“I’ve paid my admission to the Tate Britain, and you have the gall to tell me I can’t draw moustaches and cocks all over the Degas?”
Michael Mcintryre walked off stage early at his Darlington warm up gig, does that mean he must have his “beloved entertainer” licence revoked?
(before I continue, this has been written in a hurry on steps, version two up later. Just using this as a valve)
Some time earlier this century, I was touring my Book Club variety gang show with a group of comics and friends. One night near Newbury, we had some spiteful elements in the audience. They were particularly snide whenever a female performer was on, uncouth with a side of misogyny. These were the early days of new millennium banter. Rather than be Charlie Chuckles with them, I went on an admonished them like a schoolmaster. I explained that this might be okay in the comedy clubs they usually went to, but it wasn’t okay here, and that they should have a bit of respect (at this point imagine me removing my glasses as if ready to become pugilistic, though this would be a disaster as I would end up punching air like a cocksure but confused Magoo).
Someone in the audience had bootlegged the show, and put it up on a website keen on forums filled with bedroom based antagonism, while chewing their blue blankets, these warriors daubed ad hominem, hate-filled attacks. This was still the first decade of universal internet, and their barbs felt all the more vicious for it. Yet again, there was some very unpleasant hatred of young women, the sort of thing that when you are starting a career, if you stumbled on this, you would resign immediately. The main focus of their hate did not, and remains a brilliant comedian.
One of the angles of the strand on this bootleg was, “you wouldn’t get Roy Chubby Brown resorting to this sort of thing, he’d smash them all and keep on going”.
But as later history showed, that wouldn’t always be true. A couple of years later, he stormed off after a few minutes and never returned. Other alpha comedians such as Jim Davidson have also walked off, or even refused to go on. So it’s not just the arthouse league who are milksops in this regard. (and we didn’t just storm off, we kept going, even if I did have to hurl chalk every now and again).
There has been debate on whether Michael Mcintyre was right to walk off. It is important to note that he came back on, and did a whole show after the issue that annoyed him, someone repeatedly fiddle-faddling with their phone, was sorted. There seems to be a view that, once the ticket has been bought, any audience member has the right to treat the fool as they wish. Well, if they want to dick about and show off in a theatre, perhaps they should become a performer themselves. Now comedy is enormous, I have noticed in big auditoriums, audience members getting up throughout shows, back and forth to the bar, concentrating like distracted telly viewers. I am fortunate, being small fry, the audience I get are generally attentive. They are small enough for me to like them and have some idea of the cut of their jib, and they have some idea of my jib cut too.
Some people have said, “why didn’t Mcintyre grab her phone, do some funny calls on it etc”, perhaps he didn’t want to. Perhaps he wanted to do the show he had intended, and maybe the rest of the audience wanted that too. I have played towns where audience members want it all to be about them, why should it be. There is no excuse for being lazy, for giving your audience all your energy and focus, but it may be about your worldview not their mate’s hair or chum’s belly. Comedy needn’t be treated with utter reverence, but that doesn’t mean there should not be respect for it. Just as actors are known to burst blood vessels over phone use in plays, and a comic can too.
This is about mutual respect, respecting your audience and attempting the best show you can, and their respect of you (and some audience members remembering to respect the rest of the audience too, who may be less interested in them than they imagined as they caterwaul or distract)
I am on tour as usual – Bristol tonight, then Bridgwater, Henley, Southport, London, Manchester and on and on http://www.robinince.com for all details.
new horror anthology with stories by many comedians http://saltpublishing.com/shop/proddetail.php?prod=9781907773761