Mark Steel

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Mark Steel
Mark Steel (cropped).jpg
Steel in 2008
Born (1960-07-04) 4 July 1960 (age 62)
Swanley, Kent, England
MediumRadio, stand-up, television
Years active1983–present
Notable works and rolesThe 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 author, broadcaster, stand-up comedian and newspaper columnist.[1] 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.[2] He presents The Mark Steel Lectures, The Mark Steel Solution, Mark Steel's in Town and the podcast What the fuck is going on?.[3]

Early life[edit]

Steel was adopted 10 days after he was born.[4] 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.[5] He had a close relationship with his adoptive parents.[6] Steel told The Guardian':[5]

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, and claims 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."[7] He traced his biological mother later in life but she said that she did not want to know him,[4] and died soon after. He learned that she was from a Scottish working-class family with an active involvement in left-wing politics; she had married an Italian and lived in Rimini. She had met his biological father Joe Dwek[8] 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 professional backgammon player who won tournaments in the USA and Europe, and represented the UK against the USA in 1973 and 1974.[5][8][9] After writing and emailing, Steel met Dwek only once, in a London restaurant sometime around 2006.[8] In 2015, Steel told The Guardian:[5]

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 reinforced Steel's political beliefs.[6]

Steel documented his early life, adoption and quest to find his birth parents in an audio book for Audible Productions - Who Do I Think I am?[10] - which was released in December 2021


Steel had various early jobs including a stint as a milkman.[7] He became bored with answering how he started in comedy and took to saying the first thing that came into his head. He worked the comedy circuit for several years, and acknowledges Alexei Sayle as an influence.[11][7] In 1992 Steel presented the satirical radio show The Mark Steel Solution on BBC Radio 5, consisting of half-hour monologues offering solutions to social problems. It ran to four series. A comic autobiography, It's Not a Runner Bean, was published in 1996 which led to a column in The Guardian between 1996 and 1999. In 2000 he started writing the Thursday Opinion Column for The Independent.

He has appeared frequently on Have I Got News For You, Room 101, Mock the Week, the Graham Norton Show, and has 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.[citation needed]

He has written and performed several radio and television series for the BBC, and written several books including Reasons to Be Cheerful, Vive la Révolution – an account of the French Revolution, and It's Not a Runner Bean.[12]

In 2015 he toured a show Who Do I Think I Am, about his adoption and tracing his biological parents. It was broadcast as a show on Radio 4.

In 2017, Steel was back on stage with his show Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Steel is a supporter of Crystal Palace F.C.[citation needed] and Kent County Cricket Club.[citation needed] During the South Africa series in 2008 he was interviewed by Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special about his love of cricket.[14]

He has a son, Elliot Steel, who is also a stand-up comedian,[15] and a daughter from a relationship that ended in 2006.[16] He was married to Natasha Steel until 2016.[17] Steel is currently in a relationship with fellow comedian Shaparak Khorsandi.[18]


During the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, when he was in his 20s, Steel vented his objections to society's injustices via political protests, punk rock, and poetry.

Viewing the Soviet Union as "shit", 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[19] 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 supported the People's Assembly in a letter published in The Guardian.[20] He spoke at a press conference to launch the People's Assembly Against Austerity on 26 March 2013,[21] and at regional public meetings[22] in the lead up to a national meeting at Westminster Central Hall on 22 June 2013. He also gave a speech at the People's Assembly Conference in Westminster.

Prior to the 2015 UK general election, he endorsed the parliamentary candidacy of the Green Party's Caroline Lucas.[23]

Radio and television[edit]


He has also contributed to or appeared on the following shows:


He also appeared in the following shows:


  • Printed
    • 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.
  • Audiobooks

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Question Time". BBC. 29 March 2002. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  2. ^ "Mark Steel - Artist Profile". Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  3. ^ Steel, Mark. "What the Fuck is Going On?". Acast. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  4. ^ a b Wade, Michael (7 November 2011). "The week with George Galloway - Nov 4". Talksport. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Lee, Veronica (27 June 2015). "Mark Steel: Finding out who I am". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b Steel, Mark (2001). Reasons to be Cheerful. Scribner UK. ISBN 0-7432-0804-8.
  7. ^ a b c This is Nottingham (15 August 2008). "COMEDY: Mark Steel". Nottingham Post. Nottingham. Archived from the original on 5 February 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Steel, Mark (9 December 2017). Mark Steel – Who Do I Think I Am? (BBC Radio 4). BBC. Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Backgammon for Profit, by Joe Dwek". Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  10. ^ "Who Do I Think I Am? (Audio Download): Mark Steel, Mark Steel, Audible Originals: Audible Books & Originals". Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  11. ^ " How did you get into comedy?". Open University. Retrieved 18 October 2008.
  12. ^ "Extract: It's Not A Runner Bean by Mark Steel". The Do-Not Press. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ Interview on BBC's Test Match Special, 1 August 2008
  15. ^ McCallum, Shiona (4 August 2017). "Being a comedian when your dad is Mark Steel". BBC News. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Anatomy of a break-up". The Independent. London. 24 September 2008. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  17. ^ "Weekender: Interview - Mark Steel: 'Everything in life has a funny side'". 19 January 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2021.
  18. ^ "Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  19. ^ "Authors: Mark Steel". The Independent. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  20. ^ "People's Assembly opening letter". The Guardian. 5 February 2013.
  21. ^ Mark Steel, Right that's enough now what are we going to do about it?, The Independent, 18 February 2013
  22. ^ Marc Rath, “Popular writer joins comedian at anti-cuts rally[permanent dead link]“ ‘'This is Bristol'’ website, 30 May 2013
  23. ^ Elgot, Jessica (24 April 2015). "Celebrities sign statement of support for Caroline Lucas – but not the Greens". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  24. ^ "The Mark Steel Lectures". BBC Online. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  25. ^ "Mark Steel's in Town". BBC Online. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  26. ^ "What the Fuck is Going On?". Acast. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  27. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Unite". BBC Online. Retrieved 24 June 2021.

External links[edit]