It was a sell out tonight at the Leicester Square Theatre, though a large number of the seats near the front were empty - had people got the wrong time or forgotten they'd bought tickets, or more fittingly had they all died? The word of mouth, still my best form of PR, seems to be working and I wonder if I had done a two week run whether things might have picked up even further. But I have sold at least 200 tickets per night (including Sunday, possibly your last chance to see this show London - you'll be able to buy tickets on the door), which is satisfactory, though after the years of hard work I've put in there's a part of me that feels slightly aggrieved that I can't sell out six nights in a medium sized venue in a city of this size. But as I said before the more sensible part of me knows how far I have come in the last ten years. I've put out ten pretty solid and different stand up shows in the last ten years. They have all seemed to resonate with the people who've seen them and they've all be well reviewed, but progress in terms of tickets sales is slow.
In many ways I am fine with this and it means I generally get an audience who like what I am doing and selling an average of 250-300 tickets a night makes it worthwhile financially, even at my relatively cheap ticket price. I am not getting the riches that are bestowed on the comedians who can sell 10,000 or even 400 tickets a night, every night of the week, at £25 or more. Sometimes it feels cool to be a partial secret, but on other occasions I mull over the fact that my work is not getting the recognition that it possibly deserves. Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe I am just not qutie good enough. I genuinely don't know. Overall I know that I am in a luckier position than many more "successful" acts, even though it's entirely by accident and though ten years ago I would have wanted everything they have.
I have to remember that it's fucking amazing to sell out this theatre even once. I have had some great shows this week and some lovely responses (as well as the occasional bored faced audience member). It's all hearding in the right direction, just at a speed that indicates that I will have been dead for fifty years before I can achieve the modest goal of selling out the Leicester Square Theatre for six consecutive nights. It's a shame I won't be alive to see it. But mathematics says it will happen.
And tonight was a lot of fun. I thought it was going to be a tough one, when a presumably quite drunk man seemed determined to join in. I could tell he was a fan and wanted to be a part of it, but also knew instantly that if I didn't shut him up he would derail and wreck the show. He burbled something incomprehensible in the first few seconds and then two minutes in contributed a stream of consciousness sentence which felt more like a dream than a heckle, something about difficulties at Christmas which had no connection whatsover to the bit I'd just done about Death killing every woman he touched and thus having poor sexual technique.
It was a shame to have to step out of the show at this point as I had started confidentally and felt in command, but knew I would be undermined by this guy if I didn't stop he spurting out his crapulous crap every two minutes. I broke off and firmly but kindly informed him that if that was his best punt at a heckle then he'd better stay quiet from now on. I was going to give him the benefit of the doubt and not lay into him, but warned him that if the disruptions continued I might not be as well disposed and he might find himself with a second anus. I was able to start the next joke by saying, "Two of the people recently hovering on the precipice of death - well three if you include that guy."
But annoyingly the diversion momentarily unsettled both me and the audience, all of us, I am guessing, nervous that the show might be about to be ruined by a man who had lost control of his mouth (that might be either the heckler or me). After my observational comedy about 9/11 the man forgot about keeping his mouth shut and blurted out another nonsensical bleat. More forcefully I told him that he had to be quiet. I was in the middle of a complicated routine that needed everything to be in its right place, but also any distraction might throw me off track. I told him that if he was prepared to pay for everyone in the audience's ticket then he could talk as much as he wanted. The man told me he loved me. I said, "I know that you love me, that's what makes this all the worse. That you're trying to ruin my set. It's embarrassing. I am ashamed to have you as a fan." The rest of the audience enjoyed this. "I hate you," shouted the man. I was pleased with that, though knew he was lying. "I'm just doing a bit about 9/11. Have some respect!" That was the killer punch, which got the audience totally on side and the man didn't shout again. In a sense the interruption and the successful quelling of the wildfire did make the audience like me more, but as usual a heckler who thinks he is helping out just risks derailing and ruining the whole show.
I would have had to have the man removed from the theatre if he'd carried on, but would have been able to say, "Take him outside and kill him" to the bouncers, but luckily the booze got the best of him and he apparently slept through most of the second half. He came up to me afterwards as I signed, (of course he did - it's something you can almost always guarantee even from the most aggressive heckler - "That was me heckling you mate! Just trying to help you out!" Believe me, I can cope with this on my own). He reiterated what a fan he was and how he was just joining in a spirit of fun. I lied and told him that it was OK. Heckling is hardly ever OK, but this drunken and random babbling is one of the worst things an audience member can do. The heckles aren't funny, they're just annoying, it puts everyone on edge and disrupts the timing and train of thought of the comedian. But I'll tell you what, Louis CK puts the whole thing much better than I ever could in this response to a positive heckler. It's not appropriate. Don't do it.
It was a lovely gig to be a part of and the new stuff is nearly bedded in and I am getting much more light and shade with the older stuff. I know most comics would bite off their right arm to sell 400 tickets in a night, including the me of ten years ago. I am never moaning in these blogs, so please don't read them in that tone of voice. I am just trying to give an honest account of my feelings, both the good and the stupid, vain and paranoid ones that whirl around in the edges of my brain. This was a good day. Don't heckle.
The video of the Rufus Hound RHLSTP is now available at gofasterstripe.com. The free audio will be up on the British Comedy Guide and iTunes on Tuesday. If you can help support the project by paying for at least one video or the series pass then that would be massively appreciated.