‘Behind the wrath in his eyes, I could see a kind of desperation’ - Andrew Doyle narrowly avoids being beaten up by a heckler
HECKLERS never cease to fascinate me. Sometimes they think they’re helping. For some reason, certain audience members suffer from the delusion that their witless interjections will be funnier than a comedian’s carefully scripted material.
This is almost never the case, unless the comedian is extremely weak and the heckler is Oscar Wilde. And last time I checked, Wilde was very much dead.
Of course, I’ve been on the receiving end of hecklers before. It’s an inevitable part of being a stand-up comedian. However, during my show last night, a group of semi-literate drunks decided to sit in the front row and chat with each other continually, quite oblivious to the annoyance they were causing to both my audience and myself.
This kind of low-level disruption can, if anything, be more damaging to a show that an outright heckle. Punchlines don’t tend to work so well when they are underscored by the inane chatter of people whose intellectual capacity is akin to that of the average domesticated turkey.
My first approach was to make light of it. I joked with them, trying to diffuse any potential hostility. I did my best to explain that, although they were very welcome, perhaps the proceedings might be improved if they didn’t involve themselves so vocally. For people like this, such advice is probably applicable in all social situations. They would be better off taking a vow of silence and living in the woods.
If I were being kind, I’d say that the alcohol prevented them from expressing themselves with any articulacy. But kindness isn’t always accurate, so I’ll be frank instead. These people were complete idiots. The sort of people who think that skimmed milk comes from thinner cows.
I suppose it’s my own fault for being too cocky. Before I got on stage last night I had been in high spirits. Every show in the run had sold out, the audience responses had been overwhelmingly positive, and it looked as though my hard work during the year was paying off.
But after asking the group to keep quiet for the umpteenth time, I realised that I was getting nowhere. I knew that if I were to carry on in these circumstances the show would be a failure. In short, I had to get them out.
The problem was they didn’t want to go. The combination of alcohol and a poor education meant that they didn’t understand that they were totally sabotaging the evening. Eventually, I stated plainly that I wouldn’t continue until they left.
It was at this point that the beta male of the group – a rather dim-witted, ursine creature – attempted to challenge me in his sweet little monosyllabic way.
Unsurprisingly, language failed him. Behind the wrath in his eyes, I could see a kind of desperation, a struggle to formulate some kind of linguistic approximation of his emotional state. Alas, he wasn’t up to it.
Like Lennie Small fumbling with a newborn puppy, he panicked. For a moment it was clear that he was about to punch me. I actually saw him clench his paw. But something – possibly the 60 spectators – prevented him from going through with it. So he did the next best thing: he threw his pint of lager in my face. It could have been a lot worse, of course. With no bouncer in sight, I was lucky not to have been beaten to a bloody pulp. I do object to the lager, however. I’m more of a Pinot Grigio kind of person.
• Andrew Doyle: Whatever It Takes, Just the Tonic at the Caves, 8pm, until 26 August.
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