Friday, January 10, 2014

'Mark Steel's In Town'

10 January 2014

It was great to see the return of ‘Mark Steel’s In Town’ this week (BBC Radio 4, Wednesdays at 6.30 pm). As I wrote here in March 2007: “the real test of a stand-up comedian’s skill is playing a small-town arts centre on a weekday evening”. I spoke then about a particular young comedian I had seen many years ago at the arts centre in Grantham: “demonstrating how little she knew her audience she started to tell a joke set in a nightclub and asked us to name the best nightclub in Grantham. After several minutes of discussion the audience concluded it didn’t know of any nightclubs in Grantham and, somewhat reluctantly, the comedian agreed, as a compromise, to set her joke in a nightclub in nearby Nottingham.” The excellent Mark Steel (reviewed here in June 2006 and May 2009) conversely demonstrates the greatest respect for his audiences by constructing each show in his ‘Mark Steel’s In Town’ series to be specifically about the relevant town. Undertaking extensive research he creates 30 minutes of material that reflect the idiosyncrasies, prejudices and peculiarities of each location back to its residents. And then he tests the results by trying to make an audience of locals laugh about themselves. It’s invariably incredibly funny but this week’s show, focussing on Glastonbury in Somerset, was a particularly good one. I can’t remember an episode in which the audience answered back quite so much, resulting in a splendid argument between the comedian and the collective voice of Glastonbury. Well worth a listen at:

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