Monday, 26 July 2010

Mark after hours - Do I know you? (yes, I do!)

After Mark's show at the Riverside Studios on Saturday evening, a group of five of us (me, Emma, Aislinn, her sister and Simone) waited in the hope of saying hello to Mark. As Aislinn has already mentioned in her blog, a helpful theatre chap showed us the correct door, because we were waiting in the wrong place. When Mark came out, he saw me first (cos I was standing nearest the door) and immediately asked 'Are you Heather?' He had seen my photo in my ipod challenge blogs, hence he recognised me - and Aislinn and I had both tweeted him that we would be there, and were hoping to meet him afterwards, so he knew to look out for us. He also recognised Aislinn.

I'm not quite sure, but I think Aislinn & I mentioned having seen him at the Rhod Gilbert recording the previous week at this point(he hadn't been able to stay to say hello at the end that time) I must have mentioned my 20 year old son - because he was with me that night and had also loved Mark's set (I had previously tweeted this to Mark) cos it led to Mark saying (and I know it sounds cheesy, but it was really lovely and a real boost for me!) 'You don't look old enough to have a 20 year old son - no, seriously, you don't!'

I think, as Aislinn has mentioned, that Mark must have been the first to mention us all going to the bar for a drink, but I hadn't heard him say that, so I tentatively asked if he had time to have a drink with us, and was delighted when he said yes. When we got to the bar, I asked if I could get him a drink. He said 'Are you sure that's alright?' I assured him that it was (I was very pleased indeed to be able to buy him a drink) and even before I asked what he'd like, I could've guessed it would be a glass of red wine - and indeed it was.

I really enjoyed the chat, although I was sorry that we ended up talking about Tim Minchin for a while early on - I honestly don't know how that happened - I certainly didn't introduce the subject: probably Mark did, cos he knows I am a TIm fan, cos I'd included Tim in the ipod challenge. Much that I love Tim, I didn't want to talk about him then: I wanted the focus to be fully on Mark, not his Arena-filling flamboyant friend. It also led to a sticky-wicket bit in the conversation when Mark (possibly forgetting that, with a 20 year old son, I am one of those older ladies who is only 3 years away from turning 50) characterised some of the slightly sad older - in their late 40s/50s - obsessive (& oddly dressed) Tim fans/stalkers, not meaning to include me, but it was borderline....

Anyway, the conversation moved on, and we chatted about many things - touring, Kit, his novels, the possibility of including some singing in future shows, his earliest TV appearances (and strange clothes!), Tom Basden, the Watsonian picnic, the ipod challenge, TYSIC - and its pronunciation, etc, etc (I became a bit self-conscious that I was hogging most of the chatting for a period, which wasn't intentional - maybe just cos I was fairly relaxed around him, and just the geography of where we were each standing)

As the level of wine left in Mark's glass diminished, we moved from conversation to conventional fan requests for book signings and photographs. Emma had brought Crap at the Environment, I had brought A Lighthearted Look at Murder (my favourite of his 3 books, all of which I have). Aislinn, ofcourse, had her lovely sketch signed.

We all got lovely photos with Mark, although he looks a bit self-conscious in all of them, bless him. I was glad to be able to remove the red-eye from my photo, which improved it greatly!

After the photos, we were all standing in different places, which made it easier for Mark and Aislinn to have a good chat. They talked about her long sponsored walk, to raise money for MND, and Patrick Joyce, the inspiration for that. Also the odd coincidence at the Rhod Gilbert show, where she hadn't know Mark was performing when she wrote about wanting to befriend him on her audience participation sheet.

Several other people came up to Mark while we were in the bar, to congratulate him or to ask for an autograph. I liked seeing him get this validation from others.

Just before he left, I gave him a small box of Belgian chocolates to share with Emily - he said she loved belgian chocs, so I was glad I'd brought them.

I really wanted to give him a hug, but couldn't quite break the inhibition to do so. Ah well, maybe next time.

When Mark left, we hung back for a while, even though we would be needing to head in the same direction - cos we didn't want to look like we were following him!

As several of us have said, we all felt it was particularly nice of Mark to stay for such a long time that evening, despite being so tired, and with a poorly baby at home.

His mini-blog on the way home revealed his uncertainty about how the show had gone that night. Looking back on his reactions in the bar any time one of us said something complimentary about the show, it's clear in retrospect that he was unconvinced.

Poor tired, overly-perfectionist, loveable boy! To know him is to love him.

PS Aislinn's blog about meeting Mark can be found at

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Mark Watson makes a difference to me!

I jotted down some notes last night after seeing Mark Watson’s Edinburgh preview show at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, and meeting him for a chat in the bar afterwards. But I’m starting fresh with this blog, just referring to yesterday's notes to jog my memory. I may, in fact, do two separate blogs – one about the show and then a separate one about the after-show bit.

So, first, here are my jottings about the Show. The problem is, I don’t want to include anything too revealing about the material in the show, as that would constitute ‘spoilers’ for anyone likely to be seeing the show in Edinburgh or on tour (or even on DVD as I believe it’s due to be filmed at some point!)

So more of an overall impression, then, plus the one-time-only unique bits, due to certain audience members.

The show takes its inspiration from Mark’s difficult year last year, and stops short of the TYSIC initiative. He does, however, incorporate some stuff from Kit’s earliest days, so it does include some stuff about being a Dad – and harks back to experience of his own Dad fathering him. There is a lot of self-deprecation, some quite dark stuff, plenty of silliness and feel-good stuff too.

I am always baffled by the feat of memory that a stand-up show is. Does he always do the various segments in the same order? How does he remember them all? Does the ‘thread’ work the same way each night?

The biggest surprise, for me, was how dark some of the dark bits were! The section on flirting with the idea of suicide in the face of life’s meaninglessness was somewhat resonant for me: like a very, very dark, bitter piece of chocolate which is enjoyable but almost too strong. Similarly dark was the bit about being very VERY careful to keep the baby safe (ie alive!), with a wryly dark reference to wanting to make sure that nothing went wrong ‘on my watch’ – not least because the consequences would make it the end of everything, including the marriage. The bit about the hurtful comment with bad swear word was also slightly on the darker side, where the grist to the comedy mill is genuine psychological hurt and pain.

Before the show started Mark was sitting typing stuff on his laptop which was projected up onto the screen – it was very effective and very funny. Then, at the start of the show ‘proper’ Mark had a bit about playing a prank on latecomers, which nearly worked – and was possibly all the funnier for its slight foxing by one audience member (or was it all a double-bluff set-up?) It certainly seemed like a freshly improvised bit, but it may be a standard element, for all I know. Mind you, it did make it hard for him to get the show going, hankering for a latecomer to come along.

The oddest thing was about 10 minutes in, when an audience member (among a group of about 5, who had arrived just ‘under the wire’ but slightly late for all that. Mark reacted with a split-second decision when the guy got up and left. He put down his mike (with an echoing ‘donk’) and legged it out the door to catch the guy and make him come back. He then politely but pointedly interrogated him to find out what the heck was going on. It was very funny. Turned out this guy was supposed to be at a BBQ in Streattham – under pain of wifely displeasure, so why the heck had he even come in for the first bit? Who had bought the tickets? Etc etc. In the end, Mark let the chap go, or rather indicated that he didn’t actually want him to stay (and there was a little bit of sotte voce booing as he left (which reminded me of similarly instigated audience noise in MWMTWSB).

This episode did side-track the show for quite a while, and also seemed to throw Mark a little, although he got back into his stride after a while (later on, he asked an audience member what the time was and was surprised that it was already 8.50pm, with a third of the material still to go. But it was fine (as with most things, he talked it through aloud and came to this conclusion)
At the start Mark did some preamble about what the show would be like and that he was too psychologically fragile to risk doing a bad show (even as a preview/ work in progress). He mentioned that there would be jokes and then also some anecdotes where the laugh-rate might dip, but not to worry, cos it was all heading somewhere. (Later he mentioned how fast he talks and the good value of words per show he offered.) He talked about himself as a shy person, oddly choosing to do stand-up, and yet not regarding it as ‘brave’ or any big deal to talk to lots of strangers like this. One key line, which I’ve heard get a big laugh in the past, fell strangely flat this time – somehow the mood or the timing had been put off, by the preceding nonsense with BBQ man I think. And of course Mark commented on this. At one point there was also a line that got a much BIGGER reaction than usual, but I can’t recall now which one it was: again Mark commented on this. It all gets a bit post-modernist at times – ‘look what we’re doing here’ – which becomes part of the fun.

There were also 2 men who (at the same time) decided their bladders just couldn’t make it through – one was unfortunately seated in the middle of the front row and was wearing a bright pink T shirt. Mark had fun with the ridiculous ‘don’t mind me’ hunched over funny walk that he and other such people tend to use when going out. He got the guy’s name from his girlfriend, so he could go ‘Right, Robbie?’ as the guy came back in and sat down. (and he referred to Rob several times during the rest of the show)

Mark assured us that such unexpected bits were all good practise for dealing with audience happenstances in Edinburgh (he didn’t use the word happenstance, mind you, that’s just me)

Another improvised bit (well, I think it was off the cuff) was about the show Cats – can’t for the life of me recall how it fitted in, but it may have been around the time of the Dog’s life stuff (also one of my top favourite bits), or part of him dealing with the ‘going out for a wee men’. Mark revealed he’d never seen Cats, but postulated a show where lots of cats would just sit around ignoring the audience for 3 hours and then, just as they were leaving, would come and rub up against the audience’s legs. Loved that!

Oh, and I loved the bit about being taught not to get into cars with strangers (must remember to take some of a certain type of biscuit next time I get the chance to meet him!)

And the bit about the fat man getting into the lift.

And other instances of reacting to annoying people by saying things aloud

And the bad Bank Holiday in Aberystwyth

And the miserable, jilted man on the train

And the sausage roll

And the re-appropriation of genital swear words.

(Am trying to avoid spoilers, but I can’t help mentioning these little hints, cos I want to remember my favourite bits)

I felt that the tension in the thread of the show went a bit floppy just towards the end, and I wasn’t quite sure the final wrapping up, referring back to an earlier bit, quite worked as a suitable summing up. The logic didn’t quite do it for me – may just be a matter of wording rather than anything being wrong with the conceit. But although it’s a show with an overall ‘arc’ it’s got many off-shoots from that central thrust, and I lost the shape a bit along the way.

He talks about making a difference and being important to people - that HE wants to do this/be this, but his final example is not of him being important to someone else/ making a difference to someone else (or, for comic effect, failing to do so?),but rather of someone’s importance TO him in achieving a - presumably deliberately – bathetic goal (ie his work being known and liked by someone he admires, a somewhat more famous performer whom he has been to see many times and whose show he eventually managed to be in)

I risked saying something about this slight unease about the ending of the show in a comment on his blog – and quickly regretted doing so. I was really worried that I might've upset or offended Mark, or just made myself look presumptuous, and I tweeted him about my concern. He was lovely about it, and tweeted back to reassure me that it had been a useful comment.

In the midst of all this, I realised why I had posted the comment - and was ryely amused: obviously I just wanted to be important to him - just wanted to make a difference!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Change the world while Mark is in Portugal

Ok, as part of my changing the world for the better challenge this week, I want to invite as many people as possible to have a quick look at this lovely little youtube video, animated by the South Park boys (playing nice for once).

It's a short bit of a lecture by a British philosopher I've never heard of - Alan Watts - and it's about the importance of experiencing the beauty of life as you go along. Inspirational!

If you watch it, please post a comment here or in the forum, or on my TYSIC posting, or in the comments to Mark's blog launching the challenge) to let me know (cos otherwise I won't know if I've managed to change the world at all)

Monday, 5 July 2010

The (not-so-missing) ipod link

Mark Watson's ipod has been champing at the bit recently, having been languishing in Ealing with me for a boring couple of weeks. But today the ipod's joy knew no bounds! Off again for another jaunt, to meet another new person. Having no legs of its own, the ipod resigned itself to letting me come along for the ride.
The ipod and I caught the tube from Ealing to South Kensington and made our way through the sub-way to the beautiful, fossil-filled Natural History Museum: the agreed location for our rendez-vous with Stephanie and her 'riding shot-gun' friend, Ridhi (benign I may be, but I'm still a stranger off the internet).

We met inside, as arranged, in the little cafe just behind the main staircase (is it them?.... yes it is). We all shook hands (you can't really go up to complete strangers and hug them, can you? - well, not unless they're celebrities) and then, thanks to the talisman of friendship, the Watson-ipod, we quickly broke the ice and found plenty to chat about - including Mark himself (of course) and how we had each discovered him/ his work/his comedy/his novels/his blogging, etc.
It was very hot in the Museum, so I compromised and instead of a hot coffee opted for a chilled latte - not sure it was quite my 'cup of tea' though (I had to push from my mind its similarlity to drinking the dregs of a mug of coffee that has gone cold) While I drank my iffy latte, the three of us chatted and laughed (meanwhile the ipod had gone all shy, and just smiled in silence as Stephanie admired both it and its accompanying team-mates: the booklet and memory 'key')
Eventually, after a nice long chat and, in my case, a not-so-nice latte, we decided to move to a more suitably photogenic location for the actual hand-over. Steph's friend kindly offered to do the honours with the cameras (both mine and Steph's).

To the puzzlement of several tourists, a certain Mr Charles Darwin became the not-so-missing link between myself and Steph for the passing of the ipod. (I wonder what piece of music Charles himself would've chosen to add, if he hadn't been so.... 'stoned'!)

And so, dear friends, the ipod is now basking in the attentions of its new guardian, Steph, who has until Saturday (and the Watsonian picnic in Hyde Park) to decide exactly which music track she is going to add. I look forward to hearing all about it!

We parted with hugs rather than hand-shakes (that's the friendly power of the Watsonian ipod challenge)
Farewell, sweet little ipod, I wish you well as you travel ever onward towards your final destination - never complaining, never tiring, never ceasing in your quest to better yourself and to inspire friendship between all who meet on your account.
PS: For more on the hand-over experience, and the rest of that day from Stephanie's angle, scoot over and have a look at her blog: