Tuesday 11 February 2014

Mark, Man of Steel

Mark Steel

Life can be really strange sometimes. 

Over the weekend I visited my 81-year old dad, and was asked by him if I ever listen to Mark Steel on Radio 4. 

Dad was talking about the Radio 4 comedian's Mark Steel's in Town. He thought it was very funny. 

I said, no, I haven't been listening to Mark Steel's in Town. 

I didn't add that listening to ex-Socialist Workers Party loony lefties like Mark Steel is something I try to avoid on medical grounds. (Got to look after my blood pressure after all.)

He said I should listen to it, and that I'd like it.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit I thought, 'Meh!'

Then today at Biased BBC, a commentator with whom I've had a bit of unpleasant history (and who others at B-BBC have also suspected of being a 'false flag' due to the extreme nature of some of his comments) said that Mark Steel's in Town "really is rather good and genuinely funny" and "if you don’t chuckle after a few minutes you must be dead from the neck up."

Those two unexpected recommendations led me to listen to the two available editions of the programme and, yes, they were rather good and genuinely funny...with only the faintest whiff of SWP-ery. 

I think the problem I've always had with Mark Steel (besides his extremist politics, and anti-Israel activities) is that I've never quite believed his accent. It's always sounded a bit like a put-on to me. 

Now I'm so used to hearing it these days (as, no doubt, are you) that I barely think of it any more, but when I first heard him I simply didn't believe his accent was real.

He made me think of Nigel Kennedy, filmed as a youngster speaking 'posh English' then re-emerging as a punk violin-playing adult with a sub-Dick Van Dyke accent.

Plus this voice (both accent and depth) didn't seem to quite match his face or physique. 

Others seem to have no problem with it though, so maybe it's just me then.

Dick Van Dyke, as Caractacus Potts

Mark's Wikipedia entry, however (which stresses his childhood political awakenings in so convenient a way as to make me DEEPLY suspicious about who actually wrote it), only encouraged me to feel even more sceptical about him - that, plus the way, when socialistic matters crop up, his accent audibly broadens, Mockney-style (a la Tony Blair). 


Still, those two episodes of Mark Steel's in Town were so good - and so good-natured - that I've somewhat warmed to Mark Steel today and now mildly regret studiously avoiding his series in the past (and there have been five series of Mark Steel's in Town so far - not one of which I've thought of listening to).

As an example, Mark Steel took us to Birkenhead last week

He described a bar there called Moods and, whether he really "honestly" loved it or not (or merely thought, 'This is going to be great for my act!!'), his description of it was certainly funny - helped by his delivery and comic timing:
It is magnificent. I honestly loved it.
There was just a bare floor, a thin sort of bar, a karaoke machine, with blokes all the time going, 'SHTART SHPREADING ZHE NEWSSSHH, AAARHM LEAVIN TODAYERRAAAGHH' while a woman of about 60 in a very short skirt danced on a table. Honestly.
And a huge bloke rode up and down, up and down this thin bar on a mobility scooter.
I swear this is all honestly true.
And then 'Come On Eileen' came on, so the bloke from the mobility scooter got out and stripped off entirely naked and started, 'TOO-RYE, TOO-RYE-AY'...
Plus, his snippets of historical detail were, as they say on BBC TV, quite interesting. 

Yes, Mark Steel really can be quite good, and funny...

...and you learn something new every day.


  1. I am capable of being generous about the wit of my direst enemies. Why, I’ve even laughed at Jeremy Hardy. (hoho) So I’ll consider giving you and your dad the benefit of the doubt. Even if that does entail casting aside all memories of this example of one of Steel’s least amusing quips, which was mentioned in the only other of our blogposts on “Is” labelled ‘Mark Steel”
    "The reason so many get killed, says Benjamin Netanyahu, is that Hamas “hides behind civilians”. Because it’s the duty of anyone who gets assassinated to make sure they’re in a clear, open space at all times so the cruise missile aimed at them doesn’t bump into anyone else. That’s basic health and safety, that is.”

    to which I added: "Ha ha, very witty. He might as well jest: “Because it’s the duty of Hamas to mingle with the public so they can’t be picked out as targets.” or: “Soldiers, what are they like? Sitting targets! They march around, all dressed the same, instead of mingling with the public dressed as nuns and schoolgirls so the enemy can’t tell who to attack.”

  2. Mark steel is the best comefian ever. Ive met him a very good human being unlike katie hopkins. At leased mark stands up for the oppressed in society, while miss hopkins lambasts them!!!!!

  3. Mark steel is the best comefian ever. Ive met him a very good human being unlike katie hopkins. At leased mark stands up for the oppressed in society, while miss hopkins lambasts them!!!!!

  4. Gave him five minutes.
    Not funny, and predictable Kettering-Corby spats replaced by Liverpool-Birkenhead ones...and the usual accents.
    Still, I did go and have a listen which is more than I ever thought I`d do with this Tolpuddle Twerk....no doubt, he`ll have a pop at Benn when he goes.
    Only joking-the scorn and nasty stuff aimed at Margaret Thatcher last year won`t be allowed to surface for mocking one of their own.

  5. Haven't you mixed up your image captions, reversing Mark Steel and Dick van Dyke?

    1. Yes, but it was deliberate and meant as a joke.

      As it appears to have fallen flat, I'd better give up on my dreams of becoming the right-wing answer to Mark Steel. I won't give up my day job then.

    2. You should have captioned them Steel Dick and Mark Van Dyke.

      Or Steel Van and Mark Dyke Dick. (Or Steel Dyke and Mark Van Dick.)

      What about Mark Dyke and Van Steel Dick? Dyke Dick and Mark Steel Van?

      Dick Dyke and Steel Van Mark. Aspirin pass the.

    3. If I do go into comedy, I'm going to have to have you as my partner there too. A double act. The new Morecambe and Wise. I'll be Morecambe (naturally) and you, being wise, can be Wise.

  6. I still miss both Craig and Sue at bBBC - and I had never noticed Robert Brown as a regular poster - probably means I live in a dream world or had never thought of Mr Brown's comments as worth taking note of.

  7. Man of Steel is the best movie I have ever seen.


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