Columnist (and comic) Tom Taylor on heckling

Tom Taylor performing at the Edinburgh Fringe at the final of  Foster's So You Think You're Funny? (Picture by Steve Ullathorne)
Tom Taylor performing at the Edinburgh Fringe at the final of Foster's So You Think You're Funny? (Picture by Steve Ullathorne)

The world of Tom Taylor, promoter of Harrogate’s Sitting Room comedy club and finalist in So You Think You’re Funny contest at Edinburgh Fringe 2013

When people find out I perform comedy I typically get asked two things:

1. “Tell a joke.” I don’t do this. I tell jokes on stage not in my leisure time to nodding acquaintances. By the same token, and as the old saying goes, if you bumped into a gynaecologist at a party you wouldn’t ask him to tell you a joke.

2. “Do you get heckled a lot.” I am still unsure as to whether the unspoken second half of this sentence is: “because I can’t imagine you’re very funny.”

I honestly can’t recall ever being heckled. At least not aggressively.

I’ve certainly been somewhat fortunate (or not good enough!) as I have never been booked to play the rough weekend clubs - yet.

But most interruptions are just people wanting to help or someone too bladdered to make much sense.

The worst experience was last August at the Edinburgh Fringe when I was performing in a compilation show at half midnight in a lovely wood-panelled, barely-windowed sauna. Seeing someone fall asleep during your banker can be pretty demoralising.

That was until last week when, halfway through my set, someone in the second row put down their drink, reached into their bag, pulled out their iPad and started Candy Crushing. I must say, I was hurt.

I admit, I didn’t have the crowd (which could have doubled as a jury) in stitches - it was more like niggling cramp - but I was making the best of a tricky situation.

The gig was in a pub. Not the function room of a pub. The pub. The performance area was lit by two desk lamps gaffer taped to the wall.

Regrettably, the gaffer tape lacked the requisite strength and so, in each of the show’s three sections, both lamps slowly slipped round until the audience was lit and the performer was in total darkness.

There was no PA system, but why would you need one? It was a small pub.

Oh yes, because the pub was split into halves by a barricade of three plastic potted plants - hardly the set of Les Miserables – to accommodate those who wanted to watch comedy in one half and those who wanted to watch football in the other.

As such, throughout my set, I felt like I was in a poorly rehearsed double act with Jeff Stelling.

Then the iPad came out.

Much to my chagrin, dear readers, I flipped. I excreted words, and combinations of words, that were simultaneously vile and really quite creative.

My diatribe lasted a good minute and a half.

My solo acoustic diatribe that is, which was matched against the full, thunderous soundscape of a dramatic equaliser.

Sitting Room Comedy Club returns on Wednesday, March 12 with headliner Tom Stade (Live at the Apollo, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Mock the Week), Sean Meo (Have I Got News for You), Liam Williams and Aisling Bea (both Edinburgh Comedy Awards Best Newcomers nominees).

Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails.