First Gig Worst Gig

Mark Nelson

Mark Nelson

It was the first of times, it was the worst of times. And now it's finally time for Mark Nelson's first UK and Ireland tour, 20 years on. He kicked off late last year in Dundee, completed the Ireland leg last week, is now marching through England and finishes at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival on March 22. The popular Scottish stand-up has been keeping his powder dry.

"Yeah, I think there are huge positives to waiting to do my first tour," Nelson admits. "The experience I have gained through clubs means that I've pretty much played every type of room so hopefully nothing should phase me. I am also wise enough to not want to go out and get wrecked every night now."

It's nice to be able to remember stuff. Any particular standouts, thus far?

"The highlight so far has been selling out two shows in my hometown theatre in Dumfries. Proper middle finger to all the teachers who said I would never do anything by being funny."

Nelson's column? Now, let's head back in history, to the mid-noughties.

Bad Influencer. Mark Nelson. Copyright: Mentorn Films

First gig?

My first gig was at the end of a comedy course, kind of a graduation gig. Very friendly, supportive audience thankfully, because my material was horrendous.

Favourite show, ever?

I opened for Jim Jefferies at the Barrowlands in Glasgow. To play such an iconic venue where I had seen bands that I worshipped, and to do it supporting one of my favourite comics was an absolute dream. Only problem was they hadn't put enough bar staff on so I essentially did my gig to a massive queue.

Worst gig?

I am kind of torn between two, both unsurprisingly Christmas gigs. One was recently. The compere went on to introduce me and so many people got up to go to the bathroom to powder their nose, shall we say, the compere had to call an impromptu coke break. A couple of people on coke is difficult, an entire room is unplayable.

The other one, a woman in the audience threw a whole lime at me. Stupidly she didn't realise how easy it was for a Glaswegian to avoid fruit.

Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?

Probably my grandfather. He had an incredible sense of humour and introduced me to comedy films and TV shows. Things like Blazing Saddles and The Comic Strip. This led me on to seek out people like Richard Pryor and American stand-ups and I was hooked.

We later found out that my Papa had drawn a book of cartoons while he had been in hospital in Africa during the War.

Mark Nelson

And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?

I got into a fight with another comic on the streets of Abu Dhabi once. Not the smartest move on either of our parts. We are friends now.

Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?

I used to do a routine a long time ago about a time I did a charity gig for Dogs With Asthma. I found it hilarious but audiences never believed I was being genuine. It was a completely true story.

Your most interesting hotel experience?

One morning in Birmingham I was leaving very early to catch a flight. I woke up, opened the hotel room door and there was a naked lad acting like a draft excluder outside it. Completely naked. Checked he was alive and went down to reception. The receptionist was nonplussed and said, "happens all the time".

Any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions stick in the mind?

When I presented Saturday Night Love from The Stand during lockdown, I actually invited people to send in heckles so I am very used to them. The best ever heckle I got was in Cardiff. I have quite prominent front teeth; at the time I was growing a moustache for Movember and I was wearing a black suit and black tie on stage. An audience member yelled that I looked like Freddie Mercury attending his own funeral.

How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?

Yeah, I am quite happy with where my career is. Doing a tour was always a dream so that is great. I wish TV would give more chances to circuit comics but they lazily book the same people again and again. There are some incredible stand-ups outside of London that will never get the chance sadly.

Mark Nelson: All the Best is touring the UK now. Tickets

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