How We Met: Mark Watson & Alex Horne
'He's the ideal person you'd want to be in the trenches with, as he's so calm'
Alex Horne, 33
An award-winning comedian and former member of the Cambridge Footlights, Horne (far right) has recently been touring with his jazz-comedy troupe the Horne Section. He lives in Buckinghamshire with his wife and two children.
The first time I saw Mark was on stage doing a sketch about football, though all I remember was how weedy and gawky-looking he was. He was pretty shy, too, so I didn't get to know him for a few years.
We ended up living together for a month in Edinburgh in 2003, when he and my main comedy friend, Tim Key, were directing a show at the festival.
Mark had a reputation of being a genius while being totally clumsy and impractical – he couldn't cook a thing – so I wanted to dislike him. But we shared a sense of the ridiculous, finding incredibly stupid things funny.
The breakthrough in Mark's career – and our friendship – was when he did his 24-hour show for the first time in 2004, which I was involved in. It was raw, animalistic, seeing a man barely survive 24 hours on his wits; it made me want to work with him as well as be friends.
There's a big difference in our approach to comedy: his life is public property; he got on stage to propose to his wife, and every thought he has he puts down on his blog or performs at a gig; I'm much more reserved and private – I'd never talk about my wife or children. I prefer to talk about something nerdy, like bird-watching or Latin, and get to the bottom of it. But we do come together and help each other out with our routines.
After gigs we often go off and do random stuff together, most memorably a round of golf. He loves watching all sports, but Mark can't hold one piece of sporting equipment and when we played some pitch and putt he literally couldn't hit the ball; after 10 strokes he didn't even know if he was left- or right-handed.
Now that I've got two young kids and Mark has one, it's hilarious seeing another side to him. I remember we went swimming, the two of us with our sons, and he was very cack-handed about it all. In the changing-room he stood there, stark naked, battling to change his child, both pretty much crying, while other people in the room were saying, "Is that Mark Watson?" He's a wonderful father, but he still can't change a nappy.
Mark Watson, 31
A comedian, novelist and former member of the Cambridge Footlights, Watson had his breakthrough with a series of 24-hour stand-up shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. He has since appeared on panel shows including 'Mock the Week'. He lives in north London with his wife and child.
I was in my second year at Cambridge, in 2000, when Alex did a two-hander stand-up show at the university. I came to watch the other guy, but it was Alex who was the better of them.
I saw him as my superior in those days as he was a bit older than me and more of an insider in the Footlights scene. Now he does a lot of conceptual shows, but back then he was very much a one-liner man.
After university I got to know him anew because of [mutual friend] Tim Key, who took part in one of Alex's shows in 2003. The three of us ended up spending that summer in Horne's brother's London flat, getting shows ready and playing table football on a magnificent full-size football table – the sort of thing you're meant to do while drunk in a pub, but we would spend hours doing it sober, every afternoon. Though he tells people that I'm useless at sports, I think it's a bit unfair, because it's all based on one day of infamy on a golf course in Wales; I'm actually quite good at cricket and tennis.
We became much closer once I started doing my 24-hour shows. Horne filmed a large amount of it and on the first outing made a beautiful montage towards the end, when we were all knackered, for the crowd to watch, and it was astonishingly good. Working with him over two or three of those shows for a 24-hour period, we formed a comradeship; for young men of our generation it's the closest we'll get to the trench spirit without going to France: though he is the most ideal person you'd want to be in trenches with, because he's so calm.
I'm somewhat an exploiter of my life in my career – I don't have a choice, as my style is so confessional – while Alex has more of a comedy mind; he thinks of funny ideas, while I have to walk around till I have funny experiences to talk about.
In the same way I followed him into comedy, I'm following him into life by having a kid; we've done quite a lot of hanging around in playgrounds together – which becomes acceptable once you have children. And in an environment like Edinburgh, it's great to be friends with another comedian who has kids. There's a lot of late-night socialising we can't take part in any more, so it's great to hang out with him and the kids, as it means I'm not the only one having less fun.
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