Steel yourself, Tesco – Mark’s back in town

Watch out, Tesco – Mark Steel is on his way to Buxton for High Noon over the nation’s High Streets.

The award-winning comedian, famous for his laconic wit on Radio Four’s News Quiz and TV’s Have I Got News for You, is touring the country in his latest show, Mark Steel’s in Town.

And despite being the Left-wing’s funniest funny man, he’s likely to go down a storm even with conservatives in the audience as he laments the way English towns are having their individuality squeezed out by the big retailers.

“The basis of the show is the little quirks and unique bits of a town that make it what it is – it’s in defiance of the way everywhere is being made to be the same,” said Mark, whose many achievements include a book about the French Revolution which makes readers laugh their heads off while being razor-sharp on accuracy – a sort of guillotine with gags.

Poor old Tesco is often singled out for blame for the nation’s collective loss of identity, so as Mark researches the background of the towns on the tour list, he will no doubt add the retail giant’s bid to build in Buxton to his list of local topics to mine for humour.

The idea started as a Radio Four show, which had more detailed research on the towns it covered than he is able to carry out for the current tour of 26 different venues, but he’s hoping to touch on some of Buxton’s secrets and foibles.

And if other towns are anything to go by, it promises to be a very funny night.

“In the North Yorkshire farming town of Skipton, I told the audience I’d seen a sign for Keighley, and wondered whether that was Skipton’s rival town,” said Mark.

“It went chillingly quiet and one woman called out with calm menace ‘Keighley – is a sink of evil’ ”.

In the Isle of Portland in Dorset, where schoolkids are given detention for saying ‘rabbit’ as the word is considered unlucky, a member of the audience threw a missile at the suggestion it might be said on stage.

And Mark added: “I have visited the new money Cheshire town of Wilmslow, residence of the Rooneys and assorted footballers, where a card in the Post Office window, that you might expect to say ‘Pram for Sale’, said ‘Ring me if you need a butler.’ ”

But the joke was on Mark when he visited Barrow-in-Furness, where everyone is issued with special tablets in case of a radioactive leak from the nearby atomic power station.

Everyone, that is – except visitors, like Mark.

“They were all right, but I was the only one without them, – so they were all laughing at me!” said the comedian.

• Mark is appearing at Buxton Opera House on, appropriately enough, April 1.

Booking office: Box Office 0845 127 2190.