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

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