THERE are many phrase which could be used to describe Mark Thomas.

Is he a comedy of conscience? Is he a story teller? Is he a stand up comedian who makes you think?

If you combine all of these phrases together then that might just about give you an small inclination of what would make up Mark Thomas.

But even if you did, it would only scratch the surface and leave you with lots of things still to learn about the man who has been entertaining and enlightening us for 30 years.

He is bringing his comedic experience to the Exeter Phoenix on Tuesday, February 6, with Showtime from the frontline.

Dodging cultural and literal bullets, Israeli incursions and religion, Mark Thomas and his team set out to run a comedy club for two nights in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

Only to find it’s not so simple to celebrate freedom of speech in a place with so little freedom. 

Jenin refugee camp, home to Jenin Freedom Theatre and to people with a wealth of stories to tell.

Mark tells this story alongside two of its actors and aspiring comics, Faisal Abualheja and Alaa Shehada.

A story about being yourself in a place that wants to put you in a box.

With sell-out shows, non-stop awards, the highest critical acclaim, his own TV and radio shows, numerous documentaries, published books, Guinness World Records, influencing changes in the law, creating manifestos and exposing arms trade dealers, it’s no wonder that Mark is one of the UK’s most recognised performers and influential activists.

Speaking about Jenin, Mark said: “I have been to Jenin several times since 2009.

“The first time was when I walked the 724km around the length of the Israel Wall in the West Bank.

“What amazed me was there was a Jenin Freedom Theatre there which would have defied people’s ideas of a refugee camp.

“It was a battered building with a flat above it and I was asked if I would like to stay.

“It is an amazing place and I love it.

“They do drama courses once every three years and I loved the fact there was such a thing in a refugee camp.

“It defies belief there is something like this in an ultra conservative regulated area where men and women can be in the same room.

“For me it was thrilling to be there as it was in a location with was occupied.

“There were military rules in place and people oppressed.

“It is crazy to think there are three places where women give birth in this area, one is in a hospital, one at home and the other at a check point as they are not being allowed in or the check point is only open one hour a day.”

Mark also told the story of a road which runs through his land which is only used by Israelis.

They are the only ones who can drive along it or walk on it.

One side of the road is the settlement and on the other a school.

In order for the children to get to school, a tunnel was built under the road so they could cross the road.

This might sound like a good idea but when it rains the sewerage floods and all the effluence and other waste gets washed into the tunnel.

This means the children have to walk through this to get to school.

For many people who find their right career, there is a moment when they realise THIS is for them.

Explaining his moment when he know he wanted to be a comedian, Mark said: “Well that is quite an interesting question.

"I think if find out what it was then I would probably stop.

“I have always loved comedy. For me comedy in our house (when he was growing up) has cache.

"My dad used to be robust in the enforcement of laws and dictum’s but one of the places which it did not apply and was when we watched comedy on television. Everything was superceded.

“I think there is comedy in all forms of entertainment.

“King Lear has comedy in it even though it is a tragedy when ends with a pile of bodies.

“But there are great lines in the play when Lear absolutely slates his family.

"Comedy is everywhere but what stand up comedy does it give you freedom.

“For me it is telling stories as a solo performer and that give me the freedom to say what I want.

"It is about breaking new ideas. It is needed the rigour of a journalist to check the facts and factual elements.

“It is great when people can go to a theatre with one idea and leave with another and be more empathetic to a situation.

“What I like to do it the stuff which interests me.

“I don’t know everything and sometime I muddle through it but I learn as I go along.

“When I do comedy I want the audience to come along with me and I love the idea of challenging people’s perceptions.

“I remember seeing a school production of Bretolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

“When I came out of the theatre I was buzzing.

“It was the same feeling I had a few weeks ago when I went with my son to see Holy Motors.  “I had meant to see it years ago but finally got the chance.

“What a film! In the 24 hours after seeing it my mind was full if ideas and images.

“I loved it and this is what I want from going to a theatre or watching a film or seeing art.  “I want people to be engaged by what they see.”

Over the years, he has achieved numerous things including making six series of the Mark Thomas Comedy Product for Channel 4, three Dispatches for Channel 4 and five series of the Manifesto for Radio 4.

But What has he learnt about himself being a comedian?

He said: “The thing I think I have probably learnt about myself is my obsession with struggling to be a good human being.

"It is something which has dominated my life more than it should.

“There are moral parameters by which we all live and I have tried to be a good human being but I think it is something I struggle to cope with. Indeed I think all of us struggle with this.

“What I enjoy about being on stage is playing and mucking about and improvising.

“When you just create stuff you don’t think about it it just comes out.

“You do not want to take a step back as you feel you will lose the moment.

“What you want to do is to keep going and keep it rolling out of your mouth.”

When asked when was the first occasion you realised comedy was important to him?

Mark said when he got paid and laughter.  He explained it was his 14th gig and he got paid £20 and I got a taxi home and had a curry.”

At the end of the interview Mark mentioned he was once asked what his epitaph he said it would be: “He came, he had a go and he left’.

If you love your comedy and can go and see Mark on this tour or get to Exeter then you will: ‘Have gone, seen, learnt and left a better person than when you first arrived’.

Tickets for Mark Thomas: Showtime from the Frontline cost £16 - £12.

It will be at Exeter’s Phoenix at 8pm on Tuesday, February 6. 

To buy tickets go online at or call the box office on 01392 667080.