Show about comic butting heckler will be a huge hit

IT WAS certainly no laughing matter at the time.

Fringe performer David Whitney stunned his audience by headbutting a heckler at a packed Royal Mile pub gig, landing himself in court on an assault charge.

Now the 31-year-old stand-up comic, one of the creators of the hit Channel 4 sketch show Fonejacker, plans to write a routine based on his experience to be performed at the Fringe next year.

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Yesterday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Aberdeen-born Whitney, who played the bagpipes at rock star Gwen Stefani's wedding, pleaded guilty to assaulting Andrew Robb on August 18 at the Canon's Gait pub and was fined 600.

While admitting he was in the wrong, Whitney said he was pleased that the court accepted that he acted because he feared he was going to be attacked and not because he was heckled. He said: "I've paid my fine and I'm writing an Edinburgh show about it. I'm going to come back next year and tell you all about it.

"I might want to forget all about it, but that's the plan."

During proceedings, defence solicitor Kenneth Cloggie said Whitney's microphone had not been working and a number of people, including Mr Robb, who were drinking and appeared drunk, began heckling.

Whitney, according to his solicitor, had expected the management to deal with the situation but they did not. He then asked Mr Robb to leave "using the language a stand-up comedian would use". The audience also joined in using the same language.

Mr Cloggie added that the only exit was past the hecklers and Whitney came face-to-face with Mr Robb. He felt he was going to be physically attacked and "over-reacted". Whitney told the Evening News: "I am pleased that the court did accept I didn't lose my cool as a result of heckling.

"I chose not to fight self-defence (during the court case] and I realised that my reaction was over the top and I'm very sorry for it, but it was a knee-jerk reaction.

"He grabbed my shoulder and faced off with me.

"It wasn't so much like an athletic headbutt - it was like the type of thing that you see on a football pitch when two people face off. The court accepted that and gave me a fine and told me not to do it again, which I won't."

At the time, Whitney said he was "burning" to give his side of the story but was told not to.

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He added: "I couldn't talk at the time. A lot of it was really badly reported because I wouldn't talk to anybody. It was reported that he had to be carried out on a stretcher in one publication, that I'd been banned from the Fringe and that I leapt from the stage."

Asked if the case has affected his career as a stand-up comic, Whitney said: "No, the industry have been unbelievably supportive. Reginald D Hunter came out on stage in support of me, many big names have even promised to do a tribute night to help if it came to it."

Whitney was born in Aberdeen but moved to Surrey as a child. He took up busking in London, which landed him a turn at the Covent Garden wedding of rock stars Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale in 2002.