|Born||4 July 1960|
Swanley, Kent, England
|Medium||Stand-up, television, radio|
|Notable works and roles||The Mark Steel Lectures|
The Mark Steel Revolution
The Mark Steel Solution
Mark Steel's in Town
Mark Steel (born 4 July 1960) is an English comedian, broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author. A stand-up comedian, he has made many appearances on radio and television shows as a guest panellist, and has written regular columns in The Guardian, The Independent and Daily Mirror. He is perhaps best known for presenting The Mark Steel Lectures, The Mark Steel Solution and Mark Steel's in Town.
Steel was adopted 10 days after he was born. His adoptive father worked in insurance and his mother was a housewife who supplemented the family's income through factory work and working as a lollipop lady. He had a close relationship with his adoptive parents. Steel later told UK newspaper The Guardian':
I knew I was adopted, strangely, before I knew where babies came from. I didn’t feel different or special, and I don’t ever remember giving the slightest damn about it. I knew because my very lovely auntie Gwen would tell the story of how she got talking to a blonde girl, Frances, who had moved into a flat in the same house in London. She was 19. She was in a bit of a state because she was pregnant. Her parents didn’t know and she’d run away from home. It was 1959, so this wasn’t easy to deal with. So my auntie Gwen said to her, 'Well, I've got a solution. Have the baby and give it to my brother.' So this girl had me in 1960 and I was handed over to Doreen and Ernie.
He grew up in Swanley, Kent. Steel claims that he was expelled from school for attending a cricket course without permission: "I thought, fantastic! The punishment for not coming in is that I'm not allowed to come in." He traced his biological mother later in life but she said that she did not want to know him. She died soon after Steel attempted to contact her. He learned that she was from a Scottish working-class family with an active involvement in left-wing politics, and that she had subsequently married an Italian and lived in Rimini. She had met his biological father Joe Dwek at a party in London. Dwek was an Egyptian Sephardic Jew whose family left Egypt after Gamal Abdel Nasser became president in the 1950s. Dwek had subsequently become a multi-millionaire trader on Wall Street, as well as a successful professional backgammon player and the 1976 World Backgammon champion. He met Dwek only once, around 2006, after writing and emailing him, and arranging to meet in a London restaurant. In 2015, Steel told The Guardian:
Members of the royal family used to visit Dwek's house in London and he hung out with millionaires, like John Aspinall and James Goldsmith, at the Clermont Club [...] Just last night I discovered that five years ago he bought a house for $12m. […] He said he remembered Frances vividly but it [Steel getting in touch by email] was all a bit of a shock because he had made all the arrangements to have me dispensed with. But she took the money and didn't go through with it, bless her.
In the late 1970s his adoptive father suffered a mental breakdown and was placed into care at Stone House Hospital. Steel says that his first encounter with social injustice was when he saw how mentally ill patients were being treated in that hospital. The shabby conditions of the home reinforced Steel's political beliefs.
Steel has given varying accounts of his early career: He became bored with constantly being asked how he had started in comedy and took to telling the questioner the first thing that came into his head. He is often described as having worked as a television repair man but confesses that he has no technical abilities. He worked the comedy circuit for several years, and has acknowledged that his comedic influences included Alexei Sayle. In 1992 Steel presented a satirical radio show The Mark Steel Solution on BBC Radio 5, consisting of half-hour monologues which offered solutions to social problems. It ran to four series. It's Not a Runner Bean, a comic autobiography, was published in 1996, and this led to a column in The Guardian which appeared between 1996 and 1999. According to Steel he was sacked because the newspaper wanted to "realign towards Tony Blair", though The Guardian denied this. In 2000 he started writing a weekly column for The Independent, which appears in the Thursday Opinion Column.
He has appeared regularly on Have I Got News For You, on Room 101, Mock the Week, the Graham Norton Show, and made several appearances on Question Time. Mark Steel's in Town has won a Sony Award, Writers' Guild Award, Chortle Awards and British Comedy Guide Awards. In 2014 he won the British Press Award for Broadsheet Columnist, for his column in The Independent.
He has written and performed several radio and television series for the BBC, and written several books including Reasons to Be Cheerful, Vive Le Revolution, an account of the French Revolution and It's Not a Runner Bean.
In 2015 he toured a show 'Who Do I Think I Am', about his adoption and tracing his biological parents. This was broadcast as a show on Radio 4.
In 2017, Steel was back on stage with a new show Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright.
Steel is a supporter of Crystal Palace F.C. and Kent County Cricket Club. He was interviewed by Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special during the South Africa series in 2008, giving an interview on his love of cricket.
Viewing the Soviet Union as "sh*t", and as a state capitalist system rather than truly socialist, Steel joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) He was present in Southall during the riot in which Blair Peach was killed.
In 2000, Steel took part in the London Assembly elections on behalf of the London Socialist Alliance (part of the Socialist Alliance) in the Croydon and Sutton constituency; he received 1,823 votes (1.5% of the vote).
In February 2013, Steel was among those who gave their support to the People's Assembly in a letter published by The Guardian newspaper. Steel spoke at a press conference to launch the People's Assembly Against Austerity on 26 March 2013 and regional public meetings in the lead up to a national meeting at Westminster Central Hall on 22 June 2013. Steel also gave a speech at the People's Assembly Conference in Westminster.
Radio and television
- The Mark Steel Solution (1992, 1994–1996) BBC Radio 5, BBC Radio 4.
- The Mark Steel Revolution (1998) BBC Radio 4, (2007).
- The Mark Steel Lectures (1999–2002) BBC Radio 4, (2007)
- Dedicated Troublemaker (2004) BBC Radio 4
- Mark Steel's in Town (2009–present) BBC Radio 4
He has also contributed to or appeared on the following shows:
- The Good Human Guide BBC Radio 2(1985). Contributing writer.
- Extra Time BBC Radio 5. Presenter. Sports programme.
- Late Edition BBC Radio 4 (1995). Regular panellist on this satirical talk show.
- The News Quiz BBC Radio 4 several occasions from the late 1990s onwards. Guest panellist.
- Loose Ends BBC Radio 4. Interviewee.
- Midweek BBC Radio 4. Interviewee.
- Excess Baggage BBC Radio 4. Interviewee.
- Test Match Special BBC Radio 4. Lunchtime interviewee, 1 August 2008 - England vs South Africa, 3rd test, Edgbaston.
- I've Never Seen Star Wars BBC Radio 4 (2008). Interviewee
- Heresy BBC Radio 4, Guest Pannelist (2009)
- Unite BBC Radio 4, cowriter and actor
- The Mark Steel Lectures BBC Four (2003, 2004, 2006). Writer and Presenter. Television version of his radio programme of the same title. Produced in association with The Open University.
He also appeared in the following shows:
- Red Dwarf BBC Two (1989). Playing 'Ski-man' in episode "Timeslides" (non-speaking part).
- Loose Talk (1994). Guest.
- The Late Jonathan Ross (1996). Guest.
- Does China Exist? (1997).
- If I Ruled the World BBC Two (1998). Guest panellist.
- Lamarr's Attacks BBC Two (2000). Guest.
- Never Mind the Buzzcocks BBC Two (2000–2001). Guest panellist.
- Have I Got News for You BBC One (2001–2013). Guest panellist.
- Question Time BBC One (2003, 2005, 2012, 2013). Guest panellist.
- QI BBC Two, BBC Four (2004–2006). Guest panellist.
- Mock the Week, BBC Two (2005–2006). Guest panellist.
- Room 101 BBC Two, (2006). Guest.
- The Detectives, (1993–1997). Constable Pike.
- Mark Steel's in Town (2011) ISBN 978-0007412426 Based on award-winning BBC Radio 4 series, a celebration of the quirks of small-town life in a country of increasingly homogenised high streets.
- What's Going On? The Meanderings of a Comic Mind in Confusion (2008) ISBN 1-84737-281-3 Autobiography charting changes to his own personal life and the politics of the left.
- Vive La Revolution (2003) ISBN 0-7432-0805-6, (2004) ISBN 0-7432-0806-4 History of the French Revolution.
- Reasons to Be Cheerful (2001) ISBN 0-7432-0803-X, (2002) ISBN 0-7432-0804-8 Autobiography concentrating on political activism.
- It's Not a Runner Bean (1996) ISBN 1-899344-12-8, (2004) ISBN 1-904316-43-3 Autobiography concentrating on his comedy career.
- "Question Time". BBC. 29 March 2002. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
- "Last week's panel". BBC News. 29 March 2002.
- "Mark Steel - Artist Profile". eventseeker.com. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
- Wade, Michael (7 November 2011). "The week with George Galloway - Nov 4". Talksport. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- Lee, Veronica (27 June 2015). "Mark Steel: Finding out who I am". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Steel, Mark (2001). Reasons to be Cheerful. Scribner UK. ISBN 0-7432-0804-8.
- This is Nottingham (15 August 2008). "COMEDY: Mark Steel". Nottingham Post. Nottingham. Archived from the original on 5 February 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- Steel, Mark (9 December 2017). Mark Steel – Who Do I Think I Am? (BBC Radio 4). BBC. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
- "Open2.net: How did you get into comedy?". Open University. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
- "Extract: It's Not A Runner Bean by Mark Steel". The Do-Not Press. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
- "Mark Steel: Every Little Thing's Gonna Be Alright, Assembly Hall, Edinburgh Fringe, review". The Telegraph. 14 August 2017. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
- Interview on BBC's Test Match Special, 1 August 2008
- McCallum, Shiona. "Being a comedian when your dad is Mark Steel". BBC Newsbeat. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
- "Anatomy of a break-up". The Independent. London. 24 September 2008. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
- https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/eastmidlands/news/2010886-weekender-interview-mark-steel-everything-life-funny-side[bare URL]
- "People's Assembly opening letter". The Guardian. 5 February 2013.
- Mark Steel, Right that's enough now what are we going to do about it?, The Independent, 18 February 2013
- Marc Rath, “Popular writer joins comedian at anti-cuts rally[permanent dead link]“ ‘'This is Bristol'’ website, 30 May 2013
- Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
- "The Mark Steel Lectures". BBC Online. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "Mark Steel's in Town". BBC Online. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "BBC Radio 4 - Unite". BBC Online. Retrieved 24 June 2021.