The first time I reviewed Mr Thomas, back in 2002, he mentioned that his sister was training for the priesthood. I am pleased to relate that according to last night's update, she is now a fully-fledged vicar, who embarrasses him by living in the same street and popping round while still in uniform. Mark himself remains more a secular humanist (i.e. frothing atheist), doing what good he can as much because he enjoys it as for any other reason.
All the qualities and abilities described in previous reviews (start here) are still very much in evidence. He remains an excellent mimic, with an amazing memory - he talked, rapidly, for well over two hours in total - and his command of tone and pace (and of anyone who contributes from the floor) appear effortless.
So what's new? He's been writing a book, Belching out the Devil, an exposť of the sinister truth of the Coca-Cola company, the publicising of which is evidently the reason for his current outing. But there's not so much to tell of this, apart from a few legal and PR skirmishes, as the activities of Coca-Cola, it seems, are not that funny, and don't involve Mark personally.
So we got a mixture. Included were many gleeful observations on the current financial situation ("WE ARE FUCKED!"), some very satisfying abuse of Cheltenham, and the story of an obscenity trial at a northern art gallery, where, in order to get into court as an interested third party, he had to found "The Church of ET" ("We follow the Finger").
At the interval we were encouraged to fill in "manifestos" - basically suggestions of social or political reform, the best of which he might try to implement. Engaging commentary on these took up the first half hour or so of the second half. His favourite was one basing parking fines on the cost of the vehicle, closely followed by a proposal for a lesbian defence force. (I personally preferred the idea of raising the minimum age for smoking by one year, every year.)
And to conclude, there was a review and summary of the protests in and around Parliament Square. While this was old stuff, in some ways, he has so much material on this topic, featuring as he does in The Guinness Book of Records under "Most Demonstrations" that it didn't seem too familiar.
Mark himself, however, is now quite familiar, in fact something of an institution. And his comedy is able to integrate this, touching frequently upon his own reputation. (He has a number of lawyers, who are always keen to insist that it's not their turn.) He's a wee bit older, like the rest of us, and tonight had something of a Munster fringe, which occasionally made him look quite odd.
He seemed, through a fair part of the evening, to be hovering somewhere above the question of what all his years of joyful defiance have achieved, and was gracious enough not to challenge the audience as to the level of their contribution. He is, after all, just one man, and his greatest accomplishment must be to have set the example he has. With a thousand like him or even just a hundred, what couldn't be achieved?
Ian Threadgill (Unverified), 04/02/09