Opinion: Why Does Kevin Bridges Attract So Many Hecklers?

It was reported this week that Kevin Bridges had issues with hecklers again. It is not the first time. Although on this occasion he was also feeling poorly when he walked offstage early, but previously he has had problems continuing with his show even when he has been in good health.

Hecklers are the bane of the comedy gig whether it's in a club or an arena. The cliché is that they think they are helping. The truth is the opposite. They never enhance a show. Even comedians that manage to deal with them would probably rather they didn't exist.

But what I'm perplexed by is why Kevin Bridges seems to have more hecklers than most. I just don't understand why. I've seen it for myself. It is not just a problem when he performs in his native Scotland. When I saw his current show at the Eventim Apollo in London earlier this year he had to keep pausing mid-set to address shouts from the crowd. Every time he mentioned a place name there would be yells of recognition. But there would still have been yells if he hadn't mentioned Scottish towns. I don't think all the hecklers had Clydebank roots.

I don't think it's because of jealousy either, that someone so young is so successful and so talented. I don't think they have gone out with the intention of fucking up the evening. I genuinely don't think the people doing it are attempting to derail the gigs. In an interview in the Guardian with Sarah Silverman hecklers were compared to internet trolls. Silverman said that hecklers are basically saying "I exist!". Maybe she has a point, but that still doesn't explain why they do it to Bridges so much.

Maybe alcohol plays a part, loosening tongues and inhibitions. But there are plenty of comedians who attract an audience that has been drinking before as well as during the gig and the worse thing that usually happens is that they have to walk out of the show to the toilet mid-set, not that they become part of the show (though I've seen that occasionally happen too). 

It is not because Bridges encourages heckling. Far from it. It's quite clear that he doesn't want something that spoils the night for everyone. But it's a difficult situation when it starts to happen. If you ignore it the people nearby who can hear it become frustrated and their night is scuppered. If you engage with it the heckler (invariably men but not exclusively) can feel encouraged and even emboldened. I'm not sure what the solution is. Maybe Bridges had the only foolproof solution - walk offstage.

But I'd be interested to hear what other people think. Sadly I doubt if any hecklers will read this column. One thing I'm pretty confident about is that hecklers are not true comedy fans.

Buy the DVD of Kevin Bridges' latest show here and shout at the screen as much as you like. 

Picture: Andy Hollingworth




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