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      Mark Thomas - 100 Acts of Minor Dissent

      Mark Thomas - 100 Acts of Minor Dissent
      Rabble rouser, button pusher, mischievous comedian Mark Thomas really likes to do things that provoke a reaction. From walking in no mans land to baiting the Russians. We spoke to him about 100 acts of Minor Dissent and Apple baiting.

      How is the tour going so far, what have been the highlights?
      We’ve been having a great time. It’s a real laugh, even when you get it wrong. It’s all part of one big experiment, it doesn’t matter. You do things, it goes wrong and you find some new way of doing it and it goes right. For me 100 Acts of Minor Dissent is as much an art project as a comedy show. We’ve got one year to do it. One whole year, that’s it. If I’m successful I’ll do one show documenting all 100 acts. It’s going to last 5 hours, I’m cooking the audience tea and it’s going to be akin to performance art and it will be fabulous because even when you f*** up it goes right sometimes. I love that feeling, you just keep giving it a go and you keep trying, finding out and experimenting. A highlight been doing a stand up comedy gig outside the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh.

      How many acts have you got left to carry out?
      I have got 68 to complete.

      I believe you took a Ceilidh band to an Apple Store. What was that ‘act’ about?

      That was about the fact that Apple pay their tax in Ireland and operate in England and I think that is not right and they should pay the fair tax where they are actually doing the transactions. So it was about taking the piss and saying, Ok you want to be Irish so let’s celebrate your Irishness. So we took a Ceilidh band in to see how long we could last.

      We speak to lots of artists and they seem to fall into two distinct camps, highly political or the opposite where they say it’s nothing to do with them or what they do. Why is there such a disparity between people?
      If I knew the answer to that I’d be a lot f****** cleverer than I am. If I knew why people weren’t interested in politics and why they thought it wouldn’t matter to them I would be onto a winner. I would hire myself out for a fortune…(I’m taking the piss)

      So what drives you? What’s your driving force?
      Ego the same as everybody else. And also the rash of complex neuroses that occur in each and every one of us.

      So do you think wanting to help people and stand up for the little guy is being egotistical?
      In many ways I think I’ve got a Jimmy Stewart complex. I just saw too many Frank Capra films and idiot comedies as a child and they had the biggest effect on me as a child. These are the role models that I had. On the most basic level we are hard-wired to care about each other. That’s what it is but somehow it gets knocked out but that’s what we are and that’s what we exist for. I love my job, I love the idea that you can have fun and mischief, try and change things and evolve and create communities and be part of communities. It’s vital to all of us, I think.

      In your daily struggles it’s very hard sometimes to care about your fellow man and woman in the street when you’ve got no money and you’re trying to get by. It’s very hard to care in that situation. In other situations it’s very easy not to care if you’ve got a lot of money and you can say well it’s because other people are not working hard enough.

      Apart from Jimmy Stewart who or what inspires you?
      One is art and that can be Jimmy Stewart or Bertolt Brecht who I adore. A Bertolt Brecht play or a Clash album. They are ideas that influence me. Another is the miners strike. I was in college during the miners strike. Once you see something like that and you are part of something like that, the door never shuts.

      Some of the things you do could be described as quite risky. Do you ever worry for your own safety?

      I take calculated risks and I always do the very sensible thing and I try to work with people who know what they are doing. I bring enough chaos to any situation so I tend to work with people who know what they are doing.

      So for example when you did the walk along the separation barrier did you speak to all parties beforehand?
      No I didn’t contact all parties and I certainly wouldn’t talk to the Israeli Army and I wouldn’t ask their permission or talk to them about it. We did talk to Israeli fixers and minders and we talked to Israeli grass roots groups and political organisations and we worked with them. You need a translator so you can explain what you are doing and people don’t misconstrue it. That’s very important. You also need someone who knows the area and knows the score. When I look back on that it was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.

      Would you describe yourself as a comedian or an investigative journalist?
      To me it’s just a big lump of stuff that covers performance art and art and comedy and stand up and journalism and it covers all of those things and I’m quite happy. If I try to unpick it I find myself in trouble.

      Do you think you are better at communicating ideas to people now?
      Well I hope I’m a better stand up than when I started. Actually as I get older I get angrier, I’m a curmudgeonly old f***** and I just don’t care what people think or say and I’ll just do what the f*** I want and that is the bottom line of it now. I suppose I’m a nicer person as I get older but I’m certainly not compromising.

      Do have a song for the LOW DOWN playlist. Something that inspired you whether it’s new or old?
      Yes, I’ll tell you what you can play because it’s a rather gorgeous song and I always love it. It’s by the San Francisco Golden Gate Quartet and the song is called Blind Barnabus. They are old harmony, gospel singers and they were some of the first gospel singers to record. They worked with Leadbelly and they are really the first placeable pop singers. I have a deep affection for it. Although I have no religion whatsoever I was brought up in that culture and I adored the language of the bible and the language of carols and songs and the church. In fact I go to church on occasion because I love joining in on the songs.

      Finally, we interviewed your friend and cohort Rob Newman recently. Who is funnier, you or him?
      Well Rob will say that he is but I think Rob’s problem is he’s been deluded for so long now that he really can’t tell fact from fiction on the issues of his own personality. He’s a lovely guy and in fact I was his carer for a while. I used to look after him and I was very passionate about looking after him and helping him making that transition into the community on a regular basis but unfortunately he’s not funnier…

      Mark Thomas is currently on tour with 100 Acts of Minor Dissent