Mark Thomas

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Mark Thomas
Mark thomas.png
Born Mark Clifford Thomas
(1963-04-11) 11 April 1963 (age 51)
London, England, UK
Residence London, England, UK
Occupation Comedian
Activist
Presenter
Reporter
Columnist
Employer New Statesman
Known for Political activism
Spouse(s) Married
Children 2
Website
MarkThomasInfo.com

Mark Clifford Thomas (born 11 April 1963) is an English comedian, presenter, political activist and reporter from south London. He first became known as a guest comic on the BBC Radio 1 comedy show The Mary Whitehouse Experience in the late 1980s. He is best known for political stunts on his show, The Mark Thomas Comedy Product on Channel 4. Thomas describes himself as a "libertarian anarchist." [1]

Biography[edit]

Mark Thomas was born in South London. His mother was a midwife and his father a self-employed builder (and ex lay preacher).[2] Thomas was educated at Macaulay Church of England Primary School, Victoria Rise, Clapham until 1974, where his party trick was to recite the first verses of the four gospels from memory, and then the independent Christ's Hospital School, where he attained O-levels and A-levels. He went on to be awarded a degree in Theatre Arts at Bretton Hall College. He subsequently embarked on his comedy career, initially supporting himself through working on building sites with his father. He also wrote material for Dave Allen.[3]

Prior to his most renowned vehicle, The Mark Thomas Comedy Product, Thomas was a frequent guest comic on the BBC Radio 1 show The Mary Whitehouse Experience, where he would do a routine about a specific topic of the week and involve studio audience members in the discussions. He would also occasionally play parts in sketches written by the show's main performers. He then became the resident stand-up comic on Saturday Zoo, a Channel 4 comedy series first screened in 1993 and appeared on an episode of Have I Got News for You. He also co-presented the highly successful Radio 1 comedy talk show Loose Talk with Kevin Day, and is also a founder member of the London Comedy Store's hard hitting Cutting Edge show.

His political comedy show, The Mark Thomas Comedy Product (later renamed as simply The Mark Thomas Product, to reflect its increasing political agenda) on Channel 4 earned him criticism from politicians but was seen by critics as a crucial investigative tool. In one edition, Thomas investigated the practice of avoiding inheritance tax by declaring art, furniture, homes and land available for public viewing. Thomas showed how Nicholas Soames hid this fact from the public and at the same time avoided paying tax. After being pursued relentlessly by Thomas legitimately asking for permission to see his furniture, Soames eventually paid the tax,[citation needed] and Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, changed the law.[citation needed]

Leaving Channel 4 was a mutual decision, following a series of disputes over how far the channel would go in its broadcasting, one of which concerned the channel's reluctance to support actions concerning corporate accountability and corporate manslaughter laws — a cause he had campaigned for — which coincided with the Queen Mother's funeral. He declined to take part in a proposed Celebrity Guantanamo Bay 'reality TV' show.

Thomas has appeared at numerous comedy benefit nights, and is a well established stand-up comedian in the UK. He is the chairman of the Ilısu Dam Campaign, a campaign which was successful in temporarily blocking the development of a large-scale hydroelectric dam in southeast Turkey that campaigners claim will lead to the displacement of up to 78,000 people, mostly Kurds, without adequate compensation or consultation, as well as to environmental and cultural destruction.

Recently, Thomas has been working with War on Want in India and investigating and filming alleged human rights violations in Colombia (by, amongst others, Coca-Cola)[4] where trade unions are targeted by militia allegedly controlled by the government.[5] He wrote a regular column for the New Statesman between 2001 and 2007.

The parliamentary committee which oversees weapons exports, the House of Commons Quadripartite Select Committee, commended him for his undercover work, which led to official warning letters being issued to a number of companies.[6] His work in this area is covered in As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade, a book chronicling his experiences undercover, his political activism and his projects designed to find and report loopholes in arms trading laws, which culminated in a controversial un-broadcast Newsnight report about the Hinduja brothers.

Thomas at the UK Uncut stand-up show in March 2011

Whilst promoting this book on his latest tour, Thomas is also organising mass lone demonstrations, in protest at the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which prevents any demonstrations around London's Parliament Square without prior police approval. The last event attracted over 100 'lone protesters' at the same time.[7] In 2006, he was added to the Guinness Book of Records for most demonstrations held on one day: 20 individual protests in 20 different locations. He actually performed 21 protests, but as the first and last took place at the same location, it was agreed that only 20 would count. However, his record was beaten in 2010 by the Freman College Amnesty group, who held 23 demonstrations.[8][9]

In 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bradford, for services to peace and for his work as a comedian, political activist, presenter and investigative journalist, especially for his effective campaigning on the ethics of the arms trade. The university has a long-standing Department of Peace Studies.[10]

In 2009, Thomas launched the Huddersfield Policy postcard campaign, petitioning the Queen with protests against the prospect of a state funeral for Margaret Thatcher.[11]

For his 'It's The Stupid Economy' UK tour in 2009, Mark played 55 shows over 14 weeks (between March and end July) and encouraged each audience to come up with their own policies (silly or serious) that would somehow make their lives better, forming a "People's Manifesto". Each audience then got to vote on their favourite policy of that evening and the winning suggestion then formed part of his manifesto which he will then campaign for and attempt to actually make at least some of the suggestions become reality.

In April 2010, Thomas was awarded £1200 compensation for a search carried out by police in 2007. He had been unlawfully subject to a stop-and-search without adequate cause, after speaking at an anti-arms rally.[12]

During 2010 Thomas decided to go rambling in the Middle East and walked the entire length of the Israeli Separation Barrier, crossing between the Israeli and the Palestinian side. His touring show entitled "Walking The Wall" (2011) recounted the story.

Television[edit]

  • Friday Night Live, Channel 4 (1988)
  • Saturday Zoo, Channel 4 (1993)
  • Viva Cabaret, Channel 4 (1993)
  • Denton, Channel 7 Australia (1994)
  • The Mark Thomas Comedy Product (later renamed The Mark Thomas Product), Channel 4 which ran for six series totalling 45 episodes (1996–2002)
  • Dispatches: The Lie Of The Land, Channel 4 (1998)
  • Thomas Country, Channel 4 (1999)
  • The Immigration and Asylum Bill, Channel 5 (2000)
  • Secret Map of Britain, Channel 4 (2002)
  • Dispatches: Mark Thomas — Broom Cupboard Inspector, Channel 4 (2003)
  • Dispatches: Mark Thomas — Debt Collector, Channel 4 (2003)
  • Dispatches: After School Arms Club, Channel 4 (2006)
  • Dispatches: Mark Thomas on Coca Cola, Channel 4 (2007)

Radio[edit]

  • The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Radio 1 (1989)
  • The Mix, Radio 5 (1990)
  • Sleeping with the NME, Radio 5 (1991)
  • Loose Talk, Radio 1 (1991–1992)
  • Booked!, Radio 4 (1995–1998)
  • Celluloid Psychiatrists, Radio 4 (2000)
  • Left Bank of the Mind, Radio 4 (2001)
  • Mark Thomas Presents…, Radio 4 (2005) (shows on Stan Freberg, the Firesign Theatre, Shelley Berman and Mort Sahl)
  • Chain Reaction, Radio 4 (2006)
  • My Life in Serious Organised Crime, Radio 4 (2007)
  • Ramblings, Radio 4 (2008) (walking The Ridgeway track in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire)
  • Mark Thomas: The Manifesto Radio 4 (2009–present)
  • Bravo Figaro, Radio 4 (2013)

Discography[edit]

  • Sex, Filth and Religion (video) (1995)
  • Live (1998)
  • Dambusters (2001)
  • The Night War Broke Out (2004)
  • Mark Thomas Comedy Show ([DVD)] (2005)
  • Mark Thomas:Serious Organised Criminal (DVD) (2007)

Live tours[edit]

  • As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela... (2006)
  • Serious Organised Criminal (2007)
  • Belching Out The Devil (2008)
  • It's the Stupid Economy(2009)
  • Extreme Rambling – Walking the Wall (2011)
  • Bravo Figaro (2012-)
  • 100 Acts of Minor Dissent (2013)

Other live shows[edit]

  • Mark Thomas: Metrix Consortium at The Open University (9 September 2008) [1]

Awards[edit]

In addition to being recognised for his comedy career, Mark Thomas has been awarded various citations for his political campaigning, including:

  • Kurdish National Congress Medal of Honour (2002)[14]
  • International Service Award for the Global Defence of Human Rights (2004)
  • MediActivist Awards [2]) (2005)[15]
  • Former Guinness World Record Holder for Most Number of Political Demonstrations in 24 Hours[16]

He was also made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Bradford on 3 December 2008, in recognition of his peace campaigning and services to comedy.[17]

Politics[edit]

  • In his 4 March 2002 New Statesman column,[18] Mark placed a bounty on the head of US President George Bush to the value of £4,320[13] (his total earnings writing for the magazine to that point).
  • Despite playing a prank on him on the first episode of The Mark Thomas Comedy Product he appeared on a platform with controversial left-wing MP George Galloway in the "Troops out, no Trident" demonstration on 24 February 2007.[19]

In February 2009 British entertainers David Baddiel, Bill Bailey, Morwenna Banks, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Jo Brand, Russell Brand, Rob Brydon, Jimmy Carr, Jack Dee, Omid Djalili, Sean Lock, Lee Mack, Alexei Sayle, Meera Syal, Mark Thomas said in an open letter printed in The Times newspaper of the Bahá'í leaders to be on trial in Iran: "In reality, their only “crime”, which the current regime finds intolerable, is that they hold a religious belief that is different from the majority…. we register our solidarity with all those in Iran who are being persecuted for promoting the best development of society …(and) with the governments, human rights organisations and people of goodwill throughout the world who have so far raised their voices calling for a fair trial, if not the complete release of the Baha’i leaders in Iran."[20] Echoing the comments earlier in the month made by two hundred and sixty seven non-Bahá'í Iranian academics, writers, artists, journalists and activists from some 21 countries including Iran who signed an open letter of apology posted to Iranian.com and stating they were "ashamed" and pledging their support in Bahá'ís achieving the rights detailed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the Bahá'ís in Iran.[21] See Persecution of Bahá'ís.

On 14 April 2009, a video was released on YouTube in which Thomas endorsed the Green Party.[22]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Phil Daoust (20 January 1999). "Stand up and be taunted". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  2. ^ "Biography". markthomasinfo.com. Archived from the original on 2007-01-13. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  3. ^ "Comedian Mark Thomas: My dad was a right-wing Thatcher supporter". metro.co.uk. 23 October 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  4. ^ James Clasper (The London Line) (19 May 2005). "Taking the fizz out of Cokes image". Spinwatch. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  5. ^ "Boycott Killer Coke!". Colombia Action Network. 4 September 2003. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  6. ^ "Comedian praised over weapons trade". Yahoo! News. 3 August 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-17. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Parliament protesters fight ban". BBC News. 31 August 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  8. ^ Naomi Gallichan (22 November 2006). "Review: Mark Thomas, The Royal Court, Liverpool". liverpool.com. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  9. ^ Mark Thomas (12 October 2006). "Mark Thomas on demonstrating near the Houses of Parliament". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-03-30. 
  10. ^ "Mark Thomas is awarded honorary doctorate by Bradford University". Mark Thomas info. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  11. ^ "Update on Thatcher funeral policy". Mark Thomas Info. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  12. ^ The Guardian, 19 April 2010, Comedian Mark Thomas wins £1,200 over police search
  13. ^ a b Malcolm Hay (25 August 2006). "Mark Thomas: Interview". Time Out. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  14. ^ "Scotland: Mark Thomas gives Amnesty International's Annual Lecture". Amnesty International. 18 August 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  15. ^ "MISTY awards 2005". Undercurrents. 25 November 2005. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  16. ^ Herts school smashes world record for protests in a day
  17. ^ Honorary Graduates December 2008
  18. ^ Mark Thomas (4 March 2002). "My own contribution to the war on terrorism is to promise my New Statesman earnings to anyone who'll kill Bush". New Statesman. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  19. ^ Davide Simonetti (25 February 2007). "The February Stop The War Protest In London". The Nether World. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  20. ^ "Stand up for Iran’s Baha’is - Voices from the arts call for the imprisoned Baha'i leaders in Iran to receive a fair trial". The Times. 2009-02-26. 
  21. ^ "We are ashamed!". Iranian.com (Iranian.com). 2009-02-04. 
  22. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhIR8MIxzh8

External links[edit]