Mark Steel’s in Toon

Mark Steel the comic seems a much different figure to Mark Steel the panel-show guest. Anyone who’s watched enough BBC, or Dave (even just QI) is familiar with him. Seems he’s a bit stifled by the formula. Mark Steel live is energetic and excitable, often he’s as jolly as his audience, chuckling along at some funny memory he’s relating to us.

One thing that certainly never seemed apparent to me when watching him on television is his knack for impersonation and impression. He’s phenomenal at inhabiting peoples voices when storytelling, and he does a lot of storytelling.

Steel seems to seek out and collect stories, oddities and discrepancies. Throughout the show there’s dozens of slides, most of them photographs of something unusual that he took himself. Steel’s oaky, pleasant voice finds every corner of the room. Like many a good comedian, he feels like great company.

His show has a very ‘bedroom album’ aesthetic, like Steel’s done everything himself. References and notes are printed on simple sheets of A4, the slides are projected from what appears to be his own laptop. Simple. Lo-fi. It certainly suits his casual, everyman demeanour.

It seems he covers every subject imaginable during, and it’s nearly all about how he likes this or loves that. He covers Burns, Orkney, Leith, Buckfast and more. It’s a love-letter to Scotland, the Fringe and seemingly everything else on Earth. It’s an enormously positive show.

He’s even warm when talking Brexit. One of the few comedians able to talk about this subject without it being thoroughly irritating, Steel dresses down the situation succinctly, humorously, above all briefly. He’s perfectly willing to throw a few jabs, and seeing some potentially contentious opinion emerge from a mainstream comedian at the Fringe was a nice change of pace. It’s not long before he’s back to showing us the nice things that he likes.

A lovely show by a genuine man. Excellent stories, well-chosen anecdotes, brilliant impressions. Sunny, and a thorough good time.

★★★★ (and a half)

Keiran Burnett

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