Mark Watson Takes Over The World, The Red Hedgehog (via an internet link from the Melbourne Comedy Festival), London

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The Independent Culture

In the last four years, Mark Watson's "endurance shows" of 24, 33 and 36 hours in length have been among the most colourful contributions to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and to comedy as a whole. The shows encourage off-beat and often innovative contributions from both comedians and audience members.

While people have followed these "endurance shows" online before, this show was billed as an actual sister gig, linked by webcam to the live 24-hour show Watson was doing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

The reservations of my partner start to thaw when the guest spots start, one of the most effective of which is Robin Ince. After some spot-on impressions of fellow comedians Stewart Lee and Mark Steel, Ince revives a flavour of his successful "Book Club" club night by lampooning Terry Major-Ball's autobiography and his description of the perfect breakfast eggs. Later, he lays into American right-wingers for suggesting that marriage has been debased since gay weddings were lawful: "Can you imagine a woman being proposed to and refusing by saying, 'No, marriage is rubbish, even gays can do it!'?"

Some of the evening's guest stars make their presence felt by phone. Arthur Smith (who once brought a troupe of Bavarian dancers to one of Watson's gigs) calls in, taking time out from a romantic weekend in Paris to deliver a bittersweet poem. Meanwhile, contributions from Melbourne are few. We watch nonplussed at an instalment of a hastily written sitcom called "Acquaintances", and attempts to distract Watson to conversing with London fail to make an impression.

While a nice bonhomie has been built up in north London the disconnect from the mother ship in Melbourne is unfortunate and, at least in the time I was there, the "happening" wasn't quite happening enough. However, unlike Comic Relief, the more you watch one of Watson's shows, the more you get back. It's just a question of stamina and free time. Both of which the mainly student audience had in abundance.

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