Opinion: Should Babies and Live Comedy Mix?

Screaming with laughter

I was amused to hear that Doug Stanhope was cheesed off about a baby being in his audience at one of his European gigs recently. According to reports Stanhope wanted the infant ejected, but the parents managed to move to more discreet balcony seats and enjoy the rest of Stanhope’s show. We don’t know what their baby thought of it.

I haven’t come across a baby at a comedy gig for some time. In fact the last time it might have been my own daughter. I remember taking her to see Baddiel and Newman at St George’s Hall in Bradford in the early 1990s. The duo knew they had a young following but I bet they didn’t realise that one member of their audience was still in nappies.

It was often difficult to get a babysitter so we took our daughter to a few gigs. I remember a Harry Hill show where he did a joke which felt as if it was directed straight at us. “Don't put your baby in bed with you. You might fall asleep, roll on it and put your back out.”

I don’t remember any problem with her at gigs. Most of the time she slept through them anyway so rarely made a sound. The only issue was when she was about 10 months old and we wanted to take her to the cinema and we rang to check it would be OK: “You do realise the film is a 15 certificate don’t you?” As far as I know the film – one of Woody Allen’s lesser works I think – did not have any lasting effect on her. She also went to a U2 gig and has never liked U2, so maybe that was a good thing.

These days there are other options if you have kids and love stand-up. Lucy Porter runs the Screaming with Laughter afternoon comedy club which is specifically designed for parents with infants under one year old. And you only need to buy a ticket for the adults attending, kids go free. Their next gig is in Chiswick on November 17. Performers including Hal Cruttenden, Marcus Brigstocke and Stuart Goldsmith have previously gigged for these young audiences and new parent Richard Herring gigged at the club this week.

Obviously if the baby at the Stanhope set was disruptive the performer had every reason to be pissed off. A crying baby is probably even worse than the person in front of you texting their mates throughout the gig. But given the start time of most shows children will often sleep during them anyway. The parents might have been taking a risk if they were in the stalls, but back in the balcony they were less obtrusive. That’s where we sat with our daughter during Baddiel and Newman and I think we took her out a couple of times when she snivelled a bit. Maybe she was just passing judgement on the material.

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