Mat & Faron
Men In Coats
Men With Bananas
Michael J Dolan
Michelle De Swarte
Mo The Comedian
Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer
Extreme Rambling pt 2
Fellow comic Mark Steel's reaction to his plan to walk the Israeli West Bank wall
More Mark Thomas videos
|Extreme Rambling pt 2|
|Extreme Rambling, pt 1|
|Belching Out The Devil: The Fizzman's Burden|
|Belching Out The Devil: At US Customs|
One of the few stand-ups still to carry the political standard of alternative comedy, Mark Thomas is essentially an observational comic – only his observations tend to revolve around the crusading anti-corporate, anti-greed investigations he undertakes.
He is best known for his campaigning Channel 4 series, in which he employed, Michael Moore-style, televisual stunts to get his message across. But his work also has a serious side: in one episode he got an Indonesian military chief to admit on camera that their government used torture.
Thomas has said his passion for politics was inherited from his father, a builder and lay preacher at Clapham's Nazarene Church, even if he didn’t inherit his Thatcherite beliefs.
He won a scholarship to Christ's Hospital public school, but he would frequently play truant, often to the theatre, before going on to study at Bretton Hall drama college in Wakefield.
There he began performing his own sketches and shows, doing benefit shows for the miners' strike while still a student. After college he worked for his father by day and did stand-up by night until he could turn pro.
In 1992, his Edinburgh show was nominated for the Perrier award – the same year the fizzy water brand was bought by Nestle, one of the corporations Thomas now campaigns against so vociferously.
Four years later, he launched his strident TV programme, which ran for seven years. To this day he continues to be involved in the political causes that so influence his comedy.
Mark Thomas: Walking The Wall
It can be hard to have a sense of humour about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; but occasionally a left-leaning comedian cannot resist the urge to tackle it. After Jeremy Hardy’s documentary film and Ivor Dembina’s live show, now Mark Thomas takes on this most important, if comically unpromising subject. To no great surprise, he reveals that his sympathies have traditionally lain with the Palestinians – although he admits those evaporated with the second intifada, when plagues of suicide bombers targeted soft, civilian targets. But Israel’s solution, an intimidating separation wall partitioning off the West Bank revived his interest. Was this a necessary security measure, or a thinly disguised siege; choking the Palestinian economy and effecting a substantial land grab through stealth and force? His conclusion probably won’t surprise. Mainstream media coverage of the situation is often limited to familiar images: Palestinians hurling rocks, scarves pulled tight over their faces, Israelis a brutal, occupying Army. So, to get a more human angle on the dispute, Thomas decided to walk the length of the barrier – all 750km of it, when it’s finished (remarkably, for such a brutal security measure, there are still gaps to be filled), chatting to locals from both sides to get a more rounded picture. This is rambling as an adrenaline sport. In many ways, he didn’t succeed: the Israeli soldiers he encountered were, to a man, inflexible bullies relishing their power, while Palestinian kids threw rocks at Thomas’s party. But Israeli settlers throw stones too – at children as young as six en route to school through their illegal communities. It’s not an edifying picture. None of this is sounding particularly promising for a fiesta of chuckles. But that’s before adding to the adventure the central character of Thomas himself – and a few of his travelling companions. Thomas plays up the idea of an Englishman abroad, bumbling through his mischievous mission without having fully thought it through, and inevitably landing him in scrapes. While he has a fine supporting cast including his long-suffering aging hippy camerman; and the splendidly affable and devil-may-care British Consul, who even Thomas is forced to admit is a specimen of Establishment at its finest, the Monty-Python quoting activist and his brutally honest local ‘fixer’ despondent at Thomas’s naivty. This then, is not a comedy about issues, but a comedy about characters, through whom Thomas can glancingly reveal the bigger picture. He’s expert at bringing this all to life, though mini-characterisations of all he encounters, and he has a hypnotic command of tone, pace and even silence, all of which can add dramatic power to his first-hand tales. The underlying stories are often bleak, and Thomas shows no fear in brining the audience down with accounts of, say, children being forced to share a tunnel with sewerage to get to school, or the plight of Palestinians who queue from 2.30am to cross the barrier to work in Israel – only to hand up to half their salary to the corrupt gang masters who secured them the permits. But humour, often of a dark hue, thrives in tough situations, and Thomas gets that most primal of laughs – associated with a threat relieved – as time and again he diffuses the tension with a flippant, but well-judged, remark. Sometimes, the joke is an afterthought, but that is inevitable when you’re making comedy out of an inherently unfunny situation. There’s a mordant wit to many of the people he encounters, however – no case more pronounced than the stoic village that, regular as clockwork, comes out with a cheerily festival spirit, to protest at the wall – knowing full well they will be tear-gassed back into submission. You can’t help but share Thomas’s opinion of the injustice of the divide; which he convincingly argues is doing Israel no favours either – yet the intransient politics of the region is not really the point; it’s part travellers’ tale, part documentary about people living in extreme conditions. Yes there are funnier shows under the banner of comedy, but Thomas tells a rich and fascinating story – as well as a crucially important one. An impeccably mesmerising storyteller, he keeps his convictions in check enough to share his experiences with disarming honesty and an appealing dry wit.
|Date of live review: Monday 1st Aug, '11|
Review by Steve Bennett
Sunday 27th Jan, '13- Leicester Square Theatre
Sunday 19th Aug, '12- Traverse Theatre
Wednesday 12th Oct, '11- Leicester Square Theatre
Monday 7th Feb, '11- Oxford Pegasus Theatre
Wednesday 20th May, '09- Leicester The Y Theatre
Show - Misc live shows -
Show - Misc live shows -
Show - Tour -
Show - Misc live shows -
Show - Tour -
Show - Misc live shows -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2004 -
Show - Edinburgh Fringe 2006 -
Certainly one of the loudest, wittiest, bravest acts around.
I saw Mark Thomas at the Edinburgh Fringe fest, it was an excellent show, political and funny
Where could anyone extract any humour from what is potentially tedious subject matter and highly political/religious topic? Mark with his schoolboy enthusiasm for his theme brought it to life in his inimitable personal informative manner that the public have come to know. Like a Jack Russell terrier pursuing its prey, Mark also grabs his subject matter by the "scruff of the neck" and shakes the life out of it! be it good or bad. On a critical note, Mark too much gesticulating arm movements at the start of the evening. Thankfully they became less pronounced as the night went on. Less Dr Magnus Pike/Combine Harvester impression/ University lecturer Audience left both entertained, but more importantly enlightened to what's happening between these nations from a layman's perspective.
I went to Primary School with Mark, being in the same class for 5 years! His party trick then was to recite the beginning of the four gospels. Must have been his father's influence! Good on you, Mark!
The guy's brilliant, and makes you think twice about global capitalism, and companies who manufacture weapons. These companies who help assist death and murder must be shown up for what they are. I, if I was investing money would never have anything to do with British Aerospace, as they have been found to make torture equipment.
Saw him at The Shaftesbury Theatre two weeks ago. Brilliant live.
The man is a genius
Just very very very funny
Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel’s Separation Barrier. For Fun by Mark Thomas
Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola
by Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas: Serious Organised Criminal
Live show about his challenges to the curbs on protesting near Parliament
As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela
Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade, by Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas: Dambusters and Tales of Dissent
Edinburgh Fringe 2004
Edinburgh Fringe 2006
Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Get Up, Stand Up! Gala
Mark Thomas: Extreme Rambling (Walking the Wall) [Edinburgh 2011]
Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Mark Thomas: 100 Acts of Minor Dissent
Misc live shows
A Seriously Funny Attempt To Get The SFO in The Dock
Mark Thomas: The Manifesto
Mark Thomas: Walking The Wall – Extreme Rambling
Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People
School For Gifted Children
Mark Thomas Live: Serious Organised Criminal
Mark Thomas: As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela...
Mark Thomas: Belching Out The Devil
Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro