Dodging cultural and literal bullets, Israeli incursions and religion, Mark Thomas and his team set out to run a comedy club for two nights in the Palestinian city of Jenin. Only to find it’s not so simple to celebrate freedom of speech in a place with so little freedom. Jenin refugee camp, home to Jenin Freedom Theatre and to people with a wealth of stories to tell. Mark tells this story alongside two of its actors and aspiring comics, Faisal Abu Alhayjaa and Alaa Shehada.  A story about being yourself in a place that wants to put you in a box.

With sell-out shows, non-stop awards, the highest critical acclaim, his own TV and radio shows, numerous documentaries, published books, Guinness World Records, influencing changes in the law, creating manifestos and exposing arms trade dealers, it’s no wonder that Mark is one of the UK’s most recognised performers and influential activists. Showtime from the Frontline is directed by Joe Douglas. Marks’ book, Liar’s Quartet, is out via September Publishing. 

Cornfield Publishing spoke to the comedian ahead of his Birmingham shows, finding out more details about his critically-acclaimed tour Showtime from the Frontline.


Firstly, how has your week been so far?

Busy. Our tour booker has managed to book the show into Bristol and then the next show at Edinburgh so a long drive but through snow filled hills, beautiful but cold. 

You’ve been performing comedy for 33 years. Do you think the industry has changed since you first began?

Yes, for a start if someone had called it an industry when I began performing there would have been a fight. When I started it was a bit punk rock and rebellious. We used to call ‘careers’ the ‘C-word”. But so what,?Things change, there are plenty of great comics out there, people who I find thrilling to watch. And there are far more women and BME performers, I actually think the time when there are more women comics than male is not far off and bloody right too. 


Do you remember how your first ever gig went?

Of course. I died on my arse. I was humiliated but I got one laugh and I am still friends with the other performers on the bill that night, Cyril the Tortoise and John Lenahan. 


Do you think it’s important to push the boundaries of comedy?

If you don’t believe that then you shouldn’t be doing it.



How, as a comedian in today’s world of social media, does a comedian stand out from the rest?

The two things are not comparable. The way anyone stands out is to do good and interesting work, anything other than that is tinsel that will quickly be packed away.
 

So Showtime from the Frontline comes to MAC Birmingham for four nights running. How do you find performing back-to-back shows? 

That is what comics do, perform back to back. How do I feel about it? Happy. It is great to be in one place for a few days rather than a constant dashing around the country.



In between touring the country, writing new material and creating an online blog, you’ve also written a new book entitled ‘The Liars Quartet’. Can you tell me a little about the content and inspiration for the book? 

The Liar’s Quartet is a collection of plays I have written and performed, I am very excited to have an anthology of my work out, I’m almost legit. 



Are there any comedians that have influenced you? Do you have any idols?

Loads of people have influenced me: the subversive and unique Dave Allen who was a genius story teller, Bertolt Brecht the German dramatist and writer, Joe Strummer and the Clash, Crass (anarchopunk), Alexei Sayle, Peter Cook, Woody Allen’s stand up, 7:84 theatre group, Joan Littlewood’s popular and radical theatre, my friend Bob Boyton once upon a time a comic I would travel out of my way to see live, Stanley Holloway in  Ealing Comedy films and his routines on stage, Tommy Trinder the first comic I saw live, Joseph Beuys the out standing fluxes artist, Harry Enfield’s genius characters, Victoria Wood - astounding live performer, Jasper Carrot and Mike Harding, the Comedy Store scene in the mid 80’s, Billy Connolly saw him live at Leeds doing a benefit gig for the striking miners -2 hours and 15 mins on stage, Yoko Ono and many more.
 

Finally, what can we expect from your new show?

The only thing you can actually expect is that it is funny, the rest of it will defy every expectation you have. PS, it is actually a very well disguised play (almost).

 

Weds 28th-Sat 3rd March BIRMINGHAM, MAC 0121 446 3232

 

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