Susan Morrison: No joke when heckles raise hackles

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Hey, what’s the point of knowing a good fact if not to hand it on more than once, eh? You have no idea how much I pray for a jammed lift... anyway I’m sure I’ve told you this before, but heckling is a Scottish invention.

It comes from the mills of Dundee, where the jute weaving process involved stripping out balls of hard fibre called heckle. It was a horrible business.

The workers’ hands were cut to ribbons and some have suggested that heckle was carcinogenic. The job was tough and dangerous. The people who did this terrible task were called “hecklers”, and they quickly became the most organised labour force in the mill.

When mill owners sent lackeys round to tell the workers it was high time they started to knuckle down and help struggling “wealth creators” by just shutting up, getting on with it and eating spare children, instead of expecting a decent living wage, the hecklers howled down these capitalist running dogs.

So heckling is a fine and noble word with a great and radical tradition. Unless, that is, you have paid some 30 quid or so to watch the supremely talented Kevin Bridges, only to have your enjoyment ruined by a human being whose bodyweight has been boosted by a considerable infusion of cheap lager joining in. Then it’s pretty hard to remember the proud roots of heckling.

Brian Ferguson has written this week about the appalling behaviour at Kevin’s Playhouse gig. People, and by that I mean mainly men, shouted out punchlines, chatted to each other and yelled largely incoherent nonsense all the way through the performance and darn near ruined the fun for everyone.

This is not heckling. Heckling is a moment of disagreement. It should be a voice raised for the powerless. In Dundee, it was workers shouting down the mill owners. Later it was suffragettes verbally dead-legging politicians and later still, pensioners being hauled out of the Labour Party conference for protesting about the Iraq War. It had a point. Anything else is just rude.

Clowns who only make fools of themselves

Ah, people say, it’s great when the little guy in the audience takes down the professional with that one well-timed line.

Well, on the one hand, most of the professionals I know will roll with that good line, then pick up. I’ve seen that happen about half a dozen times, in about 20 years.

On the other hand, and most of the time, a beautifully crafted, sublimely well-written piece of comedy that would make you shake with laughter, and then, like a sort of good indigestion, bubble up and make you giggle unexpectedly for days afterwards, is destroyed by a slurring dullard who thinks he’s a real hoot in the office (tip: if you think you are, then you’re not).

Imagine watching the majesty of Mo Farah closing in on that finishing line, leaving the rest of the field tattered at his heels, and then suddenly some flip-flop wearing doughball streaks past. That’s not the besting of a champion by a worthy opponent. It’s a bag of flatulence that managed to evade security.

Numptie guide to inner Dave

The Stand Comedy Club published a cut-out-and-keep guide on how not to be a twonk in a comedy club. Do check it if you think it’s possible you may accidentally unleash your inner numptie. It’s quite simple really.

Ask yourself this, if you were in a restaurant and the table next to you ordered something quite tasty, and you thought you might like it, would you lean over and help yourself to their chips? No, you wouldn’t. For one thing, there’s a strong chance you’d get a fork in the back of your hand.

If you were at the opera and you know the words to Nessun Dorma, would you give the tenor a run for his money on the big notes? No, you wouldn’t.

That big lad on stage has trained for a fair while to rattle the chandelier, whilst you were hauled off the karaoke in Playa de las Americas last summer because you were frightening the children

Sit back, relax, enjoy the show. You don’t have to do anything but laugh. Don’t be Dave. Can I just say, I have no idea why The Stand singled out Dave to be the uber-heckler. I know a lot of Daves, and most of them are very nice. Except one.

History fest and case of deja vu

Nights are fair drawing in, the clocks are changing and leaves are creating a menace on the streets, that can only mean one thing. Yes – “Previously...Scotland’s history festival” is heading straight for you. The liveliest history festival in the country kicks off on November 18. It’s a neat little affair this time, just a weekend, so make sure you’ve got your favourites ticked off. Here’s our website,, so get booking.