Mark Watson: This Can't Be It | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review © Matt Crockett
review star review star review star review star review half star

Mark Watson: This Can't Be It

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Comedy is a field that tends to attract people who don’t feel they can do proper grown-up life all that well.  And that means many stand-ups, especially when approaching a milestone, will reflect on those failings, usually in a cheerily self-deprecating ‘aren’t I useless?’ sort of way.

Mark Watson, as is his wont, has intensified those insecurities into a full-on existential calamity. He confesses to being not just a bloke who’s a bit impractical but as someone suffering a crisis of purpose, unsure whether he’s got any sort of grip on life.  A pandemic that pulled away whatever certainties a comedy career offered only exacerbated those feelings – a wake-up call that, especially as a father of two, he really ought to have his shit together by now.

As he speeds through these anxieties at a head-spinning pace, he briefly stops to acknowledge: ‘Now and then I like to throw a joke in, so you’re not watching a man have a breakdown.’ 

While it’s always nice to have a punchline, it’s the apparently unfiltered confessions themselves that are so funny – the truth, when analysed by as keen and restless a mind as Watson’s, landing harder than any pun.

He may be a bundle of neuroses, but he channels them brilliantly. He’s vulnerable but in absolute control of the material, hilariously describing his embarrassing failings with a surfeit of wonderful lines, some almost thrown away. Likening fatherhood to being in a permanent press conference could be a few minutes for some comedians, here it’s dismissed in seconds, yet resonates just as strongly.

He covers other aspects of lockdown, too, from Covid sceptics, to use a kind term, to those who selfishly boasted of enjoying lockdown.  And when he mentions Microsoft Teams the two words elicit as strong a boo now as  ‘Margaret Thatcher’ did during the political peak of alternative comedy.

For all his protestations of being bad in a crisis, Watson is the comedian you want when a gig is weird, as he embraces the oddness. Here, he starts his performance amid the audience, and has plenty to say off-mic about the peculiarities of the Pleasance set-up this year, but palpably delighted to be here at all.  Throughout the hour, his commentary on anything from the honking geese in the background to the guy who peeks into the performance space emphasises that any gig is a unique moment, underlining the joy of live performance.

Even with such unplanned digressions, Watson covers a lot of ground in this hour, fuelled by nervous energy, yet still leaves the audience wanting more. That augers well for the full, longer tour show that hits the road this autumn.

And the show becomes so much more than being just about him, too.  An app that estimates the age you’ll die is deployed to remind us all that our days are numbered, and we should embrace every one of them. 

The sentiment could sound twee, but Watson makes it inspiring, especially in light of the past 18 months that have restricted life’s possibilities.  An hour or two of our limited span on Earth in his uplifting, witty company is time excellently spent.

Mark Watson: This Can't Be It is at the Pleasance Courtyard at 6.45pm  until Wednesday then on tour.

Review date: 23 Aug 2021
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.