The James Kettle Moment #19: The Six Funniest Heckles In The History Of Stand Up
There’s nothing real fans of stand-up comedy like more than a heckle, other than everything else about stand-up comedy. Sometimes a heckle can be funnier than anything the stand-up comedian can come up with themselves — but what are some of the all-time funniest heckles?
Malcolm Hardee’s Tunnel Club closed in the late 1980s, but in its day was renowned as one of the toughest clubs on the circuit — with some of the funniest heckles. Eddie Izzard once walked on stage there and was about to launch into his act — when from the back of the room, an audience member shouted “Fuck off mate, you’re a cunt.” Eddie had no choice but to continue his act!
London’s Comedy Store is well-known as the mecca of stand-up — but when it comes to heckles, the crowd can sometimes generate bigger laughs than any of the performers. Performing as part of the Comedy Store Players, Paul Merton was once improvising a scene set in an art gallery, when a wag in the front row called out “Fuck off.” Paul shrugged his shoulders and soldiered on!
Even the biggest names can sometimes come a cropper when faced with the comic brilliance of a well-timed heckle. Lee Evans was onstage at the London Palladium, performing some of his literally indescribable physical comedy, only to be interrupted by a gentleman in the front row of the circle, who said — in a voice loud enough for the whole theatre to hear — “Fuck off, mate”. Despite the disruption, Lee managed to complete his set!
Crowds in Scotland are well-known for putting comedians through their paces — with Glasgow renowned as one of the most difficult places to play for any act unable to match the native wit of the audience. Michael McIntyre had barely launched into a performance of his 2012 tour Showtime at the Glasgow SECC when an audience member called out “Fuck off, Michael”. Fortunately, McIntyre didn’t hear it!
People in Liverpool are naturally funny, so it’s always a challenge for any out-of-town comedian to attempt a performance on the banks of the Mersey. Jimmy Carr’s one of the many to have found this out to his cost — on one of his earliest tours, he’d just raised the roof with one of his signature one-liners when someone from the audience could distinctly be heard saying “Fuck you, cunt”. Thankfully, Jimmy took it in his stride like the pro he is!
Christmas gigs can pose real trouble for comedians — because while the audience may be full of the festive spirit, it doesn’t mean those heckles stop flowing. Julian Clary knows this better than most — he was midway through a festive comedy spectacular at the Hammersmith Apollo when he was interrupted mid-flow by a heckler who demolished him with the words “Fuck off, you cunt.” Using all his experience, Julian ignored him and carried on!