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27 hours: initial debrief

People often express surprise that I’m able to stay on a stage for 27 hours, and ask how it’s possible. I generally explain that a large part of the show isn’t really what you’d call stand-up comedy, which seems like false modesty until they check the footage and discover around nine hours of me commentating on people bending for pieces of cardboard. But the main point I always try to make is that the show is not so much a performance at all as a giant collaboration of people who – for whatever odd reasons – have jointly decided to make the dream of a stupidly long show into a reality. This has never been truer than it was this time: an amazing number of people’s individual efforts went into the mix. I’m very proud that was the case, but there is the risk that some of those efforts never get the fanfare they deserve. When you are struggling to remember words like ‘floor’ and your brain is a bit like a woodpigeon’s brain, there’s every chance you will fail to do justice to the seventy-five parallel challenges running on around you. That’s why I’ve tried to collect some of them together in this blog, in no particular order. IMPORTANT: even this is not a complete list. I’m going to add to it and update it and hopefully put more links in, more word-of-mouth testimonies, and so on. It’s just, it’s Red Nose Day – what this whole palaver was about – and so I wanted to publish something to mark the occasion.

John Luke Roberts’ stomach was ‘still a bit weird’ last week as it continued to process the in-no-way-possible volume of lemons he attempted to put in there.

Claire Travers Smith’s novella A Town Called Madness, written over the course of the show from audience suggestion and the suggestions of a steadily more addled mind, is on Amazon now: t.co/c8C8uMWc2P Her literary meltdown has already raised well in excess of £2000 and she becomes part of an elite of double-challengers who have now done 52 hours of stupid things for Comic Relief.

Matt Calow, in the lobby, ploughed through his Minecraft challenge undeterred by the fact that I could never really grasp what he was doing, what Minecraft is, or why sheep apparently had a bearing on the enterprise. The result is a beautiful digital red nose which you can see here. t.co/GjE7ddcl0P

Chris Zampese, the challenger on the other side of the world, was thwarted in his attempts to break the juggling world record, but raised more than $600 and posted a Youtube video of highlights which I can’t find the link to, but which you’ll find if you google it. Huge thanks to Chris for taking on a marathon challenge without the solidarity and comfort of a hundred other sweaty humans to bolster him.

The same goes for Connor Wallace who toughed out 27 hours of foreign-language-learning completely alone, in the north of Scotland. It was ‘probably the most fun I’ve ever had’, said Connor, though he ‘hit a bit of a trough after 35 hours awake’.

Gemma Coles’ horrifying challenge only got a proper mention once, early in the show: it was to listen to ‘I’m A Little Teapot’ over and over again while making a giant elastic band ball. Over the course of the hours she listened to the ditty more than 1,000 times but, remarkably, claimed she ‘could have gone again the next night, after a bit of a lie-in.’ Don’t tempt me.

Ben van der Velde and Chris Purchase made an insane odyssey of 103 national embassies, which would be enough for most people, but a few days ago Ben was in touch saying he was ‘going out again to bag the other 90, as I’m a bit pedantic about these things’. Bloody hell. More news on this as we get it.

Doppelganger Rob Palk has returned to his own life after a successful spell at the helm of mine, during which he successfully lured celebrities to the show using my Twitter while consistently looking exactly like me. The transition back to the real world was hard for Rob, who found that the long show ‘radically alters your relationship with time, with Mark Watson, and with goats’. He also found himself plagued – just like his close equivalent, me – with ‘a nagging feeling of not having done the silly task as well as I might’. ‘We settle down to our routines, our relationships,’ he muses. ‘The years pass. And then one day we get the call again.’ Time will tell…

Bradley Woollett was the guy lying on stage for the duration. ‘As would be expected, the experience was rather odd,’ he relates, noting that he had very little water other than what he could sip through a straw, no food apart from breadsticks, and was escorted out for the sunrise without actually opening his eyes to see it.

Silvia Carrus was sponsored to be the show’s resident Italian. She had a lovely time and was so tired when she got home that she tried to open her door with an Oyster card rather than the key.

Matthew Collins looks back on his time conducting 27 dates at Nando’s as ‘amazing’. Somewhat surprisingly he vows that ‘although I won’t be heading to Nando’s for a while, I will be back’ – indeed his lunch on the following Monday morning was ‘a chicken sandwich which I ordered without even thinking’. His storify of the events makes excellent reading. t.co/ineixSpHOS

John Robertson, who unfortunately had a bike strapped to him, experienced the whole thing as a ‘dizzying experience chockfull of humanity and shaving’. ‘I muttered ‘fucksakes’ a few times and the occasional argh,’ he adds. Having been cut out of the bike and danced up the stairs, he went out to do a regular, non-bike-related gig and found himself talking ‘aimless gibberish like I’d just escaped from a cult’.

Chris ‘Bagface’ Radford ‘has been slowly reintroduced to society after 27 hours with a bag for a face’. His low point of the event was getting a burrito all over himself while trying to eat it within the confines of the bag.

Jack and Holly Kenny were the couple who, respectively, got hair torn off their body and got a cut and shave with the likes of Tim Minchin, jointly raising a stupendous £1235 in the process. Holly had to wear a bobble hat the next day because her head was cold. These are the same people who pulled off a 25-hour piggyback in the last show. Huge respect.

Zoe Groom built Star Wars Lego in Norwich for the whole time the show was going on, finishing THIRTY-FOUR SETS in the 27 hours with little more reward than that one audience thumbs-up picture we posed for her. But she raised £750 and ‘really enjoyed my challenge’.

Mark Deeks, Dan Mugridge and Ian Stafford – the first not acquainted with the other two till the start of the show – played darts for 27 hours, reaching their target of 100,027 points with so much time to spare that they were able to ‘blend in, have an ice-cream and catch the bend-offs’. They sometimes missed being in the main room, but ‘there was plenty of craziness out in the lobby too. It was the endless interactions with everyone. The passers-by, the staff (fantastic people), the poor girl at the Ibid booth hired for the evening to help people with the technology and yet who had not one single enquiry in six hours, the dude who queued for 27 hours, the Football Manager guy whose journey from Accrington to Belarus was a titanic tale that captivated our corner of the building), and the celebs (most of whom got pestered into playing darts). The constant interaction, the carnival-like way it went down, meant that it never dragged.’ Deeks admits, alongside all these positive memories, that ‘holy shit did my knee, back and calf hurt afterwards’.

Among a lot of arts-and-crafts efforts, Laura Sorensen decorated six cushions with ‘rather shaky hands’ for an amazing £275, Misha Anker collected four hundred quid for knitting while also getting involved in the £1000 Tattoo Extravaganza, and Cathy Penrose made a bracelet for everyone in the room, including the one I wore throughout – these are still in the process of being auctioned, I think.

Jim Parkyn, the Morph man, got caught up in ‘a crash and a small fight between taxi drivers’ on the way home from his Herculean Plasticene endeavour. He still regards it as ‘one of the most immersive and collective things I’ve ever been involved in’.
Oliver Fisher is recovering after the heartache of not quite building a big enough toilet-roll tower. He thanks Key for the life coaching and the pint.

Michael Legge, who popped in to play football and slag off football and explained he hated football but was being sponsored to love it, reaches the apex of his month-long challenge tomorrow when, at the age of 46, he becomes a child mascot at Championship team Brentford FC. We only saw Legge briefly in the actual show but his challenge has been incredible and you should check it out on Twitter (@michaellegge). And in fact if you search Twitter for a lot of the individuals mentioned here, you’ll find much more detailed breakdowns and pictures and assorted souvenirs of this very odd time in our lives.

The last word goes to Daniel Kramer, the ashen-faced chap who wrote ‘I am an idiot’ over and over again for 27 hours. ‘It was awful,’ he now recalls – unsurprisingly for someone who was visibly appalled even as the challenge began. ‘One of the worst things I’ve ever done.’ That’s the spirit.

And the last pictorial word, as it were, goes to Isabelle Adam who minuted the whole event and took, as always, a colossal number of great pictures. They are at www.flickr.com/photos/diamondgeyser/sets/72157650728122399/ and they will make you nostalgic or alternatively trigger horrendous flashbacks.

All this is without mentioning the ludicrous generosity of Adam Hills and the courage of the tattooists, the mucky self-sacrifice of the bean guys (I’ll come back to them), and of course the crazed energy of the best audience anyone could ever ask for. I am hugely grateful to everyone who contributed in whatever way to this formidable and tiring event. As you might have gathered from Twitter, some circumstances arose in the following days which make it unclear whether there will be another one of these in the future. Whether there is or not, though, we have a lot to look back on with fondness and pride. Thank you.

…oh, and the final final fundraising total. It’s going to be officially revealed when every last bit is in, and when the TV show is done and dusted. But you’re going to really like it. It’s not quite the £5 million raised by the live Phoenix Nights. But it’s enough to make a difference, and you did that.

Mark x

27 hour show: (sort of) final call

I realise I’ve mentioned this once or twice before. I reckon this is the last time or failing that, certainly the penultimate or antepenultimate.

Very soon now – February 27th and 28th – I will be plunging into the unwise and self-inflicted mission of 27 hours live on stage for Comic Relief. You may have the dubious good fortune to possess tickets for the show. Even if you don’t, you will be able to watch it online at rednoseday.com/markwatson. Please do tune in, interact with us, become over-emotional, donate. I’d love that. It’s shaping up to be an experience people shan’t forget. Even if they wish to.

But I tell you what I’d love even more, and that’s if you became involved. We are looking to get a sea of people across the UK taking part in their own marathon challenges in support of my 27-houred madness. Even in the past days we’ve added – among others – a 27-hour butter-churning challenge, an attempt to hitch-hike to the show from the Czech Republic, a learning-to-love-football mission by a football hater. Someone’s putting a paper bag on his head for 27 hours, someone else is writing out ‘I am an idiot’ over and over again. We have sponsored lemon-eating, story-writing, singing, Minecraft, being-a-general-dogsbody-to-everyone else. We have seventy challenges happening. I’d like yours to be the seventy-first. Unless someone’s signed up to be 71st since reading this. In which case, I’d like yours to be the 72nd. Unless, etc.

You could even get sponsored just to watch the entirety of this nonsense online without keeling over. (There are also examples below of some of the things people got up to last time.)

Set up a Giving Page at rednoseday.com/markwatson – it’s unbelievably easy – and join my team. And please do let me know what you’ve got in store at 27hourshow@mail.com or @watsoncomedian. Do it! I’ll be forever in your debt. Non-financial debt. Actually, in a way financial debt too. I await you with glee and slight alarm.

Thank you.

27-HOUR COMEDY MARATHON NEWS (title gives it away a bit)

This blog is rarely used any more and its once-heaving archive has been deleted, but it still gets woken up every now and again for news items. And this is very much a news item. There’s going to be another one of my marathon shows. As it’s for Comic Relief again, it will follow the pattern of ‘one hour for each year’ of that organisation. Which means I will be performing for 27 hours. Starting on February 27th 2015 at 9pm, and finishing midnight the next day.

If you go to www.rednoseday.com/markwatson you can get a flavour of what happened last time; elsewhere on the internet you can find fragments of records kept by people who survived some of the previous marathon shows. They are my proudest accomplishments as a comedian, not necessarily because of the endurance aspect – which is more a gimmick than an actual achievement – but more because they’ve tended to be the best expression of what I think comedy should be like: a mad, excessive reaction to the incomprehensible business of being alive. You get things like Lauren Laverne hallucinating a dog, or someone having custard all over them, or a protracted (eventually successful) attempt to lure the the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, or a blind date which ends up as a full-blown relationship… all difficult to accomplish in the shorter format. There are also jokes, by the way. Quite a lot. I mean, there’s time for all sorts of stuff really.

But alongside the ingredients of surprise-celebrity-visits, Rufus Hound’s penis accidentally being seen by thousands of people, and a thin man trying to talk forever, the core component of these shows is fundraising. People – that is, comedians, but also actual people with real lives – take on challenges, either for a portion of the monstrous time period for the entire thing. Last time, Tiernan Douieb had a custard pie smashed in his face every hour on the hour, while trying to learn piano; Markus Birdman spent more than fifteen hours doing a mural of the show, which sold for around two grand; Hound famously did something unspeakable with eggs. Sanderson Jones broke the world record for the longest hug, and received a certificate on stage from a man in a suit. Alongside all this, though, there were sponsored watching-of-a-shit-film-on-a-loop, cake-making, Countdown-playing (another record), speed-dating, bath-staying-in, and a load more things. We made just over £60,000.

This time round I would like even more mayhem and more money. (For the charity. I don’t get paid. It’s a ballache, actually.)

So, this is a call for challengers. Can you think of something which you could do for 27 hours or some part of that time? As I say, this approach yielded some amazing efforts two years ago, and not all of them took place in the venue (the Pleasance, in London). You can participate anywhere in the country and be hooked up to Comic Relief’s fundraising machine by going to www.rednoseday.com/markwatson The event will be streamed in its entirety, there will be a lot of tweeting and sharing and all the rest of it; so even if you only think you’re capable of getting about £4.50 in sponsorship, you may well find it’s a lot more profitable than that. And in any case, don’t think in terms of raising millions of pounds. This show is meant to be a vast, ridiculous collective effort. Acts of ill-judged heroism are as much a part of it as money-making.

But also, if you have an idea which COULD be incorporated into the actual London show, please contact me at 27hourshow@mail.com. By doing this, you’re not condemning yourself to take part. It’s just a preliminary call. And if you do end up doing a challenge in the show, it doesn’t mean you have to be hauled up on stage or provide any sort of actual comedy. Of course, it’s great if your idea involves you doing something amusingly inconvenient (the guy last time who watched Beverly Hills Chihuahua, for example, checked in every couple of hours, his eyes still miserably glued to the laptop)… but there’s no pressure at all. The venue will be a hub of marathon endeavours both show-stopping and inconspicuous. Anything goes.

London-based ideas might be useful, though, because in terms of actually getting tickets to the show, we’ll hold some back for people with challenge ideas. The general sale of tickets starts at 2pm on Tuesday December 16 – in other words, just before you read this blog. They will sell quite quickly. You can get them from www.pleasance.co.uk. But if you don’t get one, your best bit is to think creatively.

So, in summary.
-Get involved in this event and set up your own fundraising challenge.
-Watch it, live, by buying tickets.
-Watch it for some or all of 27 hours, online, when it happens (if you manage it all, that would be a sponsor-able feat in its own right).

Those are in my order of preference.


Mark x