As Mark Watson says, he certainly wouldn’t be so selfish as to wish misery on everyone just so that comedy can thrive.
But there’s no doubting that comedy generally seems to have its golden hour when times are tough for all the rest of us.
“We all know that comedy in one form or another certainly helped people during the war when there was that jolly Dad’s Army mentality, and the fact is that when things are grim for whatever reason, we find ways. People talk about escapism, but it is not completely escapism. It is also about allowing us to look at things in other ways.”
Mark admits he hasn’t got a clue just what his approach to comedy would be if we were all living in a utopia and if everyone was completely happy: “But I started doing stand-up just after 9/11 and pretty much all the time since things have been difficult for the world. I think maybe we need comedians and entertainers more than ever.”
Mark plays The Hawth, Crawley for the first time in his career on Friday, July 19 at 8pm: “And I don’t think it is news to anybody that society is in quite a bad way, and I think there are a number of reasons why there is so much discord in the world. But I think one of the fundamental things is that we are bad at talking to each other and wanting to understand opposing points of view. That’s the thing with social media and the bite-sized debate that we get, and I think that kind of argument is why we are lacking in more empathy.
“We are in the kind of period where people are saying it is the worst time ever, and I suppose pessimism is always natural to us. It may be that the current political situation is just a blip and it might still be that we change, but climate change is wrecking the planet and it seems that we are all just living beyond our resources. The Brexit shambles is a localised problem, but it feels like a manifestation of the general war that we are all fighting at the moment. Brexit is a farcical example of that. In most countries now there is internal stress, and maybe there has never been a time when that hasn’t happened.”
So it becomes a question of what we can do at a personal level. Mark turns 40 next year and he says, as the years go by, he finds himself prizing kindness and empathy in this world more and more: “Those unfashionable virtues are becoming more important to us, I think. We might not be able to change all the other stuff, but we can start by just being kinder. I think you have got to preserve a certain optimism otherwise it would be really grim. It is hard to see things changing at a global level because it just isn’t within the reach of us to change that, but maybe just to live with a little bit more empathy might help.
“Comedy is quite a frivolous way of making a point and trying to change things, but comedy does unite people in a way that politics struggles to. Politics tends to divide everyone into political movements. Politics is a game all about opposing forces, but in comedy everyone wants the same thing and that’s just to have a laugh and have a good time. It’s not like theatre where perhaps 200 people might be viewing the same show in a different way. Comedy is much more unifying than that.”