It can be a fine line to walk, that of the political comedian. Go too political and you end up just lecturing, veer too far to the comedy side and you risk having your point lost amidst the jokes. Only a few have managed to successfully walk down that middle line such as Hicks (if you excuse the now outdated views on women and gay people), Carlin and Pryor. Mark Thomas is another name you can certainly add to that list.
Thomas has made a career out of not just voicing his political views but living them, as exemplified by this show 100 Acts of Minor Dissent, in which he attempted to perform the titular acts over a fifty day period (the show is based on his 2013 book of the same name). A minor act of dissent, he says, is something that protests corruption or discrimination etc in legal but annoying ways, that both raise awareness and bother the perpetrators. These range from some creative graffiti on UKIP posters, to breaking some of the bizarre laws still on the books in the UK, to trying to get banned from Tesco, all of them hilarious in their way.
The wonderful thing is that, whilst all are incredibly funny (the thought of mailing roof tiles without stamps to Boris Johnson is particularly charming), they all have an underlying political point. It’s a cliche, but as you’re laughing you’re thinking and it’s really quite profound. Obviously, this’ll come as no shock to many, as Thomas has been succeeding at this for decades now and his previous books and shows on issues such as the arms trade have had some legislative success. He is, to generalise, what every champagne socialist wishes they could be; on the ground and making things happen, and doing it in a very clever way.
Essentially, this two hour show is like a Guardian article with punchlines. If you’re sympathetic to the left wing, if you are ever tempted to wander into an anarchist bookshop then you’ll love this show. However, if you wear a yellow and purple ribbon and think that maybe the Donald is onto something, then I might recommend you stay away.
There are some minor issues; Thomas has a tendency to lose his train of thought and end up in completely different territory making some of the stories slightly harder to follow. Thomas, as a performer, also a habit of talking with his hands and gesturing wildly. Whilst normally this would only add to a performance, this show was being interpreted for the deaf and, in talking to a friend of a friend with hearing difficulties during the break, I found out this can be somewhat of a distraction whilst trying to pay attention to the sign language interpreter next to him on the stage (however, I am also reliably informed that Thomas is far from being the worst offender in this category).
Furthermore, from a more comedic standpoint, there is a bit of an over reliance on Farage and Trump gags, so that by the second half some punchlines can be guessed at before they’re delivered. However, there are more than enough other moments of hilarity that they are easy to overlook, and for the most part, it’s just good insightful comedy at it’s best.
I would also highly recommend the accompanying book.