MARK Watson is one of the country's most beloved and critically acclaimed live comedians. He's enjoyed a long and notable Fringe career since he was nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2005 Perrier Awards, before being awarded the 2006 if.comedy Panel Prize for performing one of his now-legendary marathon stand-up shows.

Inspired by the "shocking state of the world" his children are growing up in, and a genuine, urgent desire to do something about it, Mark's new show is about empathy. According to the comedian: "Ninety nine per cent of the world's population is made up of other people: why can't we understand them?" As scrawny and impassioned as ever, the stand up tears into his topic with his notoriously high joke and rant-per-minute rate.

"It's all about the idea of empathy, and the fact it's in short supply at the moment," explains Mark, who brings The Infinite Show to Mold's Theatr Clwyd on July 7. "Our society seems so divided and part of the problem is that nobody makes an effort to understand or engage with anyone else properly. I try to talk about this in a constructive way and I hand out cards which the audience can fill out, and try to tailor the show to them each night. So it's a mixture of improv and prepared material, but the focus is on breaking down the boundaries between humans. But don't worry - nobody gets dragged onto stage. I'm not a hypnotist."

Last year saw Mark write songs, hurl coconuts and beg piggy-backs as part of Dave's BAFTA-winning Taskmaster. In a less pleasant TV engagement, he lost almost three stone and faced a crippling lifelong phobia during a much talked-about stint on The Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls.

"It was pretty much unbearable," remembers Mark, who left after suffering from severe chest pains and insomnia in the final episode. "It pushed me to my absolute limits, physically and psychologically. The weather was brutal, we were starved, bitten half to death by sand flies, and so on. Looking back, I take a lot of pride from the fact that I stood up to it and I learned a lot of life lessons."

Perhaps unsurprisingly given his experiences, Mark has a mixed relationship with TV shows despite being a regular on panel shows such as Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You and Would I Lie To You, and he admits a lot has changed since he burst on the comedy scene.

"It's become very much more competitive and overcrowded," he says. "It was always tough, but there are 10 times as many people coming into the game now, and a lot of them are really talented. I was very lucky to break through at the time I did: I caught the wave of panel-shows and got TV and radio opportunities and, basically, built up a bit of momentum before all these other b****rs came along.

"In the early years of my career, I blindly followed my agent's advice, which was just to get on any TV show imaginable, whether I was suited to it or not. That approach worked really well for some of my peers, but I never felt like a natural on topical panel shows; my style's too discursive and I was never good at jumping in with one-liners. I'm fortunate to have a live audience who see me on tour. I'm much more at home in the two-hour format."

Mark has been honest over the years about his struggles with mental health and alcohol, so I wonder what kind of challenges a huge tour of the UK brings for a comedian who has always been a neurotic performer.

"My girlfriend produces the tours, and travelling around with her makes it fun," he says. "I've also got a tour manager and we're in a fantasy football league together, so we're rarely short of things to talk about.

"I don't actually mind the aspect of the job that involves travelling; I'm not bad with my own company. It's just the stress of logistics can take a bit of a toll. But as you get more experienced, you learn how to plan tours in a way that makes it easier on you."

Mark is a lifelong supporter of Bristol City and has made regular appearances on the BBC Radio 5 Live show, Fighting Talk, so what's his sporting highlight of the year been?

"City just fell short of the play offs but we're making strides forward," he says. "I got to go to the Cricket World Cup the other week which was an absolute privilege and I'm still eyeing up the Rugby World Cup also, but it's difficult to see how I can pull that off since (a) I didn't get tickets in the ballot and (b) it is in Japan."

Somehow Mark also finds the time to write, with the 39-year-old managing to produce six novels to date: Bullet Points (2004), A Light-Hearted Look At Murder (2007), Eleven (2011), The Knot (2012), Hotel Alpha (2015), and The Place That Didn't Exist (2016). In addition, he has written the non-fiction book Crap At The Environment (2008), following his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over the course of one year.

"I'm putting the finishing touches to another one as we speak," he says. "Although that's just the first draft, so we're a long way away from the actual finishing touches. I love writing, but I don't think anyone finds it easy; a book is a very long, intricate piece of work, even if the plot seemed simple when you started out."

Mark was born in Bristol to a Welsh mother and English father, and he admits a trip to Flintshire is a chance to rediscover his roots.

"Although I grew up in Bristol, half my family's Welsh and I spent lots of time there as a kid, including a very wet weekend in Aberystwyth, which went down in history as our worst ever family trip," he adds. "Welsh audiences have been good to me and I've covered more of the country than most comics do. I love being there."

Mark Watson can be seen at Theatr Clwyd (Theatr Anthony Hopkins) on Sunday, July 7 at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced from £19 are available from the box office on 01352 701521 or from