How tears of a clown can change the world

comedian mark thomas
comedian mark thomas

Mark Thomas is a comedian who likes to wipe the smile off people’s faces...

The highly political writer and stand-up may get his audiences in tears of laughter, but the targets of his jokes - from big businesses with undeserved tax-breaks to governments destroying communities with giant hydro-electric dams - don’t like it when the joke is on them.

And Mark, who comes to Buxton on March 24 , reckons there’s a funny side to everything - even the controversial 750 kilometre wall which Israel has used to surround and contain Palestine.

He’s made a television special of his walk around the entire wall, talking to people on both sides, but where’s the fun in the Middle East’s longest-running conflict?

“You just go and tell the stories,” he said.

“We ended up in some really funny situations - like when we were standing next to a clown being tear-gassed by the Israeli Army.

“Mind you, all clowns ought to be tear-gassed!”

Politicians can stand anything except being laughed at, and Mark’s mixture of comedy and campaigning has seen him help to change laws on tax, secretly film torturers, carry out exposés on arms dealers and expose abuses of civil liberties and corporate skulduggery, often in his writing for the New Statesman and the Guardian,

People power

Mark’s last UK tours, ‘The Manifesto’ and ‘Stupid Economy’, both sold out nationwide and inspired audiences across the UK to voice their own ideals. The results from ‘Manifesto’ were published in a pamphlet entitled The People’s Manifesto (Ebury Publishing) and the show has also been recorded as for BBC Radio 4, with audiences coming up with their own, sometimes daft but always funny, ideas.

But can comedy change the world?

“If you mean someone tells a gag and Gaddafi dies, the answer is ‘no’,” said Mark, who has been described as an investigative journalist disguised as a comedian.

But one example of a success was a campaign Mark fought against the building of giant dam which was threatening to cause environmental damage in Turkey, which he turned into a nationwide comedy tour.

“Two-thirds of the way through the tour the government changed its mind, very much as a result of the campaign we ran,” he said.

“Things change because the people want them to change,” he said. “People have more power than politicians - that’s the whole history of our country. The fact that we have a vote is because people fought for it.”

And to understand how Mark’s humour packs a punchline, just look at the tribute on his website to his “sponsor”:

“Special thanks goes to the Metropolitan Police who, as some of you might know, paid compensation when they wrongfully stopped and searched me. Half of the money awarded in compensation was given to the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation that campaigns for the release and treatment of those wrongfully imprisoned.

“The other half was used to fund the Israel walk. It is therefore only fitting that I thank the Metropolitan Police for their financial assistance.”