As I’ve said before, it’s unusual for me to write a blog about a gig at which I wasn’t performing. There have been a handful worth recording for posterity though, and tonight’s final Glasgow performance by The Impenetrable Click sketch group is notable for a few reasons.
The first and second sections were funny, and ran smoothly – a selection of their best sketches, in preparation for a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, and guest stand-up spots from Click member Chloe Philip and from Bob Graham. Entertaining enough, but unremarkable insofar as it featured local comedians with extensive experience making an appreciative audience laugh. It wasn’t until headliner Dogshit Johnson took to the stage, after the second interval, that things really kicked off.
The character creation of Ross Main, Dogshit combines darkly humorous lyrics with expert guitar playing, interspersed with jokes and audience interaction – all delivered from behind the false grey beard and American accent of his backwards alter-ego. Often, people will join in with his catchier choruses, many will at least clap along to his songs, and The Scotsman praised him for “sharp one-liners, well-timed delivery and musical examination of life in Hicksville, United States.”
You can’t please everyone, though.
He had barely started his set tonight before being interrupted by a loud Glaswegian couple sitting at a table in the middle of the room – either absent or quiet for the rest of the show – her shouting “get that aff yer face” and him shouting “you’re no’ funny.” Attempts were made to politely quieten them, requests made to “sssh”, but to no avail. Standing at the back of the room, at the bar, Chloe made advances on their table, offering them their money back if they would only leave and let us get on with it. Compere Will Setchell, seeing the futility of this endeavour, strode back on stage to tell us he was “pulling rank” – a callback to the last time a fight was nearly instigated at one of his gigs here, and funny for those of us who have remembered his use of that phrase. In short, he took the mic and asked the couple to leave.
As they protested that they would not leave, and nor did they find Dogshit funny, Ross continued playing his guitar – some basic blues-y riff that Setchell then improvised lyrics over, relating to the couple and the increasing desire in the room for them to go. When they drew to a conclusion, and everyone applauded, the guy announced that Will was “funnier than the other guy”, and Setchell had to explain that there had been an “underlying message” to his repeated singing of phrases like “please will you get out.”
When they further refused, a second verse was skillfully improvised, reiterating the point.
During this, Geoff Gawler had been sitting on a high stool in front of me, at the back of the room. When it initially kicked off, I stepped forward and placed both hands on his shoulders, jokingly telling him to keep calm – it wouldn’t be the first time he has marched the entire length of the room and physically removed someone from the premises: it happened previously when someone climbed threateningly onstage towards headliner Pearse James. Now, though, he had had enough and since the couple were in no hurry to leave, and refused to be quiet to let everyone else enjoy the gig, he challenged them directly. I began filming on my phone during the song – knowing that the audio would be distorted by the amplification of the PA, but figuring the footage might prove interesting viewing later. Geoff, in a new and unforgettable tack, confronted them with “Are you going to stay and enjoy yourself, or are you going to fuck off?!” – unamplified, that comes over pretty clear in the video.
This is the point where the guy decides to issue a challenge, asking Geoff who he’s talking to – him, or his wife. Despite his forthright if undiplomatic demeanour, Geoff did at least adopt passive body language, leaning back against the bar as the atmosphere in the room tensed. The bar staff were getting involved too by now, and despite my urge to shout “this will make great footage for youtube!” I instead just indicated my raised filming arm to Will, still on stage. He, in turn, alluded to this blog and the fact I would write one (although at the time, I didn’t plan to), and then took the opportunity to address the lens directly, using it as an audition piece for the clubs in Manchester, the city which he will make his home in a couple of months’ time.
With the bar manager now involved, prepared to escort the couple from the premises as the guy challenged Geoff to “come tae Posso and say that”, my battery flashed as being low. I stopped filming shortly afterwards as they walked towards the door – a pertinent move that allowed me to have both hands free, just in case. It did have the feel that it could turn nasty, not helped by the final exchange that I caught on tape: she challenges “Who you talkin tae ya fuckin knob-end?” and Geoff replies “Your bloke.”
With him on my immediate right, and them walking towards me and then to the exit on my left, it seemed astute to be prepared to get caught in the middle. I think it was at this moment, on their way out, that the woman stopped and lunged at Chloe, sitting to my right, and in fact she connected, scratching her face. I’d have jumped in there and then, but there was a kind of huddle of comedians – Chloe, Geoff, Alan Scott, Adam Struth, and others – who all moved forward to separate them as she was also possibly (probably) pulled away by her man and/or the bar staff.
Under duress, they left – slowly – but remained loitering at the door. People relaxed a bit, and Ross or Will made some remark, funny but flippant, and the manager gestured to them with a finger on his lips, that they weren’t out of earshot yet. I think the couple came back into the bar twice, and it was the second time when the woman charged at Chloe again. This time it was a no-brainer – I reckon both of them are about 5′ 2″ so I’m a clear foot taller than them, broad-shouldered and built pretty solid. I’d call Chloe a friend, she’s a girl, and she’s slightly-built. The woman had a look of determination in her movement and in her voice. So, I took the two steps needed to completely block her path, making sure Chloe was behind me and therefore unreachable. Despite her man backing up her threats of violence (“She fuckin will an’ aw!”), with me in her way to obstruct her flailing arms, and towering over her, she gave up and they backed off.
As much as I didn’t (and don’t) fancy getting into a fight, I like less the prospect of watching some stranger welly into one of my friends. Particularly not a girl, and especially not when simply stepping forward and between them will eliminate the possibility.
It was an instinctive move, and although the guy was still holding his glass (which can become a weapon in an instant in this city – here are two examples I’ve witnessed) his route into the bar and towards me was impeded by the position of the high table, by the bodily presence of the barman, and by his mrs being directly in front of me. The odds were also stacked against him – the woman was picking on Chloe, the only girl in range: one on one. If he got involved, we had the numbers on our side: the barman; Geoff and his no-nonsense attitude; Alan, Adam, Matt Noble and I all standing in the vicinity and not one of us shorter than 6′ 2″.
Outside, they banged on the window a couple of times to issue rude gestures, and it seemed like they might put something through the glass too. Instead, I guess they went home, while the American Dogshit Johnson told the audience how he’d been in ‘nam, and that it had stood him in good stead for this gig. He didn’t steal the show so much as win it back.
I’ll get the video online when I can, with all of its aural distortion of anything said, played, or sung through the mics, but as my net access is limited it might take a while. The enduring memory of tonight is definitely Geoff shouting “enjoy yourself or fuck off!” in his native Australian accent.
An unexpected, and not altogether pleasant, end to the Click’s gigs here. Usually the hecklers don’t get violent – they either shut up when asked, or leave. Notorious promoter Alan Anderson made it through thirteen years of being a proud and self-described cunt before someone lamped his jaw. So, tonight will stick in the collective memory for a while, and probably become part of folklore.
You can click on the names above to see details of the Fringe shows of all involved – funny and talented people who will make you laugh, given the chance. I think all or most of their shows are free entry too, except Anderson’s as he is handing out whisky at every show, so if you are in the capital in August and have the time then definitely check them out. Just don’t heckle and don’t swing any punches at them, because it detracts heavily from the overall bonhomie.
Many of the best comedians in and from Scotland are performing in a dedicated venue at Edinburgh this year as part of the Scottish Comedy Festival. If you want to see local talent, from every level, then please support these free gigs. You can find the programme here, and will see many names that have appeared in this blog over the past eighteen months.
By supporting new talent, you’re also guaranteed to see material that hasn’t aired relentlessly on DVDs, chat shows, and panel shows already.