TWO things are almost guaranteed with Mark Thomas.
He’ll be up to mischief – and his show is guaranteed to make you laugh and think at the same time.
Every show he does is about as different as it’s possible to be from the one that went before ... and the one that will follow.
Last time Thomas appeared in the Highlands, it was with Extreme Rambling: Walking the Wall when he shared his experiences of walking the length of the Israeli wall in the West Bank.
Since then, he has written and performed Bravo Figaro!, the story of his father’s love of opera and the relationship between Mark and his dad which was later broadcast on Radio 4 after winning a Fringe First and a Herald Angel when it was performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 2012.
Looking back at Extreme Rambling, Mark said: “I loved the fact that that was the last thing people expected me to do! Just as I love the fact the show about my dad was probably the last thing people expected me to do!
“In a way, the Dissent show is predictable, but the things you see in it, sort of aren’t. But I think you should just play around as much as possible. The idea that we can have creative fun and that art, performance and comedy should be something interesting and different – looking at things in your own way – I find really thrilling.
“But this is the weird thing about stand up. People see you, people like you and then they go ‘I want to see more of that’, but they want to see more of the same but different. Actually I think ‘You’ll take what you’re given!’ and I turn up with something different every time.
“I think it’s important that all stand ups change and develop. I can’t imagine the idea of doing the same type of stuff week in, week out. I became a stand up to escape a proper job."
He laughed: “You don’t realise how hard it is to avoid proper labour – a lot of effort goes into it.”
His first gig was at a small club in Putney back in 1985 and he remembers it well.
“I still keep in contact with the people I was on the bill with.
"There’s a lovely bloke called John Lenahan who is a magician and a lovely guy who used to impersonate tortoises in peril his real name is Andy Johnson and he’s now a drama teacher.
"We’ve had this inane game going on from the time he ran a club – badly – and I got there and there were about five people in the audience.
"Afterwards he said to me ‘I owe you £2.50 for your split of the door’, but I told him to keep it.
"Six months later I bumped into him and he said ‘There’s your £2.50!’ and a few months later we met again and I gave it back and said ‘I don’t want it’.
"So this still carries on, but now it’s getting more and more bizarre.
"Someone introduced themselves at a party and I went to shake their hand and they said ‘Mark, here’s your £2.50 from Andy Johnson’.
"Then I got a friend to put the money in his house and sent him a postcard. This has been 28 years of upping the ante, so now I’m dreading what he’s going to do ... but I know what I’m going to do when it comes round to my turn again.”
This time the comedian and activist is on a countdown to commit 100 acts of dissent by midnight on 13th May. He’s at number 82 on a list that includes small gestures of defiance and grander confrontations – like taking a flashmob into London’s Regent Street Apple store one day last summer and turning it Irish as a protest about the company’s tax arrangements.
And though he was only at number 82, Thomas has already accidentally become Guinness World Record holder for political protests.
But he admits: “I didn’t know the monster Dissent would turn into. I thought we’d just go away and come up with lots of weird and wonderful ideas – and of course we have done that.”
One was holding a one-off comedy gig outside the Russian consulate in Edinburgh to protest about LGBT human rights abuses in Russiay comedy gig.
“To arrange that, you’ve got to get the performers, find out if legally you can do the event or not, organise generators, mikes, contact groups like the Equality Network and Stonewall – you want to work together with people. Then you’ve got to promote it ... and come the day, you’re knackered!”
Watch the YouTube footage and you see gay Scottish stand up Susan Calman quite emotional, impressed by the turnout.
Thomas said: “The amazing thing about that event was that it was part-demonstration, part-gig, part-carnival, part-dissent and it had room for all these emotions, being caring and compassionate – as well as naughty and irreverent. Yes, I’ve had worse days.”
It’s no surprise when the stand up confirms that when the 100 Acts Of Minor Dissent tour finishes this summer his new show will be going in a totally fresh direction.
“The next show IS different ...” But instantly he throws a spanner in the works.
“I’m just not allowed to tell anyone about it yet!”
Mark Thomas brings 100 Acts Of Minor Dissent to the Universal Hall, Findhorn, tonight (Tuesday, April 29) and Eden Court, Inverness, on Wednesday (Apr 30). You can see the Edinburgh protest outside the Russian consulate in Edinburgh last August here: and the Apple store flashmob here: http://youtu.be/n8gz4bE3Aqg For more details, go to: www.markthomasinfo.com and follow him on Twitter: @markthomasinfo