• Comedian mark watson talks uni touring and steffi graf



Head to Mark Watson's website and you'll find him described as "a comedian, author, sports pundit and husband". Chances are, unless you never switch on your telly (or you're Mrs Watson), you'll know him best as the first of those.

Over the last few years, Mark has become a fixture on TV panel shows such as Mock The Week and Would I Lie to You, as well as continuing to perform stand-up comedy around the world.

Currently on The Information Tour, Mark found a few minutes between gigs to talk to The Student Room about uni days, dimly recalled Chaucer facts and what it's like to take to the stage blind drunk...

You went to Cambridge University a few years back - what are your memories of being a fresher?
I remember being quite psyched out by the whole thing. I wasn't a big drinker at the time - though I am now, ironically - so my main memory of Freshers' Week is of a lot of people going out in their pyjamas and getting hammered and naked and having sterotyped freshers experiences.

I was left thinking 'I don't really want to do all this', but at the same time I didn't want to be the sad one before I'd even started. So I remember going along with quite a lot of stuff in Freshers' Week that I didn't really want to do.

The whole week was a bit of a red herring for me. It seemed like the biggest week of all time and then most of what happens there doesn't have much bearing on the rest of your time at university.

Cambridge has a very traditional appearance from the outside. What's it like as a uni?
The Oxbridge reputation only really applies to the exclusive clubs - I think most people that go to Cambridge never meet the aristocrats.

There are a few old traditions and a historic backdrop to everything, but in terms of everyday life all of the going out and the general student lifestyle is pretty similar to other unis - a lot more similar than I thought it would be.

What posters did you have up in your first year halls?
It was the late 90s and I was very much an indie kid, so I had a lot of posters of bands. At the time it was bands like Radiohead, Super Furrys and Pulp. I also had a poster of Steffi Graf because I fancied her, although I took that down after a while because I thought it might interfere with my chances of getting a girlfriend.

In the end you came out with a first in English Literature. Tell us the brainiest fact you know.
Ah...I can't remember a lot of it now, I'm struggling to think of anything. Actually, the Canterbury Tales was never finished - I do remember that. Chaucer kept adding to it over 20 years but never actually finished it. Oh, and Chaucer used to work as a customs official.

Did you develop any comedy material from your studies?
Not directly, but at uni I was exposed to a lot more people than at school, and you absorb an awful lot of different human characteristics. Although I wasn't directly looking for it, a lot of the stuff that became themes of my stand-up was probably born out of being in halls for three years.

TSR user Mr Inquisitive asks: which comedian inspires you the most?
There are a few - Dara O'Briain, Lee Mack, Chris Addison, Milton Jones - mostly comics I have worked with and seen close up. I was never really inspired by comics I saw on the telly. When I was at school there wasn't a lot on - you'd get Jasper Carrot and Lenny Henry and that was about it. I did most of my learning about comedy when I was on the circuit and I was watching guys like Dara and Chris. I still tend to be most inspired by my own contemporaries


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TSR user Battenberg asks: have you ever gone on stage drunk? If so, did it go better or worse than usual?
Good question! The answer is yes, I have - a couple of times. I've never done it with a full tour show, I think you'd feel it if you tried to do two hours on stage while drunk, but I have done it for gigs. The worst one was in Melbourne a couple of years ago. It was my first time in Australia, so I was still like a tourist.

There's this restuarant in Melbourne on an antique tram; it's one of these things where you pay in advance and get free refills, so I had a lot of port and champagne and all sorts of drinks you shouldn't mix. Then I went straight to my gig and I was absolutely hammered. It was really fun, I did 10 or 15 minutes and I think it went really well, though it might be that I remember it going really well and everyone else thought, 'what a dick'.

You're a successful novelist - do you read your Amazon reviews?
I tend not to. I've got a new book out now [The Knot] and I will probably avoid looking at the reviews for a bit. When a book has been out for a while it doesn't matter so much. Maybe then I will have a peek, but when it's new you're so defensive of it.

With my previous book Eleven I did look at the reviews once or twice. There are loads of positive ones there, but it just takes that one one-star review to put you in a bad mood. That's the trouble with reading reviews - there can be as many nice ones as you like, but it's the one harsh one that you always remember.

Your Wikipedia page says you are working on a graphic novel. Is that true?
Yes, it's a sort of semi-supernatural, semi-realistic novel that looks a bit like a comic book but with a literary conceit. Hopefully it will be quite beautiful. It will be quite a small-scale release, there won't be that many copies so it will be quite expensive. I think it's going to come out this time next year.

Your current show is all about your experience with identity theft. What happened?
It was one of those online scams. Someone hacked into my online bank account pretending to be me and made a big withdrawal from my account. I got the moeny back, so I was fortunate, but it was quite frightening. It made me think about how - in the internet age - it's quite easy for anyone to pass themselves off as you.

Finally, one piece of advice to TSR users who've just arrived at uni for the first time...
Don't expect everything to happen at once. For some people it is amazing right from the start, but if it takes a bit of time to settle in, don't panic.

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