Comedy blog

What goes through a comedian’s mind when an audience member walks out

alfie brown soho theatre comedy

Alfie Brown had one of the most exciting, interesting, intense and provocative shows at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, drawing humour from society’s hypocrisies and challenging conventional thought in an intellectual way to inspire discussion as much as to make people laugh.

We loved it, but as with any attempt to tackle more serious issues in a comedy show, Brown attracts his share of critics uncomfortable with his honest approach. On the day that we say his show in Edinburgh, this transpired into several walkouts from audience members, often before Alfie had the chance to fully contextualise a subject matter they may have found objection to.

So- ahead of his run at the Soho Theatre this week- we asked Alfie to write about what goes through his head when experiencing a walkout.

Generally in life, when somebody does something I don’t like I try to be understanding. I think it’s more interesting than being angry. But there are some occasions when I cannot help but become furious.

When a comedian is onstage and a member of the audience either thinks that their material is either offensive, or bad enough for them to walk out then I become tense. This tension builds to the point where I am positively horny over the idea of committing quite an affecting and brutal crime. Perhaps I’ve stated this as too broad a gripe. There are conditions under which I would walk out of a comedy show. I would probably consider walking out of a show in which somebody was preaching hate through humour, like Roy Chubby Brown or Jim Jefferies.

I imagine I would probably stay sitting for the duration through some level of intrigue, but I could at least understand walking out, should other audience members take issue with how much those particular jokers seem to be afraid of the non-white / non-British and women respectively. Or if you’ve had a death in the family that you’ve just been notified about on your mobile phone – then by all means walk out despite the fact you should not have been looking at your phone.

When I am on stage and someone stands up and brazenly walks out of my gig I never cease to find it gobsmacking . I cannot believe how regularly these levels of rudeness, confidence and arrogance occur in the human species. We love being angry, it’s energising and life affirming, and if you follow your anger without question you get to feel righteous in your adrenal fierce, and you get to show all the other people in the audience exactly what you think by making that early exit, that everyone else can’t help but see. What makes me so frustrated is that generally people who walk out on my gigs often do so because they make an assumption that I’m saying what I’m saying because I’m an awful and incendiary person who enjoys shocking people. And I don’t agree with this point of view at all.

I don’t set out to shock for the sake of it. Shock comedy is easy. What is more interesting is to be shocking with a fairly standard and unarguable point. Highlighting an unobserved hypocrisy that is common place in our modern western society of prudes is an interesting thing to do I think.

I have a bit about the fancying of teenage girls, 14 year olds. It’s not a bit that trivialises sexual abuse and it’s not a bit that advocates grown men having sex with young teenagers. But often people don’t get past the first sentence before deciding for themselves what the topic is going to focus on. And I think this is why a lot of audiences and reviewers have called it “a bit about paedophilia”. (as an aside, this would be wrong even if the point had been understood, as the name for an adult who is sexually attracted to adolescents is an ephebophile) I understand that this is a difficult or sensitive issue for people but it is these more controversial, more taboo topics that need talking about amongst myriad other things that make people quake in their outrage. And comedy can be a great way to tackle serious issues.

People get offended by words before they listen to ideas. I would encourage the keeping of an open mind. Maybe I should keep more of an open mind about people’s desire to walk out. And about cyclists. Actually no. Fuck cyclists. If a cyclist put on a show and justified going through red lights and going the wrong way down one way streets; I would walk out. So maybe it’s just part of the game.

Categories: Comedy blog

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1 reply »

  1. Ultimately if people have paid money to watch you and don’t like/enjoy your material or just find you unamusing then why shouldn’t they walk out? Free time is too precious to waste on something unenjoyable. You have chosen to put yourself on stage, in public and want to earn a living. Is walking out better than heckling along the lines of – when do your jokes start? do you know the meaning of funny? or even just ‘you’re crap’.

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