“Be funny, Daddy!”
Having seen Mark Watson on various panel shows, and enjoyed his rather neurotic brand of comedy, I was looking forward to spending the evening with him. Especially with a show entitled Flaws – what better way to spend a cold January evening than laughing at the human imperfections of a man freaking out about being in his mid-thirties? I say this jokingly, of course, but since I am a woman freaking out about being in my mid-thirties (indeed, ever so slightly older than Mr Watson) and also quite openly imperfect in my attempt to be human, I already feel that I have an affinity with him.
As the audience files steadily in, my friend and I, already seated, are having a good old catch-up; there’s a lot going on in both our lives that needs sorting through and untangling. All of a sudden there’s a man on stage, on a treadmill. Just talking as he walks, cutting through the pre-show chatter, almost casually, like this is quite normal. And he’s immediately funny. Which is a good start, you know, for a stand-up comedian.
Through rather a lot of audience ‘faff’, and some gentle ribbing of the man entering slightly late and preceding to his seat wearing his high-vis vest (“just in case someone needs to find him in the fourth row”) and a handful of other late-comers, Watson provides a taster of his comedy, nervous, edgy and observational. He sets up what the audience should expect from the show, and finally the house lights go down and he nips out so that he can be officially announced and the show can start properly: “…go crazy for….Mark Watson!” And we do. Because we love him already.
The show proper is difficult to describe succinctly. During the first half Watson enjoys getting to know his Oxford audience, and we enjoy getting to know him. He almost has a breakdown straight away, on discovering that one member of the audience is only 14. That someone has come to see his show was literally only born what seems like a couple of years ago to us ‘adults’. He tells tales of his people-pleasing tendencies – his story about trying to give the correct change at the post office then telling it to ‘oh, fuck off then!!’ as it falls all over the floor, is genius. He reflects on his near-obsession with age and whether his life choices and decisions are substantial enough. As the show’s title suggests, he focuses on his inadequacies; as a parent, a comedian and ultimately, a human being. He sets up various stories that he’s going to detail in the ‘darker’ second half and leaves us wanting more.
After the interval the set is almost a therapy session, but a really hilarious one. Watson describes his brush with alcoholism and while such a subject could bring an audience down, it doesn't. His self-analysis and honesty is refreshing, and, more importantly, consistently funny. At one point I thought the 50-something man sat in front on me was going to fall off his seat he was laughing so hard. Through an unnerving, chaotic re-enactment involving balloons, whistles and a tenacious PR lady (played by a man called Chris – our saviour) we finally discover what happened at the premier of the Thomas the Tank Engine movie. It is, frankly, nightmarish.
While Watson might have entertained us by going into how he is shambolically making his way through life, his definitive message is a very positive one – we, as humans, are amazing. It’s a simple statement to make, but quite powerful in its message. And whatever nonsense is going on in my friend’s life, and my life, we both left the show feeling pretty darn good about how awesome we are, thanks to Mr. Watson (“We’re friends now!”).