Mark Watson launches online-only comedy festival Access

Friday 2nd December 2022, 8:58am by Jay Richardson

Mark Watson

Mark Watson is curating an online-only comedy festival for stand-up fans that can't get to live gigs, as well as returning to Radio 4.

Coming to the NextUp streaming platform in January, the Access Festival will run for most of the month.

Featuring Watson himself performing, along with No More Jockeys, his cult contest with Alex Horne and Tim Key, the line-up also includes Kiri Pritchard-McLean hosting her Covid Arms shows, Sarah Keyworth, John Robertson, Bilal Zafar, Laura Lexx, Aaron Simmonds and others yet to be announced, all appearing from their own homes, plus live-streamed shows from the Monkey Barrel club in Edinburgh, Belly Laughs in Bristol, and NextUp's own studios in London.

Further details will be announced next week. But Watson told British Comedy Guide that "one of the few upsides of the lockdown era (which was, generally speaking, a bit of downer) was that we - the comedians who went online - found a whole new audience of people who'd previously been left out of live comedy - either because of health, or financial reasons, or childcare issues, or living in stupid parts of the country/world for comedy-watching.

"That audience was pretty thrilled by the amount of live entertainment that became available online, and many of those people were then very disappointed by how quickly much of the industry said 'great, we never have to do Zoom gigs again' and moved on. Of course, performers' desire to get back into theatres and comedy clubs was understandable, but it doesn't need to be quite so stark an either/or situation. We can have both at the same time; we can still be streaming interesting work from our kitchens, and also including the online crowd in live shows. Comedy ought to be for everyone and, during the pandemic, there were glimpses of how all-encompassing its community can be. It would be a pity to lose sight of that now."

Mark Watson. Copyright: Matt Crockett

The comedian is also recording the fourth series of his Radio 4 show, Mark Watson Talks A Bit About Life, in London next month, accompanied by sibling musical double act Flo & Joan and other guest comics.

The series' blurb promises: "Stand-up, non-threatening audience interaction, a lot of enjoyable messing around. This series is about the 'Monday's child is fair of face' thing and what it tells us about our priorities, expectations, destiny etc. And also how we measure our lives. And lots of other things, actually, from one of the BBC's best-loved voices. And faces, and bodies. All of him will be there. You could be there too!"

Tickets for the recordings at the Backyard Comedy Club on January 8th and 9th are available from

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