EDINBURGH FRINGE 2023 / INTERVIEW
"Every time I perform the show I find new things to do with it. It’s very tightly scripted, but we have built in places for me to clown and improvise."
Mark Pleases You
2-14, 16-27 August 2023 at 18:35 (50m)
July 28, 2023
For his entire life, performer Mark Vigeant did everything he possibly could to make everyone around him happy. The moment he decides to change gears and focus on himself, a freak accident kills him onstage. After being sent directly to hell, Mark is given one chance to convince his 12-year old self not to be a people-pleaser. The only problem? Mark hates that fat stupid idiot. A high-energy, deeply personal, extremely silly exploration of people-pleasing.
Hi Mark, thank you for talking to The New Current, how does it feel to be bringing Mark Pleasers You to Edinburgh Fringe and C Venues this August?
Hello! I’m so thrilled to be chatting with you. I feel so excited to bring my show to Edinburgh Fringe and C Venues. This is my favourite thing I’ve ever made – it’s helped me heal my relationship with myself, it’s totally reinvigorated my creativity, and it’s honestly just so so so fun to do. My goal at the beginning of this year was to bring this show to as many people as possible, and as of today (Sunday 9 July) I’ve done 24 performances in 4 cities and the reception has been deeply deeply gratifying. I’m having the time of my life, and I know Edinburgh is going to blow me away. Simply put, I’m EXCITED.
Before we start, congratulations on winning Best of the Fest at San Diego International Fringe Festival, you have also had an amazing reaction to the show at Hollywood Fringe, what has it meant to you to get this type of recognition for your show?
It’s deeply gratifying, life-affirming, and validating. I wrote this show for me. It was early 2022, I was feeling depressed and disconnected from my art. It wasn’t just that the Pandemic kept me from performing, which it did. I realized that for years prior to the Pandemic, I had lost my way. I’ve been a comedian for over 10 years, and in 2018 I pivoted my approach to do everything I could to be a “success.” I stopped making things for me, instead trying to make whatever would sell. And it left me hollow and burnt out and anxious. And I was sitting there in my apartment in March 2022, feeling terrible, and I said: I want to make a piece of art that expresses this feeling. And the next day I called my director Joanna Simmons and told her how I felt, and we got to work.
We started from a feeling. There was no concept, no premise. We had an anchor, which was this terrible feeling I got from trying to impress everybody else all the time. And over the next several months we created this show and it just healed me so deeply. And I thought, even if nobody likes this thing, it will have been worth it because the process has healed me so much.
So to be getting the responses I’ve gotten… It's been a dream. I’m quite literally having the best time of my life right now. It’s amazing!
Will this be the first time you’ve brought a show to the Fringe?
Are you all set to go with your show or are there still some tweaks you want to make before your Edinburgh run?
Both! Every time I perform the show I find new things to do with it. It’s very tightly scripted, but we have built in places for me to clown and improvise. And as I do this show over and over I find more moments to expand, to play, to push. At the Hollywood Fringe I found some really delightful explosive clown moments that are so so so fun – but now I kind of have to reign things in a bit. So to answer your question, Joanna and I intend to rehearse a lot in the coming weeks to ground my performance again, but if the festival started tomorrow I’d feel perfectly ready for it.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Mark Pleases You came about, what was the inspiration behind this show?
I felt inspired to make this show because I was really struggling. I felt so unfulfilled by the work I’d been doing for years. And I realized it was because I was trying really hard to satisfy what other people wanted, rather than trust my own instincts. Last winter I was almost ready to hang up the towel and quit performing comedy forever, when I said no, I need to give it one last shot. Let’s try to use my full skillset to express this fiery pain in my gut that tells me I’m not doing enough and I’ll never be good enough. I want to explore my perfectionism, my inability to say no, my burnout, and my self-destruction.
I chose to do it as a solo show because the best thing I’d ever done prior to this project was a solo show called Let’s Make a Website, and I wanted to get back in touch with that kind of joyous performance experience.
Have you always had a fascination with technology and when was the moment you realised you could use your unique humour to demystify technology?
Ha, this is a great question. No, I haven’t. And this is actually addressed in my show – but the pivot I alluded to earlier, where I pointed my career in a direction that was ultimately unfulfilling, was when I decided to be “the tech comedy guy.” I went to engineering school because my parents wanted me to, even though I wanted to pursue film and acting. And as I eventually broke into the comedy scene in New York (I was a writer and performer at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade for several years), I realized I could use my engineering skill set to make fun things that other performers couldn’t. Let’s Make a Website was such a good show, because I got to display the full range of my skills as a performer AND I got to use my engineering background kind of like a magic trick. In that show, I played this over-the-top IT guy, and built a website onstage based on audience suggestions. The show went so well that I figured it was *smart* to lean into my tech background and try to carve a niche out of that. Only… that was deeply unfulfilling for me and I missed just trying to be funny and honest.
What are the biggest challenges you face being both writer and performer on a show like this?
Mark Pleases You is extremely personal. I get super vulnerable about core things about my life, and so it can be emotionally exhausting to perform it. This is the most me I’ve ever been onstage, so if people don’t like it, it feels like they really don’t like me. So that’s a challenge for someone who constantly craves other people’s approval!
It’s also a tremendously physical show, and I shout a lot, so I have to protect my voice and take good care of my body or else I can’t do it.
I have to ask iPhone or Android…and why? (Stupid question but I need help)
iPhone, but I am sick of only like 28 companies running everything. Monopoly power is a root evil in our world and Apple owns just so much it’s scary. But they’ve got good UI or whatever...
What are the most common misconceptions people have about technology and what is behind this fear some of us have about the inner workings of tech?
Wow this is a great question! A big misconception is that there is some kind of bigger narrative, a plan. Companies are profit-motivated, and they are relentless and will continue developing and innovating without thinking about the ramifications of the technology until it’s far too late. Is it actually healthy to have computers that are connected to all recorded information in our pockets at all times?
Not to be doomsday about it, because there are a lot of really great things our interconnectedness has given us, but we’ve also witnessed some severe withering of personal freedom at the hands of Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, and Microsoft. I’d say the biggest thing most people don’t think about technology is the need for government regulation. We need governing bodies to keep these companies from burning everything down. Because things are burning down!
To be clear, Mark Pleases You has absolutely nothing to do with any of this hahaha. I have strong feelings about technology and its impacts on humanity, but that isn’t really what this show is about.
"Let’s Make a Website was such a good show, because I got to display the full range of my skills as a performer AND I got to use my engineering background kind of like a magic trick. In that show, I played this over-the-top IT guy, and built a website onstage based on audience suggestions."
How essential has the creative collaboration between you and your director Joanna Simmons been when working on this show?
This show doesn’t exist without Joanna. She’s invaluable. Her guidance and direction made this show possible. I came to her with a feeling, I had no idea what the show would look like. She guided me through the entire process. Even when I felt like I knew what the show was, she helped me discover how to actually perform the damn thing. She is 100% essential. She’s amazing. I love Joanna and am already working with her on the next show!
If you could describe Mark Pleases You in THREE words what would they be?
When a show is running do you give yourself much flexibility with the text or do you prefer to stick to what you’ve written?
Oh, a tremendous amount of flexibility with the text. My greatest skill set is improvising, clowning, playing in the moment while adhering to a structure I trust. There’s certain key parts of the show I’ll always say, I’ll always do… but when it comes to live theatre of any kind the magic is the moments that are specific to that performance. I thrive when I’m able to spin something up in the moment that lets the audience know I’m right there with them… and that it’s all gonna be okay!
Have you always had a passion for comedy, what was your first time like on stage, was the audience kind?
Yes! Always. I was the class clown growing up. As a fat kid, a sense of humour was invaluable. I was in musicals in elementary school, in the chorus… nothing particularly interesting. The first time I took a HUGE swing onstage was a stand-up show I did in college. I bombed terribly. The audience booed. I was heckled. And I walked away thinking… well, I’m still alive. Can’t get worse than this! So I kept going. And I said, “Next time I’m going to do something I think is amazing, so if it bombs at least I will have a good time.” And that has made all the difference in my life.
What does your work say about you as an artist?
Wow, what a question! Haha. This is a tough one to answer while retaining a sense of modesty, but I’ll do my best.
My work is me. What this show says about me as an artist is… I value honesty. I value love. I value silliness. I eschew shame. I think it’s important to look back at your life and forgive yourself and celebrate yourself. Because you were doing your best! And it’s important to me that you continue to do your best, and accept that we’re constantly growing and learning and trying stuff out. And not taking ourselves too seriously!
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer anyone thinking about getting into comedy?
In the words of Weird Al, “Dare to be stupid.” Take risks. Accept that you’re going to fail. A lot. You’re going to be bad, a whole lot. Just keep working. Keep pushing. And remember that nobody owes you anything. You’re not better than anyone. Art is not a zero-sum game. Other people’s success is not your failure. Just do you. Remember what you’re doing this for. If you’re putting a show together so you can get rich and famous… you’re probably setting yourself up for a lot of pain. If you’re s doing this to express yourself and discover who you really are… it’s going to be a beautiful experience.
Also, never punch down.
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Mark Pleases You?
You’re enough, exactly who you are. If people can’t get down with that? They can F themselves.