It makes sitting in a bath of baked beans look, well, a bit silly. Mark Watson is preparing to perform stand-up for 25 hours non-stop to raise money for the 25th anniversary of Comic Relief.
The comedian will begin his marathon gig at 11pm on Thursday 28 February and finish at midnight on Friday 1 March. He has previously performed 24-hour shows at the Edinburgh and Melbourne festivals but vowed never to do it again in 2009. Then Comic Relief called.
“You can’t really turn them down”, he tells me. “And I didn’t want to do something half-hearted when you have John Bishop running and cycling 300 miles and raising enormous amounts. They wanted something a bit more underground and peculiar, an alternative Comic Relief show, if you like. So I want to keep it reasonably shambolic and unplanned. It’s a not a well-drilled 25-hour comedy gala. Basically, I’m trying to plan it, but not too well.”
Star guests are expected to drop in to the show at London’s Pleasance Theatre - Tim Minchin, David O’Doherty and Simon Amstell have showed up to past marathons – but the bulk of it will be improvised by Watson, who will only leave the stage for toilet breaks.
“I want to make it pretty uncomfortable for myself. You have to break it up into small chunks, like any endurance event. The trick is to drink, but not too much. The biggest challenge is the voice. After 16 hours, even talking at a conversational volume is a real strain.”
The event will not only be an endurance test for Watson. Audience members will be encouraged to stay the course, paying £25 for a ticket which they will forfeit to those queuing on the door if they leave the theatre for longer than a specified period of time. The show will also be filmed for television and will stream online at the Comic Relief website.
In the spirit of Comic Relief camaraderie, Watson is looking for viewers and audience members to get involved with their own 25-hour sponsored challenges. So far he has signed up one fan to go on 25 dates in 25 hours, another to make a house out of cake, live on stage, and another who will walk from Birmingham to the gig in North London during the course of the show.
Alice Jones' Arts Diary