Opinion: Critic's Notes – Audience...Again

After the annoying chatty fan at Tommy Tiernan the other week there was another audience irritant at Seann Walsh last night at the Soho Theatre. Just over half-way through Walsh's set the shaggy-haired star asked someone in the front row if they had a personal hangover cure. Instead of simply answering the question, "Joe" started to embark on an impromptu mid-performance speech.

Now here, to quote Kurt Braunohler, is where it gets weird. Joe was not one of those attention-seeking show-offs who wants to upstage the performer. In fact he seemed oblivious to the fact that there was a packed room who had paid money to see the show and not him. Instead he stood up and explained that he had heard some of the jokes before because they were on Seann's DVD. Seann apologised and explained that this was a different set, but there was some overlap. Joe then asked Seann if he could have an interval to give him a chance to go to the bar…

I was towards the back so I couldn't heat the whole conversation but I think he said he had tried to buy tickets for something else but it was sold out so he had paid £10 to see Seann instead, which was not the most endearing remark if you are talking to the performer in question. Walsh asked the people next to him if they were Joe's friends and, perhaps not surprisingly, they said no. Maybe they were, but had disowned him by this point.

At least Joe asked Walsh if he wanted a drink and the slightly shell-shocked stand-up opted for an orange juice. He then indulged Joe and paused his show while Joe went to the bar at the side of the room. And a minute later shouted across - "I haven't got enough money for a pint and an orange juice." Walsh was quick off the mark on this one: "Well, get yourself a half then."

As Joe weaved his way back to his seat it looked like the incident was over but there were still occasional interruptions as Walsh sipped his juice and wondered whether it had been spiked. It is always a problem to engage with people like this. It is not as if they are hecklers who can be shut up and put in their place with a cutting put-down, they seem to exist in a world of their own. Maybe all that watching of Live at the Apollo has made people like Joe think they are still watching the screen in their living room when they at an actual gig.

The funny thing is that when Tommy Tiernan had a similar problem he suggested that maybe the 9.30pm start to his show was not conducive to people sitting quietly and paying attention. Maybe it allowed too much post-work drinking time before the start of the gig. Walsh's show starts at  a sobering 7.30pm so I'm not sure what was going on in Joe's head. The show was great, but it was not quite the show I expected. And somehow I doubt if Seann expected it to go like that either.

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