Hecklers

Posted on 28 July 2002 in Entertainment (1 comment)

The Ealing Summer Festival is a great idea. There's loads of live music, food fairs, events, fun for all the family. In my local pub, they're holding a play. Great stuff. And then there's the annual Comedy Festival, coming from a big marquee in the park.

The lineup this year caught my eye. Harry Hill on Thursday (I have my tickets), Trev and Simon last night.

As a life long Trev and Simon fan, I was looking forward to seeing them live. They're a funny duo - not your average standup act by any means. Not for them standing at the front of the stage picking on people in the audience.

The night had gone great. Gina Yashere first on, was good. Lee Mack was second on and excellent. The crowd was in great spirits. Everyone was having a great time.

And then there was Trev and Simon. Great I thought. Which is why at this point I should take a moment to say what a complete bunch of idiots hecklers are.

I say this after having my evening soured by a small minority of idiots in the crowd for managing to bring the sad result of Trev and Simon politely walking off stage (abliet Trev doing it reluctantly after persuading Simon to carry on for a little longer) around ten minutes into their set.

To be honest I am completely annoyed - not annoyed with Trev and Simon who did their uttermost to continue under a barrage of very loud abuse and boo-ing from a very small minority, tried to carry on.

Nor am I annoyed with Lee Mack who begrudgingly came back on after doing his act, despite looking as if he no longer wanted to be there (and who can blame him) and being very embarrassed to be back on under such circumstances, and who spent most of his second stint on stage (rightly) heckling the hecklers for being so nasty.

No. I'm completely annoyed with the very small but sadly very loud, and to be honest vocally violent minority, who managed to remove a talented comedy duo from stage on the sheer basis that their act wasn't going to be a 45 minute version of "The Singing Corner".

For those that haven't watched Trev and Simon live, their shows are like a play - it starts off, builds up in the middle, climaxes and ends. It's a rolling event. Get off to a heckled start and you're probably doomed. Being nice comedians who never pick on the audience, it's not a style of show that reacts very well to heckling at all. To beat a heckler you need to put them down. If your style is two nice guys, how do you put someone down without making yourself sound bitter and twisted?

True to their style they tried to pacify the crowd - the opening routine was a "lets get the pant swinging out of the way and get on with the new stuff" approach - anyone who thinks any live comedian is going to do sketches in a tent in Ealing when they have a 45 minute set and no time for costume changes is seriously naive. Sadly it just didn't work and as the duo struggled to continue against a small bunch of people who were becoming louder and more vicious, the duo politely half-walked, half-ran off stage, no doubt amazed that some people who had paid good money to see them perform, turned on them so quickly.

To be a comedian on the live scene, you no doubt have to have a thick skin, and I have the uttermost admiration for Trevor Neal for trying to continue, and persuading his partner to do so for that little bit longer, even when it was clear that Simon didn't want to - I have the uttermost admiration for them both for continuing under what was 10 minutes of pretty nasty, vindictive heckling and boo-ing, which started pretty much as soon as they came on stage.

I have no gripes with them at all and I really don't blame them for coming off. When they'd left the stage their radio mikes where still on and being near the speaker, I could just hear a quiet Simon mournfully apologising profusely to Trev for coming off stage, but that he just couldn't work with that reaction. Indeed if I'd have been Lee Mack who was reluctantly coaxed back on, I'd have just gone on stage and said "Fuck you" and walked off, although that would make things worse really for the majority who had already seen the main act removed from stage. Sadly the majority as usual, got punished by the majority. Lee's attitude of taking on the hecklers, calling them at one stage "miserable bastards" summed up what no doubt many in the audience were thinking.

And yes it was a minority. Sitting at the front, you could hear people trying to shut the hecklers up in the background. I wouldn't say that Trev and Simon had the rest of the crowd eating out of their hands - having been on for a matter of minutes, its probably true to say that most of the audience were still giving them a chance to see how it went.

The abuse, a MC trying to calm the crowd, and the return of Lee Mack, still didn't sort things out - obviously. Despite his hard work, Lee was pretty fed up, shaking at one point. The evening had gone very sour sour. He had the misfortune to be stuck with an audience who didn't really want him to be there, and to find himself stuck with no real prepared material (he winged it very well).

In the end we left about 10 minutes before the end. The mood had gone, what had started off being a great night, ruined. The main act who I had essentially paid £12 for, were on stage for about 10 minutes.

Now thankfully for the value for money stakes, Lee Mack and Gina Yashere were very good and it would have been worth paying £12 to see them alone, but the people I wanted to see I was deprived of doing by a complete bunch of prats.

Because what I hate about hecklers most is this: silence is far more meaningful to a comedian than you're STUPID IDIOTIC SEMI-ILLITERATE THOUGHTS. If a comedian isn't working then the silence from the majority will reveal this - this is when as a heckler you might actually get a response. But no, hecklers are too clever for silence. After all silence doesn't mean they get the limelight.

If a comedian isn't good, silence will get them off stage. Heckling stands the chance that they redeem themselves and get it all on track.

Whether Trev and Simon's set was any good, and whether it deserved silence or raptous applause, I may never know. The duo were trying out some of the material for their new show in Edinburgh. I hope that their night headlining the Ealing Comedy Festival isn't representative of their time in Edinburgh. The duo have worked on the live scene for many years, and I'm sure all great comedians have bad audiences sometimes.

In the unlikely event that Trev and Simon ever read this, I'd like to say that not all the audience were against you. There were people like myself who genuinely wanted to see you. There was the bulk of the audience who if we're fair, could have gone either way but were giving you a chance. And then there were the prats who from the start and for no real reason, spoilt it for the rest of us.

All I can hope is that they stay home for Harry Hill on Thursday...

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Nick said:

I was there, all those years ago. I have to say, I agree 100% with your comments - an annoying vocal minority. Not sure whatever happened to Trevor and Simon, but let's hope they got over it...

Posted on 1 December 2008 at 5:05 PM

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