So imagine my delight when I went to see a comedian the other evening and got treated to some top notch heckling. Bon mots such as "Speak up!" "Not funny!" "Oi! You! Yeah, you! Ha!" kept the audience entranced, or at the very least, homicidal.
For if brevity is the soul of wit, these guys were really, really, really, reallly great. No, really, they really were, really good.
At times they were positively avant garde, dispensing with the tired tradition of heckling with words and critiquing the performance with atypical groupings of syllables and urgent grunting. Some heckles may even have been produced by body parts other than the vocal chords.
I do hope that if any of them ever get to have sex, their partner shouts out "BOOOORING!" just as they are hitting their stride.
Anyway, in honour of that fine body of men (oh yes, they were men) I have set out below some of the most momentous heckles in history.
10, 000 BC: IN THE MOUNTAINS
Troglodyte 2 steps forward and pours water on the burning twig.
Troglodyte 1: I guess it did need more work.
15th CENTURY: ITALY (AGAIN)
Leonardo Da Vinci holds forth to a group of students on his many diverse and marvellous achievements in art, design, engineering, cartography. Suddenly, a passing washer woman cries:
"IS THERE NAE END TAE THAT MAN'S TALENTS?"
(Some records attribute this to a member of the audience in the Glasgow Apollo during a Roy Castle show, but true to the spirit of the piece, let us not be troubled by the facts .)
CIRCA 1600: LONDON ENGLAND
The opening night of Hamlet at the Globe Theatre.
Hamlet: To be or not to be, that is the question.
Unknown peasant: Make your mind up, son.
NOVEMBER 19, 1863: GETTYSBURG PENNSYLVANIA
Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg address.
Lincoln: Four score and seven years ago...
Unknown pedant: Oi! Big nose! "Four score and seven?" What's wrong with "87?"
Lincoln: ...our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, ...
Lincoln: ...conceived in liberty
Unknown pedant: LIBERTY BODICE! BIG GIRL'S BLOUSE!
Lincoln: ... One nation, under a groove. Er, um, sheesh, I've lost my place now...
Unknown pedant: YOUR MUM! YOUR MUM!YOUR MUM!YOUR MUM!
(The unknown pedant subsequently became a successful political blogger.)
I could go on. (Please don't - Ed) Instead I will give you the words of Teddy Roosevelt.
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
I'm not sure I'd condemn all critics quite as harshly as President Roosevelt. Intelligent criticism is an essential componment in public discourse and the evolution of art forms. Even some hecklers are quite funny. Just not the ones I heard the other night. And to those of you who disagree, I would simply say, "LOOOOSERS!".