Tuesday 24 April 2018

I'm a comedian get me out of here: Billy Connolly heckled off stage twice in a week

The comedian Billy Connolly curtailed two shows early after hecklers interrupted his set
The comedian Billy Connolly curtailed two shows early after hecklers interrupted his set

Murray Wardrop

IN THE week he was voted most influential comedian of all time, Billy Connolly appeared to have lost his sense of humour when he walked off stage during two performances.

The 69-year-old is showing signs of growing impatience with his fans after being heckled off stage twice in a matter of days.

The star had been growing increasingly frustrated by the number of people getting up to go to the toilet, fans claim.

Just a few days later, the Scotsman, affectionately known as The Big Yin, cut short a performance in Blackpool, after a heckler interrupted him during a joke.

A spokesman for Connolly yesterday said the star did not wish to comment on the incidents but that he would continue his UK tour.

However, the walkouts left thousands of fans disappointed, amid claims that the funny man’s routine included a number of old gags.

The curtailed shows follow reviews which criticised Connolly’s set for the 42-date tour over his use of previously heard material.

Ffyona McKeating, 39, a solicitor who watched the Blackpool show, said: "It was such an anti climax and I felt he should have been used to hecklers.

“I've seen other comedians who shake off hecklers."

Others left posts on a local newspaper's website. On said: “There are always hecklers. A good comedian ad-libs and incorporates it into the show.

"He clearly doesn't have that capability. People pay hard-earned money to see these shows he's a disgrace walking off. What a diva.”

Another added: “It left us feeling a bit let down. We were sat at the front and couldn't hear what the heckler was saying, neither could Billy Connolly.

“There were a lot of other people there enjoying the show. I think he should have had consideration for the majority instead of spoiling it because of one heckler.

“He is a professional and has surely had hecklers like this before without walking off. When he left the stage he wasn't smiling and didn't thank the audience for attending.”

Witnesses at the Blackpool show said Connolly was in the middle of a familiar joke about strokes when a heckler stood up and shouted “You’re ---- Billy” before a female member of the audience intervened to “tell the heckler off”.

Ending the show 20 minutes early, the comedian swiftly left the stage, saying: “I’m out of here.”

At the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough a week before, Connolly had apparently objected to people interrupting his performance to visit the bar and lavatory.

Paul Tye, who was in the audience, said: “People were tripping in and out almost the entire performance. I've no objection to people going to the toilet but the vast majority of the people who were doing it seemed to be going in and out in the most disruptive and disrespectful fashion possible.

“Billy made a couple of comments about this to discourage people from disrupting the performance but this seemed to fall on deaf ears as this behaviour continued throughout the show, the distraction clearly causing Billy to lose flow on a few occasions.”

He added that just before his final joke, a drunken audience member shouted abuse.

“It was at this point that Billy had clearly had enough and ended the show,” he said

“This ending put a dampener on what had actually been a funny show and from what we observed most people were leaving with miserable faces.

“Yes there was material and jokes I'd heard before but having said that when they are being told by such a great story teller it’s still funny.”

Another audience member claimed that the heckler had not shouted abuse but yelled out "wildebeest", referring to one of the star's most famous stand-up sketches.

Nobody from the Futurist Theatre was available for comment yesterday.

David Gore, Marketing Manager of the Blackpool Opera House, said: “We have no comment on the incident, but we do take appropriate action against hecklers.”

Connolly is due to continue his tour with his next appearance tonight in Wales.

A poll by Dave, the digital TV channel, this week declared Connolly to be the most influential stand-up comedian ever.

Stephen Merchant, Jack Dee, Miranda Hart and Jo Brand were among 100 comedians who compiled a shortlist, which was put to a public vote.


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