“It brings home how precarious people’s mental state can be,“ says Mark Watson, reflecting on the ‘horrible moment’ he and fellow Edinburgh Fringe performers heard Robin Williams had killed himself.
“This job is full of extreme highs and lows, and Robin was always a figure that represented that.“
The Crouch End comedian says the Mork and Mindy actors death 'cast a shadow' over the festival.
Mark has been up at the world-famous event in Scotland all this month, facing his own demons in new show Flaws, before taking it out on tour across the UK.
“It’s about my flaws and about how humans are all flawed and how we are supposed to deal with that.“
Born in Bristol to Welsh parents, the 34-year-old has always struggled with insecurity and in the past adopted a Welsh accent to help him cope with stage anxiety.
But now a father-of-two, in his tenth year of Edinburgh, he has dropped the act and says he has a more “substantial life”, which is helping him face his own faults.
“I would say they are swearing a lot and bigger stuff like drinking quite a lot and I tend to be quite self-critical. There’s a lot of things I’m working through.“
He admits he drinks partly to try and cheer himself up, but adds: “I try and take myself out of it and remember there are bigger things than comedy. It’s not always easy to do.“ Performing with his own accent gives him “much more satisfaction”, but does he feel more comfortable on stage these days?
“It’s probably true. I would certainly say I’m more confident,“ he says, before hesitating for a few seconds.
“I have just seen much more and with that experience comes confidence on stage. But I’m still quite frantic and excitable.“
The Queen’s College graduate, who made it into the Top Ten Jokes at the Fringe for the first time this year – Always leave them wanting more, my uncle used to say to me. Which is why he lost his job in disaster relief – expends much of this restless energy on writing, not just jokes, but also five novels and counting, the latest of which is Hotel Alpha, inspired in part by his own time on the road.
He is now busy working on ideas for a murder mystery book and will be recording a Radio 4 series in between his stand-up gigs.
Fatherhood has also had a hand in changing him. “It’s given me more of a sense of responsibility. When you are just living for yourself, which I did until I was 30, you can get away with almost anything. Now I have children it’s the biggest thing and I’m much more aware of consequences.“
He moved his family to celebrity-rich Crouch End five years ago as it’s “cool”, but says he would try to encourage his children away from a life in the spotlight.
“I would love to see them do something more stable. My parents let me pursue whatever I wanted and it’s worked out pretty well and I don’t regret doing comedy as I’m very grateful to be able to do this with my life.
“But maybe if I did it again I would approach it with less pressure on myself and try to be less nervous.
“But having said that you can’t do it without being a bit crazy, it comes with the territory.“
Mark Watson: Flaws will be at Union Chapel in Islington on February 19, 2015. Details: unionchapel.org.uk. For more dates see markwatsonthecomedian.com