Mark Watson at Latitude 2021 | Gig review by Steve Bennett
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Mark Watson at Latitude 2021

Gig review by Steve Bennett

Between them, Mark Watson and Robin Ince are to Latitude what the ravens are to the Tower Of London. If neither of them is here, all cannot be well with the world.

Ince is playing at festivals elsewhere this weekend – though his spirit remains in some Cosmic Shambles sciencey sessions – but Watson’s back in the comedy arena, giddily excited to be here.

Comics are often separated into high status or low, depending on whether they project themselves as being superior to the audience or inferior. Watson is of equal status. Like so many others, he gushes about the Hot Chip set he saw last night, wears a T-shirt from a previous festival, and shares widespread mixed feelings about the return of Latitude: is this an amazing life-affirming event, or a really bad idea, all things considered. Possibly both.

He brings himself literally to the audience’s level, too. After a few minutes he abandons the elevated stage to stand at the security barriers. In previous years, he wandered among the crowd, too - but, apparently, Covid prohibits that. With thousands of people bouncing along to the Chemical Brothers, shoulder-to-shoulder later that night, it seems a token concession to the pandemic.

Another of his old festival tricks is to set up an in-joke to pay off later in the set, which helps establish a benign conspiracy that we are one community of people, of whom chatty, slightly ditzy, Watson just happens to be the leader. And we’re happy for his company: when he loses track of time, someone shouts out that he has 17 minutes left, which seems unlikely, but he dutifully obliges with extra chat.
 
With the in-the-moment spirit that makes each performance unique, he also plays around with the sign-language interpreter on stage - as many comics in a similar situation might do. But Watson is more generous than the norm, making a star of his new sidekick, and getting her to translate the surreal, rather than the go-to trick of trying out the filthiest phrases. 

There’s more to Watson’s appearance than what he calls, with typical self-effacement, ‘jabbering’. He incorporates the great tried-and-tested routine about making a list of the sexiest Jews on Twitter and newer material about spying on his son’s internet search history, which again sidesteps the most expected revelations.

But it is the unrehearsed, or at least less rehearsed, sections that bind Watson most strongly to his audience, as well as the way he shares his relatable vulnerabilities, including his self-medication through wine. By the end of his set, we all feel like we’re friends here.

Review date: 25 Jul 2021
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Latitude

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