In the past 36 years of my comedy career I have always been loathe to 'analyse the funny'. Humour is ethereal. Suffice to say that for at least 99% of appearances I have been pretty funny... funny to look at least... and at most? Funny as shit! (fuck the 1%)...
Now there are a million and one reasons for this, all of which are too boring to analyse here. What I am always willing to discuss though, is the difficult and sometimes awkward political edge that those comics who want to make a strong point need to be willing to balance their audience on... which is something that I have never shied away from! Couple this with my diabolical, almost pathological desire to engage with the people sitting in front of me, demanding a response from my crowd as I smash down the 'fourth wall' with anarchic glee, it's a wonder I get any laughs at all.
In 1979 when I first embarked on my solo comedy adventure, I was swept away by a 'Perfect Storm'. Three major cyclonic influences had slammed together to form a giant 'MarkyMark wave' of theatrical energy that I still surf to this day.
It was 1978 and I had escaped the Queensland bush and the evil fascist clutches of my Policeman dad and run off to acting school in the 'Big Smoke'. Here I discovered Punk Rock, Absurdist Theatre and LSD. Three very strong influences on what was to become my own theatre, my own comedy, my own spoken word art.
This was a wonderful time - as a trained actor I was able to pick and choose my acting roles in a burgeoning Oz film and TV industry. This way I could subsidise my theatre, a theatre that had become very anti-establishment, anti-society and anti-art. And people started to take notice - I had moulded myself into a Punk Artist of some infamy. An Aussie 'Deconstructionist Dadaist' of ratbag proportions. There were not many of us solo comedy bods around in the late 70's and early 80's, so it suited my non-conformist agenda. I was working as a hardcore satirist of Australian society and I was enjoying the role but, I was about to pay the price.
In 1988 something amazing and dreadful happened. Australia won the America's Cup Yacht Race. A rich person's event up until then, that Aussies had never given a shit about. For the first time Australia became a flag waving nation. Men at Work had given us Down Under as our theme tune as Australia became a 'BRAND'.
I fought this in my art: forming S.U.A. (The Society for UnAustralian Activity) S.U.A. campaigned against Australian sporting prowess. We were not liked. Work became scarce. In 1988 I was booked to perform on the Edinburgh Fringe but at the eleventh hour the promoter replaced me with a magician. The world was closing in. I was forced to work in a soap opera. The popular appeal of this soap character got me to the Edinburgh Fringe in 1990. 'Mark Little's Atomic Dilemma: What if the dolphins talk shit too?'. I had initial concerns that a Neighbours' audience might not really go for my anarchic style of comedy, but my fears were unfounded - the show was well received. Britain gobbled up dissent. I felt at home. I would be back.
When I'd finished my work on the soap opera the world was calling. I returned to Edinburgh with 'Conquistador of the Useless', "a comedian in search of a theatrical style". Australian Deconstructionist theatre at its silliest. It was political and cheeky. And thank god for the UK - British crowds loved it. We immediately migrated. My art had returned to its ancestral convict home and despite my mainstream persona, my live comedy maintained a high level of political subversion. The 90s was an exciting time for me as an alternative artist despite the rise of the 'Comedy Monster', a monster that was about to swamp all before it with branding and beer ads. Art and dissent would be sacrificed to the mighty pound/euro/dollar/yen. But I kept working, and audiences, bless them, kept coming.
Up until now the conservative enemy of the people had been clear. Thatcher was a dreadful woman but she gave the comedy left something to rally against and so for us, she was a goldmine of material. John Major was less fun, but still Tory through and through and so still gave comedy the opportunity to do what it does best and feed off this conflict.
Then something amazing and dreadful happened. Tony Blair and the blanding of Britain. The left were in, the conservatives were beaten. The good guys had won - there was nothing to fight for anymore.
Of course this was bollocks. A million of us marched against the Iraq war. It happened anyway. But somehow subversion very conveniently became unpatriotic. Brit Pop became a thing. The enemy had been vanquished? Comedy lost its heart and teeth. Art became a gobbling, sucking money monster. The dissenters went underground.
The Noughties were lost. Cynicism rose and Blair was ousted. Enter a Lib Dem/Conservative coalition. Cynicism at Red Alert! Theresa May? Theresa has! A time of bulk surveillance, dissent as terrorism, domestic extremism, UKIP mentality running at sixteen percent. Racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia running amok on social networks. Corporate theft. A rotten paedophile culture unearthed. The enemy is on the march and laughing at us. Holy shit. The tide has turned from a punk positivity of the late 70's to the cynical indifference of the early 21st Century. Will pop music be our saviour this time? Ha! I doubt it.
What happened to all the dissent that was driven underground by the Iraq war and the torturously long decade of Tony Bland? Like those toads that get brought back to life by the rain in an Attenborough documentary, we rise again. Social networks, especially Twitter have also created a new home for a new dissent. The old punks are ready to throw themselves under the tanks. Comedy and a sense of humour prove once again to be an irresistible force. The rotten beast of conservatism and bigotry is out of its hole and on the rampage. Art must fight back. Long live 'Comedy as Art'-'Comedy as Dissent'. Long Live...