Mark Watson: The Infinite Show | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Mark Watson: The Infinite Show

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

No, this is not the latest, and most ambitious, extension of Mark Watson’s famed 24-hour-plus shows. The title refers to the comedian’s determination to constantly strive towards better empathy in his life after this run is over.

However, his aim almost came unstuck within three minutes of the show starting, when he engaged in conversation with a man whose T-shirt insisted: ‘Real men don’t ride bikes, they ride women.’ Not the sort of message Watson, or most of the trying-to-be-woke audiences at the Fringe would immediately empathise with.

What form Watson’s long-term plans for increased empathy might take weren’t entirely made explicit. Though that may have been because the easily distracted comic, always hyper-aware of what’s going on in the room, went into spontaneous digressions that ate into his time and added even more urgency to his usual jittery, animated delivery.

How the project starts, though, is by him collecting some of the audience’s secret thoughts as they queued to get in, in the hope of getting a better understanding of other people. Some, it transpires, have an aversion to being served coffee in glassware prompting the first, and probably most petty, of all the circuitous diversions the show was to take. The second card offered a far more terrifying opinion that Watson sagely glossed over.

These comments add an air of spontaneity to the start and end of The Infinite Show. Not that Watson needs to engineer such prompts. Much of tonight’s hour became concerned with setting up and executing a practical joke that the audience were quick to help advance, thanks to the community spirit Watson always engenders.

Yet in the core of the show is some substantive stand-up, too, based around the limited access he has to his eight-year-old son and four-year-old daughter as he undergoes a messy and difficult divorce. Among the bonding experiences in their limited time together, Watson goes off to CenterParcs – which results in an hilariously withering attack on their rip-off policy that gives full vent to his middle-class consumer rage, as well as discouraging anyone from every booking a holiday with the company again.

Then there’s his interactions with his son’s school, as the ever-anxious comedian is forced to come up with increasingly imaginative excuses for being late, when the reason is simply that Watson Jr – who is revealed in a separate anecdote to have just as much a lack of empathy as his father claims for himself – will not do as he’s told.

There are flicks of the toll that the pressure of divorce is taking on Watson, with booze being his preferred self-medication, but although the backdrop is bleak, there’s a warming optimism to the stories Watson takes from it.

The comic’s worries about not being empathetic stem from the realisation that of all the stories of weird encounters he’s told in his 15 years of stand-up, he’s the common denominator. And perhaps, therefore, the problem.

Yet on stage he always displays an innate understanding of what the audience wants, shaping the show on the fly and creating a bespoke experience for every gig, an added flourish to a strong hour of stand-up.

Review date: 12 Aug 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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