Interview: comedian Mark Steel

Mark Steel
Mark Steel

Mark Steel claims he became a comedian after he was disqualified from a chess tournament for telling jokes because he was nervous, but I don’t entirely believe him.

The veteran comic has made a habit of inventing bizarre explanations whenever he is asked by local newspapers how he got into comedy.

No one ever asks him “why did you become a comic” because he is extremely, obviously, funny, and has raised sarcasm to an art form in his regular columns for the Independent which highlight the sheer absurdity of current affairs.

He brings his new show, Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright, to the Nottingham Playhouse on Thursday, February 28.

The upbeat title comes from his conviction that, despite “people on all sides talking about how the country and the world is going down the plug”, there are many reasons to be cheerful.

His popular Radio 4 show, Mark Steel’s in Town, which sees him touring the UK and beyond, has brought him into contact with people from all walks of life.

“People are enthusiastic and unique in every town and that’s the spirit that makes me optimistic,” he told the Chad.

He is still putting the show together, and admits this is tricky.

“You have to think of things that are funny - which is not easy. It’s got to look natural and hopefully have more jokes than someone at the bus stop.”

He is reluctant to analyse his own work, but likens comedy to music, where musicians can slip from one category to another.

“Some of the younger comedians try and describe their stuff and end up talking about the vortex of their influences,” he said.

“When you hear the word “vortex”, you think - “Hark at you!””

His last sell-out show Who Do I Think I Am revealed that his natural father was a world backgammon champion.

Now the comedian, who was dubbed “newspaper columnist of the year”, is back on the road “with a new show that is guaranteed to make the world seem even more mental than it is.”