yeah, yeah, sometimes". And he said, "that's funny, it burned down". I was like, "I'm leaving right now".

'It was becoming more and more stressful. I was having to learn more and more fake biographical facts to sustain it. I'd never planned it to be a lifelong thing because when you start in stand-up you've got no idea if it'll work out. I was starting to do longer and longer shows, getting on TV more.'

Ultimately, he began performing in his own accent abroad, emboldened by the fact that Australian and Canadian crowds didn't distinguish between Welsh and English.

'It was a far more exhausting effort to keep it going than I ever imagined. The stupid thing was, I wasn't even that different from my real voice' Watson lamented.

Published: 13 Mar 2018

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