Mark Thomas is a comedian who does far more than just talk about how to change the world.
Unlike Russell Brand with his vague ideas of revolution, Mark is a man of action.
He has always been a political activist but never more so than in the past few months, as he has set about his latest mission – to commit 100 acts of minor dissent in one year.
He started on May 13, 2013, so he has about four months to go but is behind schedule.
He is reporting the results in his latest stand-up show, which comes to Birmingham at the end of the month. He wants to spur audiences into action by telling them we have the power to change things.
His acts of dissent have including protesting against homophobia in Russia outside the Russian consulate in Edinburgh.
He invaded the Apple store in London’s Regent Street with a flashmob and an Irish band playing The Irish Rover to protest at tax avoidance, because Apple pays no tax on a company registered in Ireland.
His next plan is to take four remote controlled Barbie cars, with dolls sitting in them, and driving them up and down outside the embassy of Saudi Arabia, a country which bans women from driving.
Mark says: “I have only completed about 50 acts so far. I have got to up the rate.
“There are days when I think I may have set the bar too high.
“Some of the acts are easier to commit than others. Some are very time consuming and a lot of work.
“We are working with Disability Rights on a questionnaire which we want everyone who has been assessed by ATOS to fill in.
"They are the company to which the Government has out-sourced the task of assessing disabled people to decide whether or not they are fit for work.
“I want to find out whether ATOS is fit for purpose. We ask people whether they had disabled parking when they went to the assessment, how was the disabled access, did they give you a drink, did they tell you you could record the conversation and so on?
“More than 1,400 people have filled in the questionnaire and we are trying to get 3,000, then we will present the findings to the Select Committee in Parliament.
“All that counts as only one act, but I think it’s worth it.
“So was working to get Curzon Cinemas to recognise the unions. That has just happened and I was proud to be part of that.
“There are lots of smaller things people can do – come to the show and find out what! For example, I’m running a competition to find a definition for the word ‘Farage’, after UKIP’s Nigel Farage. It’s really pronounced ‘farridge’.
“Some of the definitions have been quite filthy. One of my favourites is ‘the quest for an unfindable dog turd’, such as “I faraged for an hour in the bushes but I couldn’t find it’.
“Dissent is naturally humorous. It’s great that politics and comedy go hand in hand.
“I love the fact that we can protest and demonstrate in this country. I organised a demonstration outside the offices of the Daily Express, demanding they stop sponging off immigrants.
"They’re always having a go at immigrants, the majority of whom pay taxes, unlike the Express which is registered offshore.
“The issue of corporations avoiding tax drives me nuts. They owe the state far more than those committing benefit fraud.
“The whole issue of benefits is so loaded with scapegoats, it’s incredible. If you are working and being paid so poorly that you need tax credits and housing benefits, surely what we should be doing is raising people’s wages?”
Mark says he has not seen the controversial Channel 4 series Benefits Street, a documentary following residents on James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham, most of whom are on benefits.
He says: “If you agree with one point of view, that series will enforce that, but it doesn’t seem to illuminate the debate at all.”
And what does he think of Russell Brand, who recently called for a revolution but admitted he had never voted?
“I like Russell, he’s an interesting comedian, but he is slightly mistaken in his views,” muses Mark.
“The idea that you shouldn’t bother voting is an attractive one if you’re an angry teenager. But voting is really the smallest thing you can do.
“If you expect everything to change because you voted, stop being so stupid and lazy. Voting is just the first part of change.
“Why do you think debt was cancelled in developing countries? Because millions of people campaigned. Don’t be lazy, be part of the change.”
Mark is certainly not lazy. His action has seen him arrested “quite a few times”’, though he adds: “Bizarrely I am often ‘de-arrested’ shortly afterwards.
“I have only been charged once, years ago, with criminal damage. I appeared in court but I was acquitted on the legal technicality that I was innocent.
"I chained myself to the underside of a bus full of arms dealers, but they failed to prove it had been damaged at all.
“I try to avoid being arrested if I can help it. The protests are usually good natured and perfectly legal.
“If I go to court, it is more likely because I have brought a case. I have four cases pending, mainly taking the police to court to get them to delete data they hold about me. I’ve succeeded in getting them to delete my fingerprints and DNA.”
Mark is looking forward to returning to the MAC and Birmingham.
“I know the city well because my wife Jenny is from Birmingham. My in-laws live in Erdington and Sutton Coldfield so we visit often. My mother-in-law is a delightful woman and we get on very well.”
The father-of-two is now 50 and insists: “I have mellowed with age – you should have seen me before!
“I am more interested now in how we connect as human beings, how we can work together to achieve things, rather than looking and sounding sharp.
“I want to create something new and different with my show. I’m in a genre of one. Why be the same as everyone else?
“I don’t want to be just another piece of wallpaper. With a lot of comics, you might remember a couple of gags the next day. But I hope my audiences will leave the theatre having been moved and engaged, feeling enriched and having lots to think about.”
* Mark Thomas brings 100 Acts of Minor Dissent to the MAC in Birmingham on January 31 and February 1. For tickets go to www.macarts.co.uk. Mark is also appearing at the Royal Spa Centre in Leamington Spa on May 3.