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.
Glasgow Comedy Festival 2013 Launch Show
The traditions of Burns Night are well-established: haggis, poetry, enough single-malt to float a battleship, and then, O what a glorious sight, the London launch of the Glasgow Comedy Festival.
Vying with Leicester for the title of Europe’s biggest event of its type, the packed programme boasts more than 400 shows – and this taster is designed to woo tourists north of the border this March... although there’s a notable reluctance to commit to that trip from the audience tonight.
Still, this line-up – hosted by self-confessed ‘needy poof’ Bruce Devlin – offers a perfectly succulent taster. Devlin’s fast-talking patter blends smut, catty audience insults and honest if unedifying personal titbits that, in a full set, might become draining. But in the compere’s role he shovels the night along, getting himself – and by extension the rest of the room – energised by his near-the-knuckle banter with the front rows.
The festival is proud to be a natural product of Glasgow, rather than simply being located there, but it took two outsiders to offer the best take on Scottishness, going beyond the stereotypes of battering both food and people. The first came courtesy of Henning Wehn, who found little appetite for Scottish independence in the room (though a later comic suggesting England be submersed got a big cheer).
The football-loving German cheekily suggested that sectarian chanting was the only thing that made the Scottish game worth following; though proceeded to dissect the lyrics of one Loyalist anthem with the usual ruthless Teutonic efficiency. (What was that I was saying about stereotypes?) Wehn sometimes needs a little time to set out his theories, but there are plenty of wry lines and astute insight in his set.
Tiffany Stevenson appears to have ambitions to be a Middlesex Sarah Silverman with her bad-taste one-liners... although she doesn’t quite commit to the nastiness, de-clawing each punchline with a deliberate smile to let the audience know it’s only a joke. Some of these lines pack a punch, but when she moves on to topics of middle age, middle class ‘yummy mummies’ and what she considers the real seven signs of aging, the sneer is a little safer.
Richard Herring delivered the opening few minutes of his ‘male answer to the Vagina Monologues’, Talking Cock, which can’t really fail. The legion of Profanisaurus-type euphemisms for the ‘Kojak piggy-bank’ might not be sophisticated, but they are funny - especially when Herring revels so much in their childishness. The responses to his survey about where men put their ‘porridge guns’ for pleasure is as eye-watering as it is eye-opening, and proves that embarrassing comedy about penises is timeless indeed.
A change of style for Jen Brister, who returned to the theme of entering middle age (she’s a youthful 38) yet still wanting the lifestyle of a twentysomething – from Top Shop chic to pill-popping nights out. The subject is bread-and-butter for stand-up, but Brister makes it her own through expertly-performed set pieces: hilariously evocative character sketches that display a flair for cartoonish exaggeration and a mastery of both physical comedy and timing. She’s long-overdue a more high-profile vehicle for these talents.
Mitch Benn’s place in the comedy universe is more well-established, with his quick-turnaround topical-inspired songs, accurately capturing a musical genre. After a fair bit of set-up to evoke the Olympics, his feelgood bounce-along number inspired by the opening ceremony’s inflatable Stonehenge is properly catchy. And the cod rock opera, inspired by children’s literature is nicely done. I could do without the hack Yoda and wookie impressions, though, however good he is at them.
The second half of the showcase rounded up some London-based Scottish comics as a reminder of the festival’s origins. First among them was Dougie Dunlop, a no-frills stand-up who lets his material as a downtrodden everyman speak for itself. It’s something of a mixed bag, with a few pedestrian moments mixed with some great lines and unexpected switcheroos... but there’s a warmth to his dour observations, and an efficiency of delivery that keeps the punchlines coming.
Robert Mugabe-obsessed Matt Winning is a man who forever looks as if he’s just that moment regretted opening his mouth. Whether it’s his tortured puns about the Zimbabwean dictator, or tortured puns about something else, it’s his embarrassment in his own ‘dad gags’ that carries the set. To be fair, some of the wordplay is quite inspired. But some is ‘fucking awful’, to use his own words. Either way, with his odd fixations and deliberate phrasing in his delivery, this Scot is certainly memorable.
A quick transatlantic trip, next, for sassy Yank David Mills, whose sharp comments likening devolution to divorce really hit the spot – and made him the second outsider to successfully nail the Scottish psyche.
Mills is arch and mean, which can be refreshing but sometimes seems misplaced: I don’t think you have to be a super-leftie liberal to think his attacks on the homeless are aimlessly cruel more than ironic, while he sometimes seems to enjoy the sound of his own voice a bit too much, and talks fuzzily around the subject. That said, he cuts a distinctive and stylish figure, with an enjoyably elevated persona and some tart, acerbic putdowns.
Wendy Wason also can’t help but get caught up in digressions ‘I was going to tell you something, but I’m chatting here...’ she chirpily confesses at one point – and it’s futile to hope that this engaging gossip will fully focus. For the first half of her set you wonder if she’s going to get anywhere, but eventually reveals some delightfully catty comments aimed at her own offspring – she’s an ultra-competitive mum in that respect – while her story about saying the wrong thing to a friend heading out to Thailand is a brilliant anecdote.
A real treat of a headliner came in the form of Mark Thomas who, inspired by his bilious contempt for the romantic novel One Day, revealed his new favourite pastime: heckling books. You’ll all be doing it soon.
You might think that a rather trivial topic for a political comedian, but his whole ethos is to encourage direct acts of rebellion – executed with a disarming wit that always makes his targets look silly. He’s currently reviving his Manifesto show, which encourages audiences to make suggestions for policies that would make Britain better – and it’s testament to the humour, imagination and sense of justice among his fans that he’s collected such a hilarious set of pronouncements, every one of which should probably be enacted straight away.
|Date of live review: Sunday 27th Jan, '13|
Review by Steve Bennett
Sunday 19th Aug, '12- Traverse Theatre
Wednesday 12th Oct, '11- Leicester Square Theatre
Monday 1st Aug, '11-
Monday 7th Feb, '11- Oxford Pegasus Theatre
Wednesday 20th May, '09- Leicester The Y Theatre
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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