Armed And Dangerous by James Brandon

Book review by Steve Bennett

This ‘performer’s guide to dealing with hecklers and interruptions’ is hilarious – but for all the wrong reasons.

It’s probably no secret that a comedian backed into a corner – and sometimes not even then – will trot out a generic, hack line to get a laugh and put their routine back on track. Watch enough stand-up and you’ll soon spot them and, if you do take to the stage yourself, you might find yourself using them.

Or, would-be comics could cut the corner of actually watching the artform you want to do study these 800 examples, all ordered in various categories and commit to memory as many as you think will be useful. Here are some verbatim samples, with the chapter headings they came from.


(Loud shirt) Does that shirt have a volume control?


(one tooth) She’s Spanish. She’s called Juanita (one-eater)


(loud clatter) Someone’s just dropped a clanger


Is this a shortcut to (LOCAL DISCOUNT STORE – PRIMARK ETC.)?


Wendy: Wen-dy red red robin goes bob bob bobbing… (sung)

It’s very easy to take the piss out of this.

That’s it, no ‘but…’

While some of the lines genuinely are of the type you’d hear in clubs the rest are either so bland it seems like author James Brandon – a cabaret and cruise ship comic of 20 years' standing – is giving you tips on having a conversation or so corny they’ll possibly land a comic in even more trouble.

For a comedian, dealing with anything happening in the room, from audience banter to the microphone failing, isn’t so much about learning stock responses, but confidence. It could certainly be said argued Armed And Dangerous could help instil that confidence, knowing there are fallbacks if all else fails.

It also acknowledges that most heckles aren’t that scary, and Brandon offers some practical advice on unwanted questions which might be directly useful, such as ensuring that you as a comic should never answer any question posed from the audience, as that indicates a slight shift in power. That said, plenty of top comics can and do engage directly with their hecklers, and the results are all the better for it.

Brandon’s seen some of these criticisms coming, and accepts that some of his lines may seem too trite or too harsh, depending on the act, and invites the would-be comedian simply to pick and choose those that suit their style. That makes sense, but seeing hundreds of lines, many of them dreadful, listed out of context, is a bizarre and dispiriting experience.

Also take with a pinch of salt the moody warning on the cover: ‘Over 18 only: contains explicit language’… Even in the chapter marked ‘stronger stuff’ there’s nothing worse than ‘as*h*le’ – and that’s how he’s coyly he’s asterixed it.

Really, there’s only one response to this hugely overpriced book: ‘Get off, you’re shit.’

Published: 29 Jul 2011

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