Possibly the only comedian to have received both a Sony Award and a Kurdish National Congress Medal of Honour, Mark Thomas (www.markthomasinfo.com) is as renowned for his political activism as he is for his hearty yet acerbic stand-up.
He even revised the name of his Channel 4 series from The Mark Thomas Comedy Product to The Mark Thomas Product, an acknowledgement that cracking jokes had become less of a priority than investigating the arms trade, campaigning to change drug laws, and inciting his crusty followers to harass every fat cat they could find. If only we'd listened to him. With the world in the mess it's in, Thomas now seems less like a tubthumping troublemaker and more like the voice of reason.
On his new tour, entitled It's the Stupid Economy!, he'll be asking the audience for ideas of how to make Britain a better place, and then incorporating the best suggestions into a People's Manifesto. It's the kind of gimmick which isn't uncommon in comedy shows these days, but with Thomas there's a difference: he'll attempt to turn the manifesto's proposals into a reality. And judging by his track record, there's a chance he might succeed. Thomas appears tonight at the Hull Truck Theatre (01482 325012), and he's touring until he gets to Berwick-upon-Tweed's Maltings Theatre (01289 330999) on 16 July.
For some comedy that's less likely to address the state of planet than the state of another planet in some distant galaxy, there's the wondrous Bill Bailey (www.billbailey.co.uk). In June he's in Manchester, Salford and Dublin, before hitting Nottingham in July, and Plymouth, Oxford, Glasgow and Bristol in August. And if you can forgive him for that rubbish Comic Relief single, you can see Rob Brydon at London's Apollo Theatre (0870 890 1101) from 11 to 23 May. Brydon – who was recently confirmed as one of the new hosts of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue – is finishing his first tour as himself, ie, not in character as Marion & Geoff's hapless Keith. But why see one comedian when you can see 62 of them? The Kilkenny Comedy Festival – or as they insist on calling it, the Carlsberg Cat Laughs Festival (00 353 56 7763 837) – runs from 28 May to 1 June. The Cat's got the cream of comic talent, including Lee Mack, Ross Noble and Rich Hall.