COMEDY

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Mark Thomas is at Short BAC and Sides, BAC, Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 (0171-223 2223) tonight, 8pm

Political comedians are about as thick on the ground as people who now admit to voting Tory at the General Election. The top banana in this hard-to-find bunch is undoubtedly Mark Thomas.

This is the comedian who for his Channel 4 series, The Mark Thomas Comedy Product, tried to coax the then MP Jerry Hayes into a giant penis suit. He also chased a Tory MP on the campaign trail shouting "I love the smell of bullshit in the morning" at him through a megaphone. In another memorable incident, he drove round to then Conservative Minister William Waldegrave's house in a tank masquerading as an ice-cream van to ask for an export licence. These are the sort of acts that led Melody Maker to dub him a "seditious genius". Who said satire was dead?

Thomas is driven by an intense dislike of all Westminster wallahs - blue and red. "I despise them all," he told me. "I don't belong to any party. It's the old Groucho Marx thing - I have an innate ability to hate anything that wants me in it."

An astute man, Thomas is well aware that, to many, political comedy is about as appealing as spending an evening discussing prison reform with Michael Howard. "Some people will go, `Oh God, a political comedian, there's going to be a lecture, and those who don't know the sugar statistics in Cuba are going to be told to go now'," he said, happy to be laughing at himself. "But everything's political. If I do a routine about shopping in Tesco's, people will say, `That's not political at all', but to an extent it will be. I don't see a contradiction in talking about that and East Timor. It is an eclectic church."

EYE ON THE NEW

You may find the new Mark Thomas at the heats of Channel 4's "So You Think You're Funny?". The contest has a high-class pedigree; previous winners include Dylan Moran, Rhona Cameron and Bruce Morton. Heats are on 10-12 and 17-20 Aug; the final is on 24 Aug.

Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh (0131-226 2151)

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