Pat Stack

Comedy: Behind Byron's Bear

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Pat Stack asks socialist comedian Mark Steel about his new TV series The Mark Steel Lectures

Pat Stack (PS): Where did the idea come from for the series?

Mark Steel (MS): I had a radio series in the mid-1990s with the same format. I thought, ’There is a way of doing these talks that has jokes in but doesn‘t deviate from the subject.‘ It doesn‘t necessarily send up the subject. These sort of historical events are funny to anyone who‘s not an academic.

A Touch of the Sun

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Tony Blair tells it like it isn't to Pat Stack.

I have never been to Barbados before, so I was really looking forward to seeing the beautiful scenery, tasting the local rum and meeting the Blairs.

The enchanting Cherie greeted me - television just doesn't do her justice, she really does have lips. I was brought into a spacious room where the PM was sitting in a cool summer shirt and a pair of neatly pressed jeans. An electric guitar sat in one corner of the room, and there were family portraits all over the place.

Hit Them David One More Time

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David Aaronovitch spends much time attacking the left. So it's time we fought back.

The National Union of Students has a lot to answer for. The New Labour benches are packed with former NUS executive members. There is minister of war Jack Straw. There is the blustering buffoon who is currently trying to wreck education, Charles Clarke. In Blair's early summer reshuffle two more former NUS types emerged into ministerial glory, Fiona MacTaggart and Phil Woolas, while on the backbenches we see Stephen Twigg, whose finest hour was beating Portillo, but who is now probably to the right of Portillo.

Peace at Stake

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Britain's filthy role in Northern Ireland is exposed by the Stakeknife affair.

Tom Lehrer, the brilliant American musical satirist of the 1950s and 1960s, famously announced that he was retiring from satire after the warmongering monster Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. When the world was satirising itself in such a way, what was there left for him to say, he asked.

Senseless and Selfish Carnage

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The war will not lead to the liberation of ordinary Iraqis.

As I watched the statues crash to the ground I felt a strange sadness, and a real anger. Back in 1978 I was on the executive of the National Union of Students. I remember voting for a motion condemning the Ba'athist regime in Iraq. At the time, no one in the British establishment gave a damn about democracy in Iraq, the fate of the Iraqi people or what weapons the regime had.

Dumb and Dumber

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This is a war without reason, justification or explanation.

Tony Blair recently proclaimed that even if he were in a minority in the country he would still be committed to wage war on Iraq. Today it appears he is, so he's going to get the chance to prove it.

Never has a war seemed to have less reason, justice or explanation. It is impossible to find a single persuasive argument in its favour.

Talking Rap

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Blaming hip-hop won't tackle gun crime.

I remember just after the Columbine massacre hearing some right wing American shock-jock being interviewed as to why the massacre had happened. The music of Marilyn Manson, video nasties, and lack of parental control were all cited. When the interviewer asked whether gun control might not help, the shock-jock dismissed this as so much liberal hooey.

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