English comedian, presenter, political satirist and journalist Mark Thomas spoke to Jason McCrossan about his latest show that he is touring the UK with called THE RED SHED which he is performing at the Gulbenkian theatre in Canterbury on 17th February.
The show celebrates the 50th anniversary of Wakefield Labour Club’s iconic Red Shed. It’s the story of where Mark first started to perform in public and where he politically came of age as a student involved in the miners’ strike.
I was out with 106.9 SFM in the streets of Sittingbourne on Saturday. We were broadcasting live from the town centre as part of the fantastic sci-fi weekend that they were having. Whilst filming on periscope a little man honed into view and started dancing along to Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters song that was playing out.
2016 seems to be a rotten year for anyone who grew up loving the 80s. It all kicked off with the shock news that David Bowie had died. I have to say that I had a Princess Diana moment when I heard the news, in that….I thought they’d got it wrong. His album had literally just been released and so I thought it might be some kind of weird stunt. Plus, I remember the outpouring of grief when people thought Cher was dead #now that cher is dead- which was actually about the death of Margret Thatcher, tragic or not depending upon your location.
But no, it was true David had indeed died. I remember musing at the time to an overly shocked friend how he’d had a great life and rather than mourn the loss we should celebrate the fact he’d had a stonking life and left us with some stonking songs. Then Alan Rickman died. I always remember that scene in the film Leon where Alan plays a bent cop who pops pills and then cranks his neck – the sound still makes me wince – until I remembered that this was actually Gary Oldman. Rickman was in Die Hard…stupid!!!!
Then a stream of celebrities seemed to die off – first came Sir Terry Wogan – now, that was a real shock. I like so many others, felt compelled to watch his last BBC Radio 2 show and then spent the next 10 or so hours Youtubing loads of Wogan stuff. He was dead. All of which seemed so sad as we’d only got over Cilla Black dying and the Oxo lady. It was a shame, especially as the bad celeb’s (apart from hell fire eating Jimmy Saville) were still alive in kicking – admitted from behind the bars of their cell or living in some dodgy halfway house after being kicked out by their wives – now wishing they were dead. But they weren’t. They were still alive. The ones we liked…were dying.
And then like a game of celebrity squares which had just fallen over – the rest tumbled too – we had the guy who played father Jack in Father Ted; the guy who wrote Coronation Street – who I learned was gay (probably doesn’t mean much if you straight – but when you’re gay, these little footnotes are handy for Christmas time conversations when you can drop it in when stuck with your family for 48 hours and want to rough things up a bit), then Paul Daniels and then wee Ronnie Corbett and then my agony aunt Denise Robertson (she’d never met or communicated with me in anyway – but that doesn’t matter – she was mine and it’s how I feel about her that counts); David Guest (didn’t surprise me all that much), Victoria Wood (a real shock) – I loved Vic – she was a great British comedian – a bit like Rick Mayall, who I also thought died last year – but upon having a quick look actually died in June 2014!!! Where the hell is time going???
So, anyway, Victoria Wood was someone a really thought was special a) because she proved that given half the chance women can be as funny as men and d) I loved her dyslexic man joke “My boyfriend had a sex manual but he was dyslexic. I was lying there and he was looking for my vinegar”!!
Victoria now joins a very small queue of woman that I currently have which is ‘women who I think are really funny and died way too soon’. The only other woman on the list so far is Linda Smith. I’m sure there are more…I just can’t think.
And then came the news that Prince had died. I’m not sure if I’m starting to become immune to celebrity deaths or what – I was sad, but coming the day after Victoria Wood – I couldn’t quite splice away enough from my sadness blob for him – to adequately represent the fact that I was sad about his passing and also how impressive his career was. But, had he died in a couple of months – assuming another celeb didn’t get in there first – I’d of been really mournful.
As it is, today I have watched loads of Victoria Wood stuff – just because, well, I’m sad. There was a big outpouring of sadness on the news about her – a lot of people saying how wonderful they were…if she did manage to get back here some how, i think she’d be within her rights to say…”so where were all you lot when i was trying to flog bloody tickets to my theatre production??? Weren’t so keen then”. And, I would have to bow my head because I was one of those who wanted to go and see it…but never did. Shame on me.
When Chris Morris’s film ‘Four Lions’ was first released in 2010 I remember reading the reviews which included adjectives such as was “fantastic” and “hilarious” – advertising that you see accompanying most films – mutual advertising for both parties. The hype pointed in one direction – this was a funny film which was worth watching.
I remember going to a muslim friends house and watching the film. I hadn’t known him all that long – but I liked the fact that although he was muslim – his religion hadn’t all-encompassed him and was, a part of who he was – an important part none the less, bit he didn’t let his religion manipulate him and he hadn’t allowed it to overtake or limit his personality. There was religion. There was life. Each had its place.
So I put on the film in eager anticipation that we would both, especially my friend, share in the fun and hilarity of the film – as described in so many of the advertising adjectives. My friend didn’t find it funny. I was disappointed. In fact, I felt a little embarrassed because I then thought – maybe he thinks he that I’d presumed he’d find it funny as it was poking fun at a misfit bunch of muslims who turn out to be just as hopeless at terrorism as they were with managing their daily life routine.
We both watched the film in kind of silence. That’s what I remember. And kinda agreed that it was ok – after it had finished. Although I think we were both disappointed.
Then 5 years later – in fact, just the other day – I decided to watch the film again. This time I had set no expectations. This time I hadn’t set myself up for a laugh-a-minute bomb-com film that would have me crying with laughter. I just watched it. I watched it detached from the previous me. And, found that I actually quite like this film.
We have seen so many horror films lately that have been created by terrorists and circulated by our media – on their behalf – that this film seems tame and undramatic. I felt myself warming to the characters in a way I hadn’t before. I found the inner conflict in liking these guys individually – whilst wanting them to see – what I was seeing – the futility of their cause and how they could direct their passion for the cause in more constructive and less destructive ways. I saw the characters in a whole new light. This time – I found it smart – engaging and I enjoyed the dark humour.
Four Lions is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it – or another go if like me you were disappointed all those years ago.
To get you started – here is an interview with one of the writers Chris Morris – who looks a little bit like the late Colonel Gaddafi! But maybe it is just me.
And here is the film Four Lions:
A whip-smart, slapstick comedy, Chris Morris’ FOUR LIONS takes aim at Jihadi suicide bombers and illuminates the war on terror through satire and farce. Follow five inept aspiring terrorists on their quest to strike a blow, and how they demonstrate that terrorism may be about ideology, but it can also be about idiots.
Nigel Hawthorne is an actor whom I always adored as the sharp minded, yet petulant & slippery Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby in the Yes Minister/Prime Minister series.
Very sadly, he died on Boxing Day 2001 at the age of 72. He had just completed his exceptional autobiography about a life which had by no means taken a straight path. His ambitions to be an actor when a young man in South Africa were strongly discouraged by his father. He came to England alone and struggled for many years to make his name – eventually joining the Royal Court, starring in the West End, and finally having his great TV break in Yes, Minister.
He also struggled with his sexuality and it was not until meeting production manager Trevor Bentham in l977 that he finally found his life partner. A naturally private man, his media ‘outing’ in the run-up to the Oscar Ceremony for The Madness of King George was the source of much pain, although ultimately it became a liberation.
At the peak of his career he was struck by cancer and his battle with illness forms a moving final section of the book. Speaking of his death, his partner Trevor Bentham, still in the raw grip of mourning for the actor said ”The cancer that had plagued his pancreas for 18 months had recently moved to his lungs and finished the job quickly and with the greatest dignity,” Bentham recalls. ”No trace of pain, a quiet end in a shaft of winter sunlight.” At 9.30 on that Boxing Day morning Hawthorne had collapsed in a chair and ”simply ceased to live”.
“Party Games” is the twenty-second and final episode of the BBC comedy series Yes Minister. A one-hour Christmas special that was first broadcast 17 December 1984, its events lead into the sequel, Yes, Prime Minister. The episode was shown again at Christmas 1990, shortly after the fall of Margaret Thatcher. Hacker’s denials of interest in the party leadership were similar to those made by Michael Heseltine some six years later.