KNOWN for his strong political streak, Mark Thomas has been a cult comedian since the 80s. He had his own television programme on Channel 4 from 1996 to 2002 and presented a number of investigative journalism dispatches for the station. Thomas is back in Sussex for two new productions – The Show That Gambles On The Future (in Hastings), in which the audience is encouraged to predict the future, and Showtime From The Frontline (in Hove), based on the comedy club he set up in a Palestinian refugee camp. By EDWIN GILSON

Was The Show That Gambles On The Future inspired by the shock of last year’s votes here and in the US?

Yes. Basically, people seemed to be unprepared for Brexit, Theresa May’s complete breakdown and Trump. I always love doing shows that involve the audience in some way. If all you’re doing is providing a night of entertainment that people will remember as kind of OK, then I’m not interested.

Audience members shout out their predictions for the future. Do people have genuine concerns as well as flippant suggestions?

Some people worry about interest rates going up and some people want to nationalise Gregg’s. You get both.

Looking too far ahead can be fraught with anxiety. Did you set out to explore that?

Yes and particularly now because we’ve got Brexit. People are genuinely scared of it. Even the ardent “leavers” are worried, because they believe it but they don’t know what it’s about. Nobody thought it through.

Do you get many “leave” voters at your show?

Yes, especially in the North. Up there it’s far more likely that somebody would have voted Brexit from a left-wing perspective. The South tends to be more “rah, rah, kick out the foreigners”.

Does having people of different political viewpoints in the crowd ever make for an uneasy tension, especially when there is so much audience interaction?

I wouldn’t say uneasy – it makes for fun. It only got uneasy once in Edinburgh. This poor woman said she voted “leave” and everyone else was “remain”. They jeered her. I was furious with the audience and remonstrated with them for daring to gang up on her like that. What disrespectful, patronising tosh. I have no problem telling an audience they are out of order and a bunch of shysters.

Blimey. How did the crowd react after that?

People understood where I was coming from. I said I would dedicate the show to this woman and that the rest of the audience should give her a round of applause, which they did.

Do “remainers” lack empathy for those who voted “leave” and not bother to understand their reasons for doing so?

And the other way around. The reasons the vote was put in place were vile and despicable. David Cameron wanted a quick fix to divisions in his party, but meanwhile the Eurosceptics like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Farage outflanked him. All of those people have offshore connections while flying the British flag. They don’t give a damn about people in this country. They just want to turn it into a hollowed out tax haven for them. Davis, Johnson and the rest thought the EU would bow down to their barking bravado and Union Jack underpants. I’m a believer in human rights but I think there should be an exemption for Boris Johnson who should be lashed over a beer barrel every day in different towns.

Moving on to Showtime From The Frontline, what made you want to explore the situation between Israel and Palestine again? You rambled along Israel’s West Bank barrier in 2011.

The reason I did it is because I didn’t know enough about it. When we were walking the wall, I was shocked at the humiliation that Palestinians endure. But I was really heartened by the small amount of Israeli and Palestinian activists working together. The occupation has to end.

How did you come upon the Palestinian theatre in which you eventually set up the comedy club?

One of the places we came to was Jenin, which held the Jenin Freedom Theatre. What a place like this does is challenge the notion of what a refugee is. It flies in the face of the awful Geldof stereotype of people holding bowls out. These people are human beings. There was a flat above the theatre I slept in. We’d say goodbye to the drama students in the morning to go off on our walk, where we would get shot at and all kinds of mad things. Then we’d be back at the theatre that night. The comedy club in Jenin became this obsession I had, and after a few years I set it up. But how do you allow people to be free and to explore when you’re under military occupation?

That’s what I was going to ask.

You have to get people to be silly. The first stuff we teach is coolness is the enemy of comedy. We wanted our students to muck around and act like buffoons. One person acted out a depressed person milking a goat with a bomb belt strapped to him. It was hysterically funny. But for them, playing with that imagery isn’t something unusual.

What did you make of Nick Cave’s controversial recent decision to perform in Israel?

I don’t think he should have gone. I’m a fan and was somewhat disappointed. He can swan off to Israel talking about freedom of expression, but where’s the freedom of expression for the Palestinians? You can be arrested for calling for a boycott. Unless you’re supporting the people that don’t have freedom, you’re supporting the Uber-dog.

Speaking of free speech, you discovered in 2013 that you were the subject of police surveillance for your investigative journalism. Did this make you paranoid?

Listen, I’ve had a good friend of mine turn out to be a spy. I’ve had my phone lines cut off. I find it rather pathetic I could be considered a threat. Frankly, the cops spying on me shows how widespread it is.

Mark Thomas

St Mary in the Castle, Hastings, December 13

The Old Market, Hove, January 30