MARK Brailsford, founder of the longrunning comedy troupe, tells EDWIN GILSON about their upcoming show That Was The Year That Was and why satire is increasingly difficult in the modern age

LAST year was the year of shock votes and this year has been about coming to terms with those decisions. Which was easiest to satirise?

Every year we do this, I always think we’ve reached peak Treason Show. But the material always gets richer. The landscape is ever more absurd so it gives us more material every year. When I first started the show I thought we’d try it for three months, and here we are 17 years later.

Have this year and the last been the most unpredictable and chaotic you’ve known?

Yes. Politics has got more ridiculous and absurd. In the age of social media we’re having to be more creative – everyone’s saying the same joke at the same time. But I think it’s helped us improve and we’re sharper for it.

How do you get across the comedy of Trump’s social media activity?

Actually, we’re just rehearsing a parody of Beat It for the show. It’s called Tweet it. And at the end he’s going to go and delete it.

A lot of comedians have been saying how difficult it is to satirise situations that are already ridiculous. How do you tackle Trump, who is already seen as a figure of fun (as well as danger)?

Sometimes with Trump, there’s very little point trying to invent something new. It’s satirical enough. He’s a parody of himself. There are brilliant satirists doing it but their writing is a bit thin. Our parody adds layers on to the character.

What does the art of impersonation involve, talking to yourself a lot for practice?

That’s where my insanity comes from. I’ve been a comedy performer for most of my life, so there’s an instinct that kicks in. A lot of the tics of my characters come from ones I’ve done in the past. John Major used to say “oh dear” a lot. Bill Clinton did a little “uh huh”. Trump has his own tick when he says, “so great, really great”. The characters I’ve played filter into every new person.

Is Theresa May difficult to satirise given her lack of defining characteristics?

She morphed in our show throughout the year. Before the election we had her as this dominatrix whip-cracker figure. Then she screwed up the election and now she’s the Maybot. Women in politics are harder to satirise – you can be crueller with the men. Women have a tougher gig; they have to lock down their personalities. With social media you are so much in the public eye that you can’t be yourself, and I feel it’s probably putting off a lot of people who would go into politics.

Would you spoof someone like David Davis, for instance? He’s come in for criticism recent ly, but, again, he doesn’t have too many unique traits.

Oh yes, we’ve got him. To me, he’s very much grumpy dwarf. So he looks like that in our show. And Boris Johnson is a gift, a walking gag. I’ve studied the history of satire and it goes back to Hogarth, who took one characteristic and parodied it. Steve Bell of The Guardian is great at that too. You exaggerate one thing and you’ve got that satirical hook.

Do you want to give away your political leaning in the show or do you want to stay more neutral?

I scattergun the lot of them. I still play Corbyn as Obi-Wan Kenobi. We see all of them as fair game if there is a joke there.

You’ve said you are a news and politics junkie. Did you ever want to be a politician yourself?

I knew I was always going to laugh at it. If you had have half a brain you wouldn’t go into politics but if you’ve a quarter of a brain you can laugh at it. I’m a performer and I love what I do. I am principally a performer who does comedy. Since I was a kid watching Spitting Image, that’s what has driven me, crystallised my comedic bones.

Is there something therapeutic about satire, a sense of taking back a small degree of control despite your helplessness?

Not so much control. There’s an old Peter Cook saying, talking about the power of satire as they toppled Hitler in 1933. Satire doesn’t give you control. But there’s a shared catharsis in the audience where you can laugh at this all and say, “it’s not just me”. We’ve got an idiot of a president and Brexit and the the whole world’s going to pot. It’s good to have a laugh about it. I want to cheer everyone up.

Earlier this year you wrote a song bemoaning Southern Rail. Will that appear in the this show?

We’ve done a new song actually. We’ll have a Southern Fail special moment, for sure.

You’ve found a temporary new home at The Walrus. Will this be your base going forward?

I don’t know yet. We’re still a bit nomadic, we’re still looking for a permanent home. We’re a bit like the Albion were before we got the Amex.

Speaking of which, will there be any Albion material?

Oh yes. It’s always worth doing, especially with Palace below us.

The Treason Show The Walrus, Brighton, December 21 to 23 The Old Ship Hotel, Brighton, Dec 27 to 30, visit