Mark Steel’s In Town: Boston review

A mighty good reason to tune into Radio 4 tonight, as Mark Steel's stand up series continues...

Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking to one of the nation’s finest comedians, Mr Mark Steel, in an interview that’ll be appearing on the site in the next few days. He’s been visiting six towns around Britain for his new Radio 4 series, Mark Steel’s In Town, where he prepares a stand-up gig specifically based around the area he’s playing with. The series kicked off last week with a visit to Skipton, and for tonight’s show, he’s arrived in the town of Boston. And even if Boston to you is a big American city near New York, it’s still worth tuning in.

He kicks off the show with getting a few comments from locals – “if Boston was a type of a car it would have to be a souped up Ford Escort with furry dice in the window” – and then quickly gets down to business. And it immediately becomes clear that he’s got the crowd very much on his side.

Kicking off with a chat about just how flat Boston is (the only town where you don’t need a handbrake), his set – which has been edited down to just under half an hour – is underpinned by an affection for the area that works wonders. Thus, Steel can get away with discussion of the town’s entry in Chav Towns, reported obesity, the local Eclipse Club and historical immorality. His research shines through, and the audience are happy to jump in with comments too.

The audience interaction is actually really quite brilliant. There’s a warmth to the gig, and Steel is relaxed enough to work in the reactions and words of his audience well. He even brings in a sprout farmer at one point and gets him to sell the benefits of his produce. We don’t want to spoil the gig by revealing too much else, but this is very much a local comedy spot, done by an extremely talented comedian.

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And it works really well, whether you’re from Boston or not. The glue to it, of course, is Steel himself who clearly has fun with the project for the project, and also a lot of funny gags. His homework pays off too – it’s blatantly clear that there’s a lot more than a Wikipedia scan that’s gone into putting the material together.

Thus, whether pulling in historical anecdotes or just having fun at the sheer flatness of the place, it’s a very funny and refreshingly upbeat comedy show, and well worth catching.


Mark Steel’s In Town (Boston) is on Radio 4 Wednesday 25th March at 6.30pm. Next week, he heads to Lewes…