Arts Q&A: What really annoys comedian Mark Thomas?

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, comedian Mark Thomas

London comedian Mark Thomas takes Showtime From The Frontline to Belfast’s MAC on March 6

1. When did you think about a career in comedy and what were your first steps into it?

When I started to perform, the comedy scene was underground and rebellious. I used to refer to the idea of a career as the "C Word". When I started, I just wanted to be a good comic and earn a living from it. I started performing on the circuit at 22. I did what everyone else did; phone up club owners and boast.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Performing at an Oxford University ball in 1988 (it could be 87), me and my mates got paid in money, alcohol, food and seeing Dr Feelgood and Gil Scott Heron perform. After the gig I thought things could not get any better and I went outside to a kebab van that was parked up in front of the college gates. As I stood ordering and Gil Scott Heron wandered up to get a kebab too and we had a natter while eating. The best gig ever. My other favourites, at Brixton Academy were The Clash in the early 80s and Sonic Youth, supported by Pavement.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

For a wedding, Godspeed You Black Emperor.

4. The record you'd take to a desert island?

Genius of Modern Music: Volume 1 by jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. It's the most played records in my collection.

5. And the book?

War and Peace. I've never read it and always said I would.

6. Top three films?

Rear Window (Hitchcock), Oil City Confidential (Julian Temple) and The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer).

7. Worst film you’ve seen and why?

Match Point by Woody Allen – when he makes a s**t film, man it is truly s**t. Manhattan might be uncomfortable to watch given his defence of Weinstein et al and his own predilections. However, Annie Hall, Stardust Memories and Crimes and Misdemeanors are still fantastic films. Match Point, by any comparison, is irredeemably pointless, bland and inanely bourgeoisie.

8. Favourite authors?

At the moment, Jeanette Winterson, Maggie O’Farrell and Graham Greene.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

Cycling and Team Sky.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Cornwall in the summer.

11. Pet hate?

The way Desert Island discs doesn’t play the full song.

The smug class-ridden blather of [Radio Four's] Today programme.

Anything that involves Piers Morgan and an absence of violence.

Harley Davidson motorbikes and the over 50-year-olds that ride them.

Anyone who has been in a gymkhana.

Any film with Josh Grogan.

Litter and the people who complain about litter.

The Proms.

Christmas markets.

Dyson, the man not the machines.


The BBC notion of balance and inpartiality that invariably sides with the overdog and the establishment, but still manages to say "well we've had complaints from everybody, so we have probably got it about right".

My children ‘borrowing’ my clothes.

News about the Royal Family.

S**t coffee that costs £2.50

Buying water in plastic bottles.

Macaroni cheese.

Having to throw away half of the weekend papers.

People talking about their piercings.

Garden centres.

John Lewis Xmas adverts and the coverage thereof.

Q and A’s

(NB: Tories, capitalism, sexism and racism come under serious hates.)

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Anything veggie.

Dessert? Banana.

Drink? Coffee.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Tony Pletts, since I was 14

14. Is there a God?

I’m the nearest to it, I'm afraid.

Mark Thomas: Showtime From The Frontline, in which Mark and his team tell the story of his mission to set up a comedy club in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian city of Jenin, is at Belfast's MAC theatre on March 6. Tickets from

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