Ref NoBSUCA/OD/1/22
CollectionOliver Double Collection
TitleMark Thomas interviewed by Oliver Double
Name of creatorDouble, Oliver, 1965-
Duration1 hr 20 min. 19 sec.
25 min. 02 sec.
Extent1 sound disc (MiniDisc) (80min)
2 audio files Broadcast WAVE Format (BWF)
DescriptionMark Thomas interviewed by Oliver Double on 27th February 2004. This interview was conducted by Double for his book 'Getting the Joke: The Inner Workings of Stand-Up Comedy' (2005)
Audio file (1):
[0.06] Olly begins his interview by explaining to Mark Thomas about his book that he is writing and what he wants to explore in this interview to inform his writing. MT then gives OD a copy of his latest show [1.32] Olly asks Mark about any performance superstitions/rituals he has/had [1.47] MT said that he used to have more of these superstitions. He would wear an old suit in homage to Alexei Sayle. He later started to always wear the same jumper, however he doesn't have such rituals now [2.39] OD asks MT when he began to perform [2.41] November 19th 1985 at the White Horse in Putney. On the bill was John Lenehan and Ceril the turtle. His ambition was to be able to fill 200- seat venues. He then talked about different venues he liked to perform in and air of unpredictability of acts at this time including Tony Allen & Clair Dowie [9.05] MT and OD talk about the vulnerability and honesty of stand-up comedians such as Jerry Sadowitz [10.43] OD asks about MT's current stage outfits [10.55] MT says he liked the simplicity of just wearing a t-shirt and jeans. He used to like plain blue t-shirts however he then, after wearing a 'Mejahore' t-shirt followed by other t-shirts like this for his TV programme, he decided to continue this on to his live shows. For the Dambusters show he used t-shirts to raise money and would wear these on stage [16.24] OD asks MT about the responsive nature of the stand-up comedy and how this works [16.46] MT says that the show is always about working together with the audience and you can never blame the audience for a bad show because it is your job as the comedian to make them into a responsive group. MT says he enjoys creating the right environment for his audience. For him, this includes setting up the entrance area to a show which showcases the debate that is going to be discussed. He talks about his recent show about Coca Cola and how important it is to take people on a journey [25.30] OD talks about his love for human truth in stand-up comedy. He contrasts MT's act to that of Jimmy Carr who he saw at the Comedy Store and thought there was no honesty through his set [26.15] MT talks about the Comedy Store and the way they organise their acts. The first needs to be strong and guaranteed to produce a laugh. It is all about expectation and gags-per-minute. Out of this environment, there is not as much of a formal expectation and so there is more to work with and change. This unpredictability is generally not appreciated on the comedy circuit anymore [32.15] OD asks MT about his process of writing [32.30] MT says somethings he will just write about longhand and figure out a structure from that. Other times he just decided to tell the story and it naturally develops and edits itself [37.14] OD ask MT about his preparations for his Dambusters tour [37.24] MT explains that he did 10 weeks at the Soho Theatre followed by 6 weeks in Oxford and 4 weeks in Reading. He worked out a 20 minute set and knew he had that to play with. He didn't know at first how long the show would be and was able to change and develop the stories, however the essentials ingredients were grounded within the first 3 weeks. He continues to talk about his Dambusters tour and his Coca Cola show [48.00] OD talks about the 'truth' in comedy and the presumptions that comedians are telling honest stories. He asks MT how this works for his show [48.44] MT talks about telling stories about his friends on stage and how it's not about sounding like them, but capturing their personality. In the one show, MT brought on Karim, who was referenced in the show and he got a huge response because they felt they knew him [50.35] OD talks about MT's approach to his Dambusters show and how he created cartoon like characters out of real people [51.26] MT talks about his different approach to characters he talks about. He notes the importance of bringing these stories out [53.55] OD and MT discuss MT's influence by Bretolt Brecht [55.28] OD asks MT again about the honesty in his stand-up shows [55.46] MT says he likes to think of his show as a story that is grounded in actions and facts. He wants to change people opinions and get them to think a bit differently. He proceeds to talk about his Coca Cola show and it still being at the development/action stage. His sister-in-law, despite being critical of his work, saw his Coca Cola and it made her never want to drink it again
[58.42] OD and MT discuss the BBC radio 4 programme on Coca Cola and its positive impacts
[59.18] OD and MT discuss their children and their reactions to MT's campaigns and shows [1.01.18] OD talks about the sharing common values with the audience [1.01.39] MT talks about this in reference to Billy Connolly and Mark Steele representing working class culture. OD and MT discuss being 'owned' by an audience. MT says he does not want to be owned, he doesn't want to be a product of the Left and instead wants to push boundaries and expectations [1.05.45] OD and MT discuss the reactions to MT's show and his desire to make people angry and passionate. MT then produces his notebooks where he records his actions, campaigns and shows. He says that he would change his stories and statistics of his campaigns every night in order to remind himself of the reality every night and for it to never become 'normal'.
Audio File (2):
[0.17] OD asks about the difference between comedians' on-stage and off-stage persona [0.45] MT says he thinks there is a difference for him personally. He says the difference is in the way he tells the story. The facts are true, but you make it bigger and so it's a bigger version of himself [1.30] OD asks MT about comedy being subversive [2.00] MT says that if comics feel they have to be subversive, this shows a weakness. He uses examples of comics making jokes about cocklers (in reference to the 2004 cockler disaster) [6.14] OD asks MT about 'pranks' in comedy [6.36] MT quotes George Orwell who said 'every joke is a tiny revolution' and claims that stand-up can disarm people with humour and strives to engages people. He talks about using humour to target a British arms company. MT says these pranks are important but they have to be appropriate to the cause [13.00] MT shows OD a book called the 'Situationalist', a catalogue of situationlist artwork which is covered in sandpaper so it rips other books next to it. The joke here is the book. He has never read it but appreciates what it was trying to do with this. He then shows OD a few more books to look at [16.09] MT goes on to talk about using pranks to surprise people. He uses the example of going to Menwith Hill on the 4th of July for 'Independence from America Day', marching round the base having a party followed by police. They ruined their national holiday and that was the prank. He says that pranks and actions such as these are all about achieving the right responses. It's about showing the absurdity of something and defiance of authority. He wants to push his opposition into a response that illustrates them and their approach, his other actions, such as charging up to Buckingham Palace when George Bush was staying in there, was about control and that is how they differ [22.58] Recording ends
Notes1 MiniDisc, digitised to LPCM wave 16 bit 44.1kHz. Digitised using Sony Minidisc Deck MDS-JE53; Roland Edirol UA-25; and Adobe Audition CC 2014. 2016-03-17.
CategoryAudio recordings
Access conditionsAvailable for consultation at the University of Kent's Special Collections & Archives reading room, Templeman Library, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NU. Access is available via digital listening copies. The University of Kent acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors in this recording and the rights of those not identified.
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