I wanted to write a few words about the tour I’m doing this year. It’s a smallish tour by my standards: those being the standards of a man who has wandered the country relentlessly for the last twelve years like some spirit in a folk tale trapped in the Underworld, except instead of the Underworld it’s Gordano service station. This is because it’s a different type of show for me. It’s a little bit like a TED talk meets an inspirational address meets a comedy show. What can I say: I’ve never been asked to do an actual TED talk so I’ve basically taken matters into my own hands. Come to think of it, I suppose nobody’s ever really asked me to do an inspirational chat either. Or, technically, stand-up comedy. And yet here we are.
The show, ‘How You Can Almost Win’, is about my time on Bear Grylls’ Celebrity Island show in 2017. This is a famously gruelling series where a number of (surprisingly available) ‘celebs’ get taken to an island, dumped there and forced to find their own food, water and shelter until either four weeks pass or they lose their sanity and walk into the sea. I wasn’t one of the original ‘stars’ on their wish list, you might not be surprised to hear, but I came in as a late replacement. What followed was the toughest few weeks, physically and psychologically, of my life.
There were thunderstorms all night every night and I’m pathologically terrified of them. I lost three stone because we didn’t have anything to eat. We licked raindrops off leaves and, when we finally did find a water source, had to spend all day purifying and distilling it because it had been in a little swamp where caymans and other creatures lived. We were all ravaged by insects and the itching was so bad I went ten days with only two hours of sleep in total, eventually beginning to hallucinate. One of our team hit her head slipping on a rock and we thought she’d drowned. Several of the toughest people in the group left before the end. And all this, of course, was without any contact with loved ones back home, and potentially without many people even watching or caring about the show when it did get aired.
So it wasn’t very pleasant, all in all.
But it had been a rocky few years for me; I was in the middle of a divorce; and a lot of the issues which made me divorce material were still affecting me on a daily basis. I had poor self-esteem, little sense of achievement from the 35-plus years I’d walked the earth, and a sense that I wasn’t a good member of a team or a society. Over the course of my time on the Island – before I collapsed, this is – I started to rethink these things, and find ways I could live more successfully with myself and with other people.
So this show is the story of that process, and what came next. But with jokes.
I’ve performed it a handful of times in London and Edinburgh to test what was possibly the delusion that I had anything of worth to say about life (mind you, that’s never stopped me before, has it) and also that I could make it funny. The show has passed both those tests to our reasonable satisfaction and that’s why I’m taking it out on tour, in quite a small tentative way. As I say, a little bit different from the sort of thing you’re used to if you’ve seen me before. Normal service will continue with Melbourne/Edinburgh festivals 2020 and then a proper big tour next year. But in the meantime I hope that this will interest some of you.
Tickets are here: markwatson.seetickets.com.
See you there, unless you don’t come. In which case see you somewhere else, or – worst case scenario – goodbye forever but thank you for reading this blog.