It’s been a long time since Mark Watson won the 2005 Perrier Award for Best Newcomer, but although the bumbling Bristolian’s material has changed—it’s a lot more personal now, a lot deeper and darker—he’s still as likeable, as shamblingly, stutteringly endearing as ever.
The slightly gimmicky premise of The Infinite Show, his new hour of standup, has its roots in his personal circumstances, he says. He’s now a divorced father of two, and feels like the closest relationships in his life are slipping away from him.
So, he’s making an effort to empathise with others. With his audience, to be precise, getting them to fill out cards pre-show detailing their weirdest habits, thoughts, or opinions. It’s nice, unthreatening participation.
The answers supply some of the comedy, from “I don’t like dogs” to “I can’t stand cucumber”. Gloriously, one card professes a nipple fetish, and another admits to having three of them. Watson’s attempts at matchmaking fail, but hilariously so.
Most of the laughs come from Watson’s uniquely unkempt comedy, though. He’s a fidgety, flighty, speed-of-thought performer. Lighter, frothier routines about Center Parcs, about glasses, about Banksy, contrast well with the deeper, sharper moments of self-reflection.
He’s at his best, though, in his audience interaction – in fact, there are few better comics out there at dealing with a persistent heckler. He’s witheringly witty, but never cruelly so. Everyone comes out of this show feeling a bit better about things. A classy hour from one of Edinburgh’s celebrated sons.