My Festival: Mark Thomas

The comedian, activist and Fringe veteran talks about the joys of watching LGBTQI performance art with his kids, booze-fuelled Edinburgh odysseys, and his ongoing role in the downfall of capitalism.

What are you doing at this year’s festival?

I'm doing stand-up at the Stand Comedy Club. Celebrating being in a room with people again, mucking about, playing and occasionally trying to incite the downfall of the Ponzi scheme we call capitalism.

What do you most want to see this year and why?

A living wage for venue staff… after that, as many new stand-ups shows as I can, a couple of days at Summerhall to get my annual fill of performance art then F.C. Edinburgh home games at Meadowbank. I can get to the games without clashing with my time slot, and the games embody the spirit of the Fringe; immersed in culture and drama, relatively cheap tickets, a small crowd and almost professional. Then there are two RMT picket lines I am speaking at during the festival. So I'm quite excited.

What’s your favourite place in the city and why?

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The courtyard at Summerhall. I always bump into the actor Jack Klaff there who is normally loudly pontificating like an alternative Simon Callow, waving his arms and explaining the Fluxus art movement. I actually think he stays there all year waiting for me. In Leith, the Drill Hall, a wonderful community-based venue, market, work space. Just feels nice.

Who do you most like spending time with at the festival?

Mark Thomas (Pic: Tony Pletts)

My grown-up kids come up to spend ten days with me. That is the bit I really love. They take me to things that normally involve LGBTQI late night sequin fests or intense trans performance art. I am the older straight comedy relative. It’s huge fun.

What do you remember about your first ever Edinburgh festival appearance?

I remember sleeping on the floor in a flat inhabited by a bunch of actors and Cliff Parisi waking me up each morning coughing in his boxer shorts, having a fag sitting on a coffee table. I get flashbacks whenever I see him in Call The Midwife. Also, the night before my first Fringe, Joe Strummer and the anarchist group Class War had organised a Rock Against the Rich tour at Coasters night club and, rather brilliantly, tickets were on the door. You queued. You paid. You got crushed. It was one of the best things I have ever seen.

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What are the best and worst things that have happened to you in Edinburgh?

Mark Thomas (Pic: Tony Pletts)

Best thing: going drinking for 24 hours with the late great Linda Smith and her partner Warren. Ending up in Leith in a dockers pub with the night shift downing shots and cheese toasties. Worst thing: the following 24 hours. PS I am now teetotal.

How was lockdown for you? Did it change you, and if so how?

I looked after my elderly mum and moved in with her. Did it change me? I discovered a level of tolerance I did not think I possessed. Also I swear more now.

Mark Thomas: Black and White is at the Stand Comedy Club, 1.30pm, until 28 August.