I’m Not Here kind of seems like an apt title as Mark Watson’s latest Fringe show starts. Watson starts off slow and I feel like I’m miles away. Luckily things pick up after a few minutes and the show starts properly. Fears of boredom allayed, I settle into Watson’s comfortable observational routine.
What defines Mark Watson is that endearing, boyish excitement you see once he gets going. Falling over his words but never missing a beat, big wide eyes and all. At this point it’s easy to ignore the shaky few minutes he began with. His giddy spells disguise how packed much of the gags are. It’s not uncommon for Watson to fit two or three quips about the same subject in the time that other comics take for one observational punchline. You can practically see the sardonic comments pulling open his face.
There’s a neat little structuring choice throughout, with Watson regularly returning to a story about travelling to Sydney on a plane. As the plane nears Sydney in his story, so does the show reach a conclusion. Not exactly genius but it’s a nice build to a great pay-off, and it’s indicative of how much work Watson puts in, despite his signature scrappy delivery.
Where I was a little unsure at the outset, everyone else seemed to be loving it from the start, and to his credit, Watson is great with his audience. There’s a nice little spin on the classic ‘where do you come what do you do’ bit, and an inventive, involved riff on fake encores. He covers a bit of familiar ground, as all observational comics tend to, having kids and all that, but even when things feel a bit retread he has that skittish charm driving momentum.
I’m Not Here is a pretty solid observational comedy show. Watson is good enough at it that even hardcore cynics of the format (me) will probably find a lot to like. Self-aware and self-deprecating, he’s likeable and energetic enough to disguise the footprints of the ten million comedians doing much the same thing.