Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Mark Thomas - As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade

The title’s a bit of a mouthful, but As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade is like an extended paper edition of the Channel 4 Mark Thomas (Comedy) Product.

In the middle of deadly serious discussion and reasoning, it sometimes felt wrong to be laughing out loud at one of Thomas’ humorous one liners that are liberally sprinkled across each page. He’s a talented writer, and a committed campaigner for human rights and industry hypocrisy.

This book centres around the arms trade, includes various trips to London arms fairs (including an account of the first time Mark was ever arrested), getting a secondary school Amnesty group to import banned weapons into the UK and Ireland, and trying to bring a banned item into the Palace of Westminster to show the Minister Malcolm Wicks.

Part of the book deals with the report that Thomas prepared for BBC2’s Newsnight investigating the Hinduja Group and military supplies to Sudan. Threatened by the Hinduja Group with court action, the BBC have never broadcast the piece, though Thomas robustly defends his findings in the book.

The work behind each chapter would probably have made up half of one of his TV shows, so it’s good to be able to read more about the pain and detail of investigating and exposing wrongdoings. It’s compelling.

As the book goes on, I got the feeling that marriage and fatherhood has made mellowed Mark Thomas, making him use the system and play its games to expose duplicity … but none of it has blunted his sword.

I hope he comes back on tour to Belfast soon. Would be a challenging evening’s entertainment.

1 comment:

John Self said...

I saw Thomas live a couple of times, both many years ago. The first occasion was when he was still a 'normal' comedian, and his stock-in-trade was jolly obscenity. He wasn't very good at all. Then he came back after the first series of The Mark Thomas Comedy Product (as it then was), and his routine was much more in line with his current interests in corporate criminality and social issues. He was far, far funnier. So his revised persona may not only have helped raise awareness of political issues, but also have saved his career.