James Rampton on comedy

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The Independent Culture
Should everybody be gay for two years? Should people who donate to charity be jailed? Should anybody born in England be deported? These are just some of the questions in search of The Mark Steel Solution, which goes on a nationwide, 30-date tour from Sunday. Steel (below right), long an accomplished trouper on the circuit and on the panel-games of Radio 4, says that the show is meant as "an appeal to be passionate". He goes on to defend this rather unfashionable emotion: "Rather than saying 'Oh, I don't care about anything', if you start off with a serious point, it ends up being funnier. If you say nothing matters, you just talk about how paper-clips aren't very strong or you can't find the end of the Sellotape. That's OK for five minutes, but people don't remember it." He is even prepared to describe himself with the dreaded "P word": political. "People like me and Jeremy Hardy and Mark Thomas get called political. You recoil from it because the word political means people shouting "hear, hear", Michael Heseltine having a go at the bloke on the Today programme, and a spokesman on Newsnight arguing about fishing quotas. I'm not political in that sense, but in the sense that I'm opinionated. If you ask people about fat cats' salaries, even those who wouldn't call themselves political would say, 'that is disgusting'. It's a great time to be opinionated." So go along and put in your ha'pennyworth.

'The Mark Steel Solution' is at Middlesbrough Corner House (01642 231 886) Sunday, and then tours nationwide