Comedian Mark Watson has opened up about having a three-year affair while married to his ex-wife.
The stand-up comic and author, who is a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, said he believed the extramarital affair was a way of “avoiding” the truth that his career had not taken off the way he wanted.
Ahead of the publication of his memoir, Mortification, Watson, 43, revealed in a new interview that his former wife Emily discovered that he was having an affair around the same time she gave birth to their second child.
He toldThe Times: “It gives me zero pleasure to admit it, but I just wanted to win at everything – but the reality was I was doing badly.
“It was humiliating having to accept the fact I wasn’t special but just an average man suffering cliched failures and problems. Having an affair was a way of avoiding all that.”
Watson and Emily married in 2004, after he proposed to her following a 24-hour marathon routine at the Fringe festival in front of 200 people.
Reflecting on why he chose to propose in such a public way, the comedian said: “Only later did I really examine my motives about that. I always meant to propose but a normal person would have done it the next day.”
He questioned himself: “Why do it in front of an audience at one of my shows where I’m the centre of attention? Was it, ‘Will you marry me but will this also increase my profile in some way?’ I didn’t consciously think that but it’s hard not to think that now.”
Watson and his ex-wife share two children. After his affair came to light, they underwent marriage counselling but eventually made the decision to get a divorce in 2019.
The Mock the Week star’s mental health declined soon after, and Watson said he was “a couple of text messages from ending his life”.
He continued: “I just didn’t care about my life. I’d massively hurt my wife and the person I had an affair with. And I hadn’t achieved much in doing so.
“There was a moment when I thought, ‘My total contribution to the world has actually been mostly negative’.”
Watson has previously spoken openly about having thoughts of suicide in his mid-thirties.
Speaking toThe Mirror in 2020, the performer said: “I definitely got to a point in life where I didn’t believe I had much worth to people. And if you get into that state it doesn’t have a lot to do with your actual circumstances. It becomes a battle against your own brain and that’s hard to get yourself out of.”
Watson’s mental health has improved, but he has to be “more mindful” to appreciate what he has in his life. He described his ex-partner as “very generous” and is thankful for his “beautiful children”.
He was in a relationship with comedy producer Lianne Coop, with whom he lived in East London.
“I try not to move the goalposts to sabotage what’s good,” he added.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.