Live At Derby Assembly Rooms

Rob Newman & Mark Thomas

Date: 14/11/05   —   £14.50   —   Other

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Rating:

There isn’t really anything better than laughing a lot and learning at the same time. Besides when 2 boys come up to the frozen North from my part of London it’s only fair to give them some support!

I haven’t seen Rob Newman for a long time, he used to do a double act with David Baddiel who went on to worse things with Frank Skinner. In those days Newman had long hair like mine and wore the clothes of something of a dandy including a rather fine long crimson velvet jacket. These days his hair is shorter and his attire looks as if he is to be appearing in ‘Waiting For Godot’ soon. I hadn’t expected his act to be quite as sharp and satirical and politically to the left as it was. Funny, yes, Newman was always funny, there is a gravitas that comes from the product of a fervent mind for the good and bad things this entails. The modern day Rob Newman is a very astute political activist. A comedic campaigner who is all too aware of the contradictions of the modern world and the ignorance under which we are expected to live. He describes the First World War as being caused by an invasion of Iraq (then Mesopotamia) and not as we are led to believe in the history books the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand.

The historical context is this. Prussia, (most of what constitues modern day Germany) the great emerging military and economic power did not have the oil reserves for the mechanisation it required. It therefore needed the Berlin to Baghdad railway link. Since the Orient Express route already covered the route as far as Istanbul it was only necessary to complete the remaining section. This was of course not the sort of thing the British could allow since there was no way the British could compete with a Prussia running at full tilt. Thus the British mobilised, ironically in Basra, in order to stop German plans. To bring across this sort of information is usually the domain of such investigative heavyweights as Pilger and Chomsky, to make it funny and bring in such gems as the Samarian version of Rock Around The Clock as part of a way to avoid harm when kidnapped in Iraq is first rate.

Newman’s anthropomorphic illustration of the US as the backyard bullyboy with baseball bats mooting out a punishment beating on Iraq for daring to consider changing their oil currency from $ to €, whilst looking up to China saying “I got dis under control, Sur” at the same time Venezuela looks on saying “ey gringo, I think you losin’ your to’ch, years ago you bury this alone, now you got to do it with yo’ beetch” and North Korea drives by in their Hyundai giving the finger out the window and “Fuck you ‘Mericaaaaaaaa” is both very funny and a startlingly good analogy. The dependence on the universal oil currency being $ is rapidly becoming a fragile one for the US and shows all too graphically just how short-term the US’s dominance will be. When Iraq switched to € the value of the € went up by 25% over the following 6 months. Other countries, Iran, North Korea etc. have attempted to follow suit. Miraculously the list of the countries that have sought to make this change is remarkably similar to the ‘Axis of Evil’

Newman is very well-versed on environmental issues and his meticulously researched presentation on the oil situation is tantamount to apocalyptic. Sadly it is all too true if only people can be bothered to research the facts. Someone has done some of the work for you here Figures exist that show we have passed peak production

If I had to some up Rob Newman’s message using his own words it would be that in the light of the impending crisis there is “No Way Out.” The conclusion is clear they might say there is nuclear but the cost and fallout and cycle is not a solution merely another problem. There is hydrogen, but there are no hydrogen reservoirs, hydrogen has to be made and to make almost anything in the mechanised world you require oil.

To be fair Rob Newman was an added bonus, I’d have been happy to see him but I paid my money predominantly being a huge Mark Thomas fan. I have been so for many many years now and every series he does on Channel 4 seems to go from strength to strength and is a far cry from the old Friday Night Live days, when he took to the stage along with another of the then new men of the alternative new left comedy scene Ben Elton. Whilst Elton has gone off to write bestselling novels and musicals with Andrew Lloyd-Weber Thomas has stuck to what he does best and has both retained integrity and developed hugely as a performer into a man approaching the influence and genius of the late great Bill Hicks and that is not an accolade I confer lightly.

Thomas starts his set recounting his gig in Belfast, his opening joke “What’s the difference between Saddam Hussein and the IRA? -Saddam hasn’t got any weapons!” he says went down well after a pause before someone shouted now “we’ll have a joke now about the Unionists for parity so we will!” He duly obliges launching one at Ian Paisley “Preacher of Hate” and how he finds it strange that whilst he refuses to believe that the IRA have given up their weapons he is happy to believe that Jesus was the son of God and the pope is the devil! Paisley, Thomas says, is a scary man who could make anything sound sinister, he proceeds to recount Paisley’s shopping list in barking Belfast tones “2 tins of tomatoes…a packet of oven-ready smily faces.” There is also the fact that Paisley does not believe the IRA has given up its weapons “the man who think Jesus Christ is the son of God and the pope is the devil, we’re only now asking you to believe one little tiny thing here!” Not stopping just with the leader Thomas lambasts the Orange order, a group he describes as “paramilitary homepride men” for marching to almost anything and yet not prepared to fight on the issue of the public right to roam.

Thomas is one of the great do-ers, he researches things and then enacts them much to the chagrin of the establishment. There is without question a lot of serious substance in Mark Thomas’ material, his particular bete-noir at the moment is the arms dealing, Britain is the 2nd biggest arms dealer in the world. There is now a law banning the involvement of any British citizen from any dealings involving stun batons, called the “torturer’s weapon of choice” by Amnesty International. Thomas not only sets up a deal involving British citizens but brokers it in the name of the Minister in charge of arms sales!

Thomas says he likes heckling, (though it would be a foolish person that were to heckle either of the men on this bill) he says how sometimes even if you haven’t thought it through it can be powerful. He regales us of the story of a friend from Newcastle who was supposed to be group heckling the former Secretary for Work and Pensions whilst he was still in office. Upon finding that she was alone on arrival when the Minister arrived she was gripped with passion and bellowed in strong Geordie tones “Blunket, you cunt”. The effect, apparently was that the driver of Blunket’s car was so surprised he reversed into a wall!

Thomas does an encore and then both he and Newman ad lib in a musical poetry slam. This is Newman’s territory and he soon has the audience and Mark Thomas in fits. Not to be overlooked entirely, Thomas shows he is a really quite accomplished harmonica player!

OK, I’ll grant you this was always going to be the ideal comedy gig for me, it has everything I need, it’s very funny, very politically charged and they talk proper like! That being said it will be the yardstick by which all other comedy nights are measured.

You can find the remaining dates on the tour here and because I enjoyed it so much, if you happen to be at one of the Warwick gigs you might just run into me.

Song Of The Day ~ Sky Parade – Losin Control

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