Episode 11 of ‘A History of Comedy in Several Objects’ is now available on iTunes and acast.
In this special guest episode we talk to Warren Lakin about Linda Smith’s life and her work, feminism in comedy and the Miners’ Strike of the 1980s, focusing on a flyer for the Cable Street Community Centre show as part of the 1985 ‘Pit Stop Tour’ run by Sheffield Popular Theatre, plus an exclusive interview clip with Mark Thomas.
Poster advertising the 1985 ‘Pit Stop Tour’ in support of the National Union of Mineworkers featuring Token Women and other acts (BSUCA/LS/3/1/1/3) (c) Stephen Houfe, Warren Lakin
In the fifth episode of A History Of Comedy In Several Objects, now out on the iTunes store, we talk to legendary political comedian, Mark Thomas. We look at his particularly absurd object (a squeezy hand grenade! You’ll have to listen to find out more information…) which leads us to discuss big topics as whether comedy can create change and what is the role of a stand-up comedian? Join Olly and Elspeth to explore Mark’s unique engagement in the world stand-up comedy and the world in general.
Squeezy stress grenade (Mark Thomas Collection). Photo Matt Wilson
Postcard accompanying the book ‘Mark Thomas presents The People’s Manifesto’, which contains a selection of policies suggested during the ‘Its the Stupid Economy’ tour
Matt Hoss writes:
In my module Introduction to Stand-Up, I listened to unpublished materials from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive and analysed a comedian in relation to their social context. I eagerly persuaded (some may say ‘coerced’) my group to listen to Mark Thomas. The audio was occasionally difficult to hear, however it retains and encapsulates the true passion within Thomas’ comedic rhetoric. The clip is an hour long and it involves the second half of his 2009 show It’s The Stupid Economy. The clip starts with Thomas reading out suggested policies written by audience members in the interval. Responding to their decrees, Thomas delivers witty anecdotes accompanied an undertone of political restlessness.
Thomas demonstrates his tremendous craft by voicing his politics but also estranging us from it through absurdity. For example he envisions a simple solution to the Israel and Palestine crisis by transferring their mortgages to Northern Rock and sending “busloads of Geordie Bailiffs”. The interweaving of pertinent issues within our society represents how Thomas topically frames his intelligent and poignant jokes, which suit the structure and the significance of his set.
Overall, the archive grants access to significant pieces of Stand-Up which is both a rare opportunity and a genuine delight.
The University of Kent has a history of teaching comic performance and provides a number of opportunities for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level to study the theory and practice of stand-up comedy. We think it is fantastic that the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive is based within a context in which students themselves are studying and performing comedy, and we hope that the archive will inspire performance as well as record it. Thank you to Yolanda Cooper for writing the first of our ‘student perspectives’ on using some of the audio-visual material within the collections.
Yolanda Cooper writes:
As a third year Stand-Up comedy student, I was given the humbling opportunity this week to work with a fantastic, rare clip by the hilarious Mark Thomas from his ‘It’s the Stupid Economy’ tour. My task was to listen to the clip (recorded in Sheffield in 2009) – a treat in itself due to the small collection of people who have had the opportunity – and select a section to analyse contextually.
Making the decision as to which part was my favourite proved a hard and perilous task after listening. (It was all hilarious!) Along with Thomas and his audience I agree that perhaps we should change our anthem to ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet and that we [Britain] are in seriously financial trouble when Primark has a sale! Consequently, not only was I able to laugh out loud at the comical truths of our nation that Thomas describes, but his witty political satire charged the realisation that we as Brits don’t say what we think.
After analysing the chosen segment, my group and I presented to the class our findings and research regarding the context of the specific jokes. Luckily for us the show was performed in 2009, so the political references he was making were still relatable to our generation!
This was just the beginning of my exploration through the archive, which is an exciting platform for students and the public alike to investigate further rare comedic material. Not only did Thomas’ clip make me laugh, it also inspired me, an occurrence that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the Stand-Up Comedy Archive.