Mike Shephard likes his history and, as a cash-conscious volume-drinker, the prices of rounds of drinks have always easily segued for him into historical anecdotes from the relevant year in order to impress (or not) whichever female member of the hospitality sector was behind the bar at the time. Shephard admits that he liked his history old and worn, however; people in the past were easier to get on with, for one thing. Inevitably, however, general price inflation took a round through the £19 barrier, forcing Shephard to start learning some 20th century history and this debut Fringe show is partly based on the results of his research.
Significantly, Shephard's neither into received opinions nor the Big Man Theory of History, although he admits that it’s certainly easier to make jokes about the likes of Churchill and Stalin than, say, the results of the 1911 General Election. That's perhaps why he begins his focused show discussing the 1980s TV series 'Allo 'Allo, which was set (if you're too young to remember) against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied France. If nothing else, the fact that the subject was deemed suitable for a sitcom shows how 'history' is far from set and can be rewritten in many different ways, even if it's just to create some catchphrases or deliver a cheap punchline.
Having got the 'great-branding' Nazis out of the way early on, this self-described ‘cider socialist’ then widens his scope to the whole of the 20th century–10 decades of ideological battles. Time and again, he tries to show how the history that we've learned was nowhere near as inevitable as we might assume it is– and why we should always invoke the melodic name of Nedeljko Čabrinović (who had a somewhat failed role in triggering the outbreak of the First World War) when it comes to the great cock-ups by our friends. Shephard appears to have a positively Reithian approach to stand-up; keen to educate, inform and entertain his audience rather than necessarily get them to love him. But that's strangely reassuring; and you'll certainly learn something new in his company!