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What were we talking about?

Quite often among the Comments there are bits and pieces which I notice and think ‘I should really go back and respond to that’, but then I generally don’t. I’m going to take a few from recent blogs and address them here in a fun, non-sequential manner.

‘Sorry I’m late, but the claim that this was “probably the first time ever on an improvisation show” that a green screen has been used is incorrect, as after Whose Line Is It Anyway? was cancelled in the USA, “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show” popped up on another network for a couple of seasons and was just WLIIA with a green screen.’

Ahem. Yes. I didn’t know about this at the time. (In fairness, I hadn’t devised the show myself, so I believed the show’s creators when they made me say it was ‘probably the first’. Still. Hey. I said ‘probably’, right? It turns out it was to be understood in the sense of ‘there will probably never be a coalition government in the UK’.

‘Alas, I have not managed to meet up with the iPod chain, despite being in the inital list, and can’t make the picnic. Therefore 2 questions (will also get in touch with iPod team directly):

1. Will it still be in London next Tuesday (19th July) and if so can I bring a song then?
Or if not…
2. Can I nominate a song and email it to someone with my message for the notebook?

I refer this one to our iPod team. I myself am still trying to arrange to meet it before it heads off to the winner. Pretty exciting, all this.

‘And how are the Toblerone bars coming?’

Oh God. I never organised this. I bet the original winners are dead by now.

‘I watched the first episode of Time Trumpet last night, and blow me down if there wasn’t a completely forgotten cameo from one Mark Watson in it. So, given that I’ve got you here and everything, perhaps you can answer a question I’ve had for a while about this sort of contribution to this sort of programme – namely, how much is scripted, and how much is improvised?’

Thank you for asking, yes that’s right I was in Time Trumpet, the little-noticed but retroactively acclaimed Armando Ianucci spoof talking heads documentary about the future, so yes that’s right I am unspeakably cool. It was pretty much my first TV gig and I was amazed to be asked. It’s something of a Watsonian collector’s item now. I look about 14.

The answer to the question is that normally with these shows, they strive to make it look off-the-cuff but lean on you quite heavily to say certain things. In the case of Time Trumpet though, because of the remarkable way Iannucci and his team work, we genuinely were pretty much allowed to just talk unscripted and they used whatever they wanted. It would only work in a show with a fairly loose format, but it would also only work with someone like Armando who trusts performers and knows what’s funny. I was kind of spoiled by this as my TV debut; for a brief time I assumed everyone working in comedy had a good sense of humour.

(It’s not actually QUITE my first time on TV, I once popped up on one of these 100 Greatest Films shows they use to fill up time on Bank Holidays, but I’m quietly confident that’s not on Youtube.)

‘Not only providing a positive healthcare message, but also (with the mention of George Michael and Location Location Location) giving me yet another reason to give the abomination that is Twitter a wide berth! Good job!’

Honestly, Twitter is not an abomination. A lot of the stuff in Rwanda has been much worse. There are many things wrong with Twitter – it promotes a certain media-leftie smugness among some people, it allows people to endlessly have their own opinions reflected back at them by like-minded friends, it can be cliquey, and potentially of course it’s a huge waste of time. However, I’d say anything that allows the free flow of ideas and information is as good as the people that use it. The internet itself is only as good as the people using it. It’s the same with Facebook, with Google Plus (which I’ve not even seen, but still), with every development in online ‘networking’. Don’t try to fight the march of the internet. Just find people you trust to go through it with.

‘As for giving blood, that’s another one I have always kind of wanted to do. But I don’t know how. Do you go to the doctors or something? I am aware I sound stupid for not knowing this.’

I think you just make an appointment at the doctor’s, yes, but presumably there are specific times you have to go. Again, someone will help with this in the Comments I don’t doubt.

That actually was quite fun. If you have any more questions or problems, I’ve not thrown open the site like this for a while, so by all means pose them. Or if you’ve commented on something recently but it was never really dealt with. I like answering questions. Apart from, ironically, many of the questions asked in interviews, because they come up ten times a week. ‘So, is it true you did a 24-hour show…?’ NO. I PUT THE STORY OUT THERE TO MISLEAD THE PUBLIC. THE VIDEOS ON THE WEB WERE MADE BY USING ACTORS AND CGI.

Have a nice evening.

15 Responses

  1. I can help with a couple of these.
    iPod-wise, its hopefully going to be in London for a picnic on the 16th. Where it goes from there depends who makes it there. We’ll let you know ASAP. You can always email a song if you’d prefer. We just need your name, location and a copy of the song to

    About that last one. Go to You can register online, over the phone or just find your nearest session then turn up there. Its worth going through this little questionnaire – – to find out if you’re eligible first. When you go, you can also ask to be put on the bone marrow register too, and they’ll take an extra sample when you donate that they’ll test then use to sign you up. You get encouraged to eat lots of biscuits after. Its quite nice.

  2. Rachael says:

    I whole-heartedly agree about the internet thing, twitter itself is not the problem.
    I had a question, it’s not that interesting but im going on holiday soon and will need some way to pass the time travelling…what do you do when you are stuck in the van/train/other mode of transport for hours? Other than writing a novel, I can’t do that!

  3. Anna says:

    You’ve not missed much by not seeing Google+. From what I can make out its just Facebook but with nobody on it.

  4. Jen says:

    Good catch up blog – my only bit of catch up/gentle reminder news is my role in your world domination – ready and waiting to pass on Italian Eleven!I know you’re busy so don’t worry!Jx ps no more women went down a storm with my form group today – highly educational – hehe!!!

  5. Misha says:

    Ipod wise, we need a picnicker to take it eastwards towards Colchester from the 16th i’m afraid. If at all possible.

    Time Trumpet Wise, we once watched the Tesco Vs Denmark bit in General Studies (one of the few times I bothered to do), I did get quite excited spotting comics I knew. Your (14 year old looking) self included.

    Relating to the giving blood question, does anyone know how you would go about getting some kind of therapy for a really severe needle phobia? Then I could actually do it. I’m really not joking when I say severe, last time I had my anti-tet booster it took 3 tries, and enough vallium to knock out a horse, and when they finally managed it; it was after an hour of me throwing myself around the room sobbing and hyperventilating. I had to be pinned to the floor in the end.

  6. Tibbs says:

    I know donating blood in Canada is not done at your doctor’s, but through the Red Cross, but it might be different in the UK. In any case, for people thinking about giving blood, one tip they told me the first time I tried was to drink lots of water a day before your appointment. I don’t really know how, but they told me it makes it easier for them to find a vein (which they couldn’t do the first time I went; I have piddly little veins apparently).

    I did have something I asked you about on twitter. Maybe it’s just me being thick, but I can’t seem to find the dates for the book readings you’re doing this summer. I’m pretty sure there was one I could get to, at the start of August, and I want to make sure I don’t double book that day, but I can’t remember the exact date.

    Oh, and Rachael, as someone who’s taken a 30-hour train ride in the last month, and has another in a few days, I can definitely recommend that you load up on podcasts, and tv shows if you have a laptop. They definitely help make the time go by! And although I am certainly no novelist, I did do a bit of writing as well; just saved up a few emails I needed to write, and blog posts, wrote them out on the train and saved them on my laptop until I was somewhere with internet.

  7. The only problem I had was your shoes and this has been addressed, although I haven’t yet seen evidence of this, I shall be paying close attention to your footwear in Edinburgh. That is all.

    (yes I’ve had too much wine and I’m not taking your blog as seriously as I should, apologies)


  8. Beth says:

    Seconding the website that Rachel/Pandora mentioned, and ditto for the bone marrow register. I encourage everyone to give blood if they can – especially if you have one of the rarer blood types! It really is needed and really does make a difference.

    Mark, while you’re taking questions, I’d like to second the Watsonian Dating Service that was mentioned a little while ago. Although London is the easiest place in the world to find someone…it gets a trifle* harder when the parameters are narrowed to specify that “someone” also has to be a) normal and b) nice. Help a girl out?

    *i.e. massively

  9. Allie says:

    Just to back up the comments regarding giving blood, go to the website suggested by Rachel/Pandora and Beth, or the telephone number to ring is 0300 123 23 23. They will tell you where the nearest place is for anyone to give blood.

    If you ask about it at your GP’s they will just give you this information, as you cannot donate blood through them.

  10. Helen says:

    Mark – 7th of July. Watsonian Birthday? Please say yes, Me and Andy and Natilie-Helen and Tom’s son are all excited at this prospect. (Okay well I’m guessing they are. I am most certain that I am.)

    Misha – I’m not entirely sure but I think the best bet is to go to your doctor and ask from there. That is obvious advice but it’s just we looked techniques used to overcome phobias in psychology, so it’s just to say, with my limited knowledge from a psychology Alevel, there are therapies out there designed specifically for overcoming phobias that I would say are well worth looking into.

  11. Helen says:

    Apologies for capitilising the word ‘me’.

  12. amycool says:

    You usually find posters advertising the next blood donating sessions in the library/chemist/post office. The posters are mostly red, so just look around for red posters and you’ll probably find one.

  13. Andrew says:

    Thank you for clarifying the Time Trumpet ad libbing issue, and for your pen portrait of Armando Iannucci. I am still debating whether to take your silence on the subject of Stewart Lee as meaningful or not.

    You then move on to Twitter. My biggest problem with Twitter (and I have many, some of which you mention, and which I shall ignore for fear that this comment becomes an essay) is that its very format is fundamentally flawed. With the exception of Tim Vine-esque one-liners (which, don’t get me wrong, I love) or incredibly simplistic demagogic opinionating, I think it’s very, very hard to say anything with any meaning in 140 characters. (I think it’s 140, apologies if I’ve got that wrong). You say “anything that allows the free flow of ideas and information is as good as the people that use it”, and that’s true, but I would contend that by its nature Twitter does NOT allow the free flow of ideas. It curtails them, it simplifies them, it robs them of nuance and context. How often have you (all of you reading this) put a joke or a piece of advice in an email to a friend or acquaintance which has been misunderstood by its recipient because they either don’t really know you well enough, or failed to read the sarcasm or subtext, or in some way missed the intonation which would have been obvious in person or on the phone but which was lost in text? It happens all the time, and that’s just in email – Twitter could have been designed expressly for that sort of breakdown in communication. It is symptomatic of the trivialisation of genuine human intercourse, the flag-bearer for the society which accepts a group of friends walking down the street together looking at their phones rather than talking to each other as normal.

    I am not a Luddite – here I am on the internet expressing this viewpoint – and contrary to the impression conveyed by the above paragraph I am not foaming at the mouth. But Twitter, and to a lesser extent Facebook, are significantly contributing to an increasingly superficial world in which only information which can be expressed and absorbed in a matter of seconds is deemed worthy of attention.

  14. Lydia says:

    Someone did help me in the comments with the blood thing. I have signed up, but now have more worries about it. After my mum gave blood, she became anemic, is now nearly always anemic and therefore not allowed to give blood. How likely is this to happen to me? I don’t know why you’d know this, but it’s worth a try. Also, do you need to know your blood type? Because I have no idea. My mum says she thinks she might be A, so maybe I should assume I am too?

    Rachael, whenever I know I am going to be stuck forever in a car or train or whatever, I generally bring 3 books (novel, short stories and non-fiction. Lol, you never know what you might feel like), a magazine and my ipod. Although you might end up sitting near someone awesome and find it isn’t a problem.

  15. @Lydia

    They test the iron levels in your blood each time before you donate, so if you’re heading towards being anaemic they won’t let you donate. It happens because when you donate you lose some red blood cells, and it can take a few donations for your body to get used to that drop.
    You don’t need to know your blood type, they’ll work it out for you after your first donation. You’ll get a little keyring with it on and everything.

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