The Solitary Dissenter

I have loved touring the show “Shout out to my Ex”. For many reasons it is the show that I am proudest of, and thus far, on the whole, the audiences have been a joy. But it is the comedian’s curse to not focus on the overall picture, but to obsessively reflect on the one person who quite clearly was in the wrong show.

I was massively looking forward to last Saturday night’s show at the Leicester Comedy Festival, not least because in 2017 I had done a rather shambolic “work in progress” show there, and this year I wanted to show off the finished product. The afternoon had been spent having a steroid injection for a frozen shoulder which has been troubling me for months. I had every reason to believe the evening would be altogether more pleasurable.

The first five minutes, the “settling in” jokes, always goes well. And it did. With one notable exception. In row 2 were what appeared to be a couple. She seemed to be trying to listen. He was talking in her face. Not loud enough for me to be able to pick up what he was saying. But loud enough that the people around him couldn’t concentrate and nor could I. I had to say something.

“You’ve been talking all through the show, is there any chance you could shut up?”

“No”

I’ll be honest, that wasn’t the answer i was expecting. I have absolutely slaved over this show and it’s a narrative which needs focus and attention from the audience, not heckling or indeed distracting private conversations. It is the first time I have been heckled on tour with anything that wasn’t superficial and lighthearted. What is more, his face was contorted with hate.

“You’re just going to have to leave right now”

At which point, crucially, the audience were entirely on my side. Thanks audience, because I don’t really know what I would have done without you.

The audience started chanting “Out out out”. And he obliged. But first he walked up to the stage and squared up to me face to face.

This was a pleasant medium sized arts centre in Leicester. This wasn’t the Comedy Store, there was no security to provide me with help. Quite a few things were going through my mind. Mostly “I’m about to get punched. Maybe this will help my career, Jim Jeffries style. I can’t punch back. I am a patron of a charity called Stand Against Violence. And what is more, I still have a frozen shoulder, and the steroids have not kicked in. So here goes. I would rather take a punch than show myself up in front of 250 people.”

He didn’t punch me. It was my good fortune that his right hand was occupied with the crucial job of holding his pint. He just scowled and said…

“You’re shit and you dress like a tramp”

This seemed the wrong moment to explain that I was wearing my favourite Ted Baker shirt, and it was bloody expensive. To explain that I was not the combatant in this conversation who looked like a tramp, well that would be punching down. I honestly had no idea what to say. I ended up saying…

“Tramp? It’s not me who is pissed at 9pm.” Pathetic, and I meant no offence to any of the remainder of the audience who might have been drunk.

He walked out. The audience cheered. Curiously, his wife remained. Now I have an added distraction. What on earth is her story? Part of me wanted to find out. Part of me was worried that  I was sitnessing the debris of a horribly abusive relationship. What I had no sense of at all, was how to address the issue. It was taken out of my hands.

The show manager walked in, inadvertently interrupting the show and said to the lady,

“He says you have to drive him home”

And so she got up and left, to understandably bewildered laughter from the audience. I just felt awful. I felt enormous sympathy for her, who had been blameless, enormous frustration that the start of my show had been so blighted, enormous gratitude to the rest of the audience, contempt for the most hateful little shit I have encountered at a gig but most of all I wanted to know……What on earth was he doing at my gig.

The only answer I can think of is that they took a punt, he took one look at me and thought

“Oh Bollocks. It’s that c**t off the Chase.

 

Further dates              https://www.paulsinha.com/comedy/

https://www.relate.org.uk/

 

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