'He’s a killing machine. We can’t take him anywhere.'

Taylor Glenn on her worst audience member

It seems fitting that a penultimate Fringe show should come with a bit of drama. We’ve all survived a month of triumphs (Good reviews! Networking! Belly laughs from audience number 13!) and disappointments (producer who asked for free ticket never showed! Mediocre reviews! Stoned silence from audience number 22!).

And being in the graveyard 11:30pm shift, I was ready for drunk heckling the entire run – but alas, it never came. Some nights were better than others for certain, but my audiences had been almost universally lovely, even if I wasn’t their cup of comedy tea.

Never get complacent in comedy.

Cue my second to last show, which as I type this was 12 memorable hours ago. It was a sell-out audience and it was being filmed, which meant it was going to be the best show ever.

Never get complacent in comedy.

I won’t repeat that again, even though it would fulfil the rule of three. Anyway, the heckling began almost immediately – nay, it was sort of just loud interruption at first. The sort which destroys your set-ups and makes you wonder why a nice office job isn’t your passion.

Here’s the thing with getting heckled at the end of a run where you’ve survived countless ups and downs: Firstly, you’re tired. Your eyeliner has ceased to create a fake-awake look, but rather a sort of smack whore jaded glare. Yet you’re into the groove of your show and you know how to hit the right marks by now and damn it, you MEAN to do that. Especially on film, goddamnit.

So interruption wasn’t just annoying – it was a plague on my fragile house of Fringe. My therapisty self wanted to calmly intervene and quiet the drunk bald man with loving understanding; my exhausted stand-up self wanted him to shut the fuck up. So about three times, after gentle banter failed, I told him to shut the fuck up.

Now within the comedy realm, this type of language is more than acceptable. A show can’t really go on if every time you build to a punchline it gets interrupted by somebody. There are a myriad of ways to deal with it and I went with direct and basic. So too did the guy sitting two people over from said heckler, who chose to join in on the ‘shut the fuck up’ chorus.

Heckler was not impressed with either of us, and in a moment of supermacho drunk-fight or pussy-flight, he threw his full pint of beer (petrol?) in Shut The Fuck Up Guy’s face. Unfortunately this meant a comic friend of mine sitting in between got the boozy shrapnel. Comedy warfare has many casualties.

I don’t know if all comics feel the same but your life both flashes before your eyes and slows down to a halt when stuff like this happens. Therapisty self wanted to make it all better, but then realised once someone gets violent (yes, liquid assault is still violence) it’s Game Over.

Did I mention the gig was going really well? It was going really well.

Fast forward to me gesturing for security, gig coming to a halt, man resisting being taken out, me making catty comment about his poor wife, his actual poor wife getting angry and insisting that she’d never had a problem with him. . .

(Never get complacent in marriage)

. . .and me suggesting that she was welcome to leave too if I’d pissed her off. After all, as I put it, a gig isn’t Shawshank. You haven’t got to tunnel your way out, you can just leave. Although I would have given anything for a fucking tunnel out at that moment.

What surprised me was that heckler’s friends all stayed. The wife tried to lure her two female friends out and they resisted, and his smartly dressed mate stuck around too. Seriously, pink tie and all on that dude.

So I powered through the show. Was it a good show? Well for a traumatised audience and stand-up I guess it went OK. The actor who played Oliver in the old version of the movie was there with his wife and I’m fairly certain from the looks on their faces it scared the living Dickens out of them both. My material isn’t light, the show’s not perfect, and sometimes I wish I had some secret magic tricks or an alternate Seventies cruise ship routine for occasions like this, but that’s just not me.

Gigs always end. That’s the great thing about them. And at the end, I had one of the most surprising things happen (besides the applause, which I was not banking on): the friends of heckler’s wife said to me ‘You were great. We knew you were going to be great, and that’s why we stayed.’ I was a bit floored, and daresay, touched.

And then well-dressed pink tie man said my favourite, favourite line of the entire Fringe: ‘Sorry about my mate. He’s with the French foreign legion. He’s a killing machine. We can’t take him anywhere.’

Suddenly it dawned on me that not only had I gotten the most unlikely section of the audience on my side, but I had also unknowingly taken down The Killing Machine of Scotland. Not without some splashback, but I’ve offered to pay cleaning bills.

A year ago, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get out of this experience of working my ass off on a first stand-up hour and bringing it to the world’s biggest arts festival. But I sure won’t forget how it ended. And also, I think it’s given me some ideas for my next show.

Edinburgh, lovely Edinburgh, thanks for the ride, and see you next time for Taylor Glenn: The Killing Machine. Film to follow.

  • Taylor Glenn’s last show for Edinburgh 2012 is at the Gilded Balloon at 11.30pm tonight.
    • Published: 26 Aug 2012

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