The internet is a scary place, particularly if you go by the name Mark Watson. You are statistically likely to be the British comedian who, just a couple of weeks ago, fell victim to a Twitter hacking that made you appear to support Putin. If this is the case, then it is also probable that you have received a substantial amount of hate mail from Frankie Boyle fans. Not only that, but it is also possible that, if you go by the name “Mark Watson”, you are not actually ‘Mark Watson the Comedian’, but ‘”Mark Watson” the Internet Fraudster’, in which case, you will have illegally obtained a lot of Mark Watson the Comedian’s life savings.
Recovery from these attacks is difficult. Comedians these days are dependent on their own online presences to further their careers, making boycotting impossible and with his new stand-up, The Information, Watson has found a solid over-arching theme to which he can set his mad-cap observational comedy.
After establishing that he holds no views on the Russian president that would sensationalise this article, Watson goes on to talk about the different sides to the internet. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to think that enhanced communication between humans is a good thing,” though Watson’s own interspecies communication has not been without tumult.
In 2010, he wrote a blog about privilege and prejudice within comedy, examining the “issue of whether, in the 21st century, a rich, successful and physically healthy man [then-fellow Mock the Week comic, Frankie Boyle] should be able to make tons of money by taking the piss out of Down’s Syndrome, and pass it off as entertainment.” Months later, the blog was picked up by Boyle, whose response summoned the dark forces of the internet: the frustrated thousands who comment violently and hashtag ferociously. Watson explains that if he “had my [his] time again, I wouldn’t have used him, or anyone, as an example… I [he] certainly could have done without the… hate mail.”
I ask Watson if these attacks have tempted him to abandon his Twitter account but, though acknowledging the hazards of allowing such easy contact, he explains that “it’s this thing of not letting the terrorists win… Twitter narrows the gap between you and the people who are consuming your work which is really welcome.”
In fact, The Information works with the faceless technology age and provides audience members with the opportunity to ‘chip in’ by text or tweet. “It does make the point that this is now the world we live in – a world of pretty much ceaseless communication.” Those who could never bring themselves to heckle aloud can become as involved as they wish in the act – whilst still retaining their anonymity. Hopefully this added level of gimmickry in The Information will not interfere too much with that brand of everyday anecdotal humour Watson’s fans know and love and will succeed in gobbling up the trolls.
PHOTO/ Festival Fringe Society