Latitude Review: Mark Watson

On Saturday night I caught Mark Watson doing a Q&A to promote his new novel in the Literature tent. I was surprised to hear that he considered his proper job to be a novelist rather than a stand-up (I’m paraphrasing here, I was there for fun and had put my notebook to bed for the night). I’ve always felt that he was a brilliant performer and he confirmed this on the Sunday afternoon.

Watson started the gig while standing in the middle of the audience – one of his trademark moves – and working his way to the stage. This was his ninth Latitude show, he explained, and it was a significant one for a few reasons. Firstly he felt he had slipped down the bill and was no longer as relevant as he once was – TV had moved onto the likes of Katherine Ryan, he quipped in a wry aside – and secondly his six-year-old son was watching him from the side of the stage - actually stage-front, where we could all see him, how’s that for emotional blackmail? Laugh or the kid gets a complex.

Actually there was no need to tug the heart-strings. The other thing Watson had said in the Literature tent the previous evening was that he doesn’t write his sets down. Despite the fact that Watson has been on tour recently this certainly had the feel of a set written on the hoof. Spotting some very young children in the audience  – “2005? That’s not a year you can be born in.” – he mused wittily on the fact that there were people enjoying him who didn’t know what Woolworths was.

A riff about Right Said Fred’s lyrics meant nothing to the children in the crowd but got a huge laugh from the rest of the crowd. As did an anecdote about being regularly mistaken for David Baddiel, though I suspect a chunk of the audience didn't even know who Baddiel was. It didn't really matter as the story was told so well it would have been funny anyway.

Watson might have joked about trying to maintain a “sustainable career” but he didn’t seem to be having any problems entertaining this full tent. For someone who suffers from depression he did a lot of giggling. Inevitably his son came close to stealing the show simply by waving his arms in the air but Watson senior always managed to grab back the limelight, sometimes by quoting remarks his son had made. It might have teetered on the brink of Kids Say The Funniest Things at times, but together they made a great double act. Apparently when Mark Watson goes off to work his son instructs him to “be funny daddy.” He was certainly on message at Latitude.

More Latitude Reviews here.


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