Mark Steel is a man well known for his political identity. An unequivocal supporter of causes to the left of the political spectrum, he has written columns for The Guardian and The Independent, and was even a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party until 2007. Although probably recognised by most for his appearances on television panel show Have I Got News For You?, it is his stand-up comedy and journalism that has enabled him to carve out his own place in the public sphere as a proponent of the principles of liberalism.
It is peculiar then that on the surface, rather than being based upon anything political, Steel’s show seems to consist of the deeply personal story of how he was adopted, and of the amazing discoveries he made upon the endeavour to find his birth parents.
Arriving on stage to The Who’s Who Are You?, a fine reference to the title and theme of the show, Steel warms up with some expected political and cultural jokes before getting into the bulk of the show. He posits to the audience whether who we are is a result of nature or nurture, and then proceeds to delve into his complicated family history to explore this concept.
The beautiful thing is that underneath the laughs, of which there are many, there is a very touching story here. Steel uses it to explain and question aspects of his political identity, and by doing so, asks us to look at our own identity and what makes us who we are.
Finishing his tale, Steel remains on stage for an encore of “a few more minutes” which actually ends up being another half an hour. Oddly though, it doesn’t get tiring. And as the jokes keep coming – a relaxed lock-in atmosphere – you can’t help but wish you could have a few more glasses of wine, slump down into your chair, and laugh yourself dozily into the night.