Mark Thomas: 100 acts of minor dissent

pic: Steve Ullathorne

pic: Steve Ullathorne

Mark Thomas will mean different things to different people. A bureaucrat working for the council might know him as that annoying man that won’t let them get on with things; corporations might know him as the man on a mission to bring them down to size; you might know him as that guy that features on comedy talk shows; or if you’re still a growing boy like me, you might not know him at all. Well whoever you are, you will have a chance to formulate your own opinion of him when he plays the Point Theatre on the 25 October, in Eastleigh, as part of his 100 Acts of Minor Dissent Tour.

For someone used to being on national television and winning awards for his comedy, playing shows in Eastleigh might not be the most exciting news he gets all day. You might think to him it’s just another venue in a long line of disinteresting work.

“No venue is just another venue. The idea that you turn up and just knock it out is shit. You don’t, you commit yourself to it and you’re passionate about it and each gig is something of value and worth, and each gig has something different to offer. And that’s an exciting thing.”

Despite the deeper messages in what he does, having been awarded a degree in Theatre Arts, he is clearly a performer at heart, and he wants every show to be unique.

“Any performer worth his salt will tell you that. Each time you do a show, you perform in front of a new set of people and they have different moods and different energies and expectations and attitudes. So it’s really exciting and you can put new and different things in.”

So what are we going to get from this show, what is an Act of Minor Dissent?

“It can be anything I want it to be. Basically it is doing something that goes against the grain of the status quo. Doing something because you can. We did a lesbian, gay, bisexual, stand up comedy street gig in the street outside the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh.

“It was great. We had 550 people, blocked the street, we had a fantastic time.”

 

There’s no doubt it’s an interesting thing to undertake. It seems like he’s always pushing in some direction, whether it’s in the subtext or not. So where does the idea for this one come from?

“I wish I could tell you that I met a Yoda like figure at Camden Market who led me down a narrow passageway and asked me to cross his palm with silver and said I will tell you an idea off which you can earn millions but unfortunately ideas just come to me in a more mundane form. You just think them.

“It’s just what I do. This is me returning to stuff I’ve always done. My daughter describes it as ‘doing the wrong things, to the right people, for the right reasons’”.

But he’s clearly a man with a message. Using his comedy to touch on things other outlets such as journalism and politics cannot.

 

“That’s just the way I do it, it’s what I like doing. Certainly it can do more than people think it can. Comedy is a way bigger subject than people make out. People watch Dave, and quite frankly I am knocking Dave here. In fact, if anyone has watched Dave more than three times this week they’re banned from coming to my show (printed in bold at his request). The point is, there is all sorts of different comedy, it’s like asking a question about music. Music is huge. It’s a massive range of things.

“You wouldn’t compare John Adams Opera Nixon In China with anything from One Direction. You wouldn’t be able to compare those two things. Comedy has that same width and breadth that there are people doing stuff like going out and knocking out gags, and doing it very well. And not challenging anyone, and in fact reinforcing the odd bit of prejudice and what have you. But there’s also stuff that explores ideas and what’s around and looks at new ways of doing things. And it’s way more arty, and dangerous, and experimental than people make out, and I think that’s great. “

With political activism seeming to be something close to his heart, is he doing more harm than good by joking around with it? “No, just because you make a joke about something doesn’t mean you’re undermining it, doesn’t mean that you’re attacking it. There is all sorts of different humour, and all sorts of different kinds of laughter and all sorts of different ways of approaching it. If you’re sharing a joke with friends and mucking about it’s completely different to attacking a politician or laughing at them.”

There’s always something and then something else he’s working. So if you’re not going to watch his show in Eastleigh, there are other ways to get a peak of him in actions.

“We’re looking at the anti busking laws being brought into Camden. The Police have got the right to confiscate musical instruments and sell them to help them pay off a £1000 fine if buskers are caught without a license. So one of the things they’re doing is banning wind instruments so we formed the Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra in response, and we hope to stop them making that decision.”

So for a man who has done so much, is there anything he can really do to surprise us, have we seen it all before?

“There’s a lot of stuff you won’t see coming. I’m not going to tell you what they are because then you would see them coming.”

Fair enough – at which point he tells me off for using the phrase fair enough – which I guess is fair enough.

Whether you enjoy him for the comical or serious ventures he undertakes, or maybe you just want to be told off for using a common phrase, whichever reason you choose, it’ll be worth seeing him doing what he does best – fair enough?