MARK STEEL doesn’t engage with folks who want to scrap with him on Twitter. The comic, Radio 4 and TV panel show stalwart and award-winning newspaper columnist loves talking to people for his radio programme, Mark Steel’s In Town, but if they’re trying to drum up a fight for no good reason they’re barking up the wrong tree.
‘There is no collection of words on Twitter that won’t offend someone somewhere,’ he explains. ‘You could say: “I’m enjoying a delightful sunset across Dorset this evening” and someone would write, “Not so delightful if you suffer from Sunset Aversion Dorset Syndrome.” You always get plenty of that.
‘I once mentioned in passing that Donald Trump was a psychopath, and four people sent me messages saying, “Don’t add to the stigma against psychopaths.” There’s meant to be a stigma against psychopaths,’ he laughs. ‘They’re psychopaths!’
He’s also had criticism from fellow left-wingers, he says. ‘Sometimes you’ll get people on the left suddenly getting annoyed because you’ve taken the p*** out of something they hold dear. They’ll say, “I thought you were better than that; you should be taking the p*** out of the right,” and you think, “You don’t get it at all.” I think they don’t find anything funny. Comedy is supposed to prick pomposity.’
Mark is about to embark on a national tour of his new stand-up show, Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright. Given that most of it is about the state the world’s in, the title is ironic. Obviously.
‘Originally, I wrote it partly about the traumas befalling us as a species, particularly in Britain, but I think you have to at least try to get it all into perspective. It’s quite a funny thing to call it Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright when clearly everything’s going down the toilet,’ he reasons. ‘By the time the tour starts, the title would work better if it’s really gone down the plug and we’re all grappling about on the floor, driven to cannibalism.’
As well as preparing for the new series of Mark Steel’s In Town, the radio show in which he travels the country delivering humorous lectures about places to the people who actually live there (he’s already covered 55 towns), the comic is writing a book about his experiences of tracking down his biological parents, having been adopted as a baby.
He told some of the story in his Radio 4 show Who Do I Think I Am? and the details are extraordinary. His birth mother was a working-class Scottish woman called Frances; his father turned out to be an international backgammon champion, Joe Dwek, who socialised with loads of famous (emphatically not left-wing) pals, including Lord Lucan and media tycoon Kerry Packer. Mark also discovered that his half-sister is the glamorous model Cairo Dwek.
Once the book’s done, Mark fancies doing a spot of acting, but feels that British comics are less likely to be offered TV and movie roles than their American counterparts. ‘They have a bit more kudos in America,’ he says. ‘Here, if a comic does a good acting role — like Billy Connolly, for example — people say, “Ooh, who would have thought?” But this is a man whose act can involve 60 different characters.’
But while Mark may well be ready to jump into character there is perhaps one role he isn’t quite ready for — playing the stand-up comedian who entertains easily-offended tweeters.
■ Mark’s tour starts at Kenton Theatre, Henley-on-Thames on Feb 7 and runs until June 6, marksteelinfo.com