Before going to John's show, I jokingly asked him if he needed a heckler. He assured me that he didn't. I enjoyed his show but it's only now that I've got to stop and rest a bit that I started to think about hecklers and how much I hate them.
I've had the interesting experience of being heckled and then getting to, almost immediately, get my own back. They had interrupted my fairly carefully worked out routine several times, enough so that I lost my flow completely and actually gave up, half done. Thing was, their routine was next. I said a little bit during it, but tried to let actions speak louder than words, standing out of his view but visible to the audience, miming to his words, pretending to yawn, wank, etc. The audience was firmly on my side, having seen that I'd had my routine disrupted.
And afterwards, rather upset, he told me that all he wanted was to be allowed to deliver his routine. What on Earth did he think I had wanted?
He fell into the trap that most hecklers fall into, the belief that they are adding to the act, making it better for everyone. The thing is, this is rarely the case. Most hecklers only manage to annoy the audience, disrupt the speaker and generally reduce the enjoyment for everyone.
I know of several comedians who have talked about people who badgered them relentlessly through an act, coming up to them afterwards and telling them how great it was, that the pair of them had had a lot of fun. And there doesn't seem to be a way to get through that no, you didn't help the comedian, you hurt him.
That said, I love the comedian who, on being heckled called the guy up and dared him to do better, then found himself entranced as the guy revved up the audience and got them all having a good time. He was so impressed, he named his next tour after the guy's catch-phrase "Go you Big Red Fire Engine!"
It happens at fan stuff too, though that's often less the true heckling and more the wanting to be a part and have a say. All it usually takes is one person to yell out something out of turn, and then you get a small handful of others. Now this is appropriate and even welcome in some panels, but not in others, and the most common offenders aren't very good at telling the difference.
The funny thing is, many of these people would be mortified if they realised that people weren't enjoying their contribution, they honestly feel that others are enjoying it as much as they are. Fortunately in this regard, the principal offenders haven't turned up in a few years. I'd be more than happy to see them back at cons, just hopefully they'd be a little more restrained in their enthusiasm.
Hecklers are hard to deal with, for both the audience and the performers. There are inevitably a large chunk of the audience who want them to shut up, but are unable to bring themselves to say something, because then they'd feel bad or rude. So instead they go on having their time spoilt. For the performer it's much, much harder. You never know how a heckler is going to react. A clever putdown may shut them up, or they may then start to try to outdo you. You have to be careful what you say because if you lose it or come out with something too full on, you may actually turn the audience against you. And, of course, the danger of telling the heckler to step on the stage if he thinks he can do a better job has already been illustrated.
I like to think that when hecklers die, they get to the other side where a bunch of demons are there saying things like, "Bloody hell, even radiation gets a half-life, an' you couldn't even manage that, ya tool!"
Sapphire and Steel
British telefantasy show that had a budget so small that it made the average Doctor Who story look like it was put together with all the resources of a Bond film. What makes Sapphire and Steel stand out is the writing and ideas present. It's a true example of content over budget, of characters and ideas being more important than special effects.
The basic idea of the series is that Sapphire and Steel are time agents, sent to weak points in time. A weak point may be caused by anything, a mixture of the very old and the very new, a child's nursery rhyme, etc. Things exist outside time, and when they find a weakness, they try to break through into our reality. They want to disrupt time, create bigger breaks, manipulate events and people to their own ends, and Sapphire and Steel must stop them.
The two main characters are played by Joanna Lumley and David McCallum. They aren't good guys. They aren't bad guys either. They are there to do a job and sometimes they can save everyone, sometimes they can't, and sometimes they need to sacrifice someone to save the day, or at least halt the situation. The villains/creatures they deal with have been blobs of light, living shadow, a creature that was brought into existence through the process of photography, etc.
The stories often take place in a single location - a house or train station, for instance - a side effect of the miniscule budget. The stories are sometimes quite slow and long too, one runs for eight episodes, and certainly benefit from being watched only one or two a day.
There's only one story of the six they produced that I think of as a dud, and that's more down to the characters they interact with all being unlikeable than anything. I still think one of the best is the episode based around photographs. Never thought someone burning a photo would give me chills.
The series ended simply because the availability of the leads was becoming more and more troublesome. Both Lumley and McCallum were in high demand, so it was difficult to get their schedules to match up to get each of the three seasons made.
Sapphire and Steel is surreal, interesting, clever, witty television. It's one of the few series that I recommend everyone watch. I often suggest Story 4 (S&S didn't have story titles, though this one is often called 'The Photographs') as a good starting point. Only four episodes long and a suitably bizarre and interesting idea. But I honestly think everyone should just start at the beginning and work their way through the lot. It's certainly worth the time.
The husband and wife team that created and wrote for the series, P.J. Hammond, are writing an episode of the new Doctor Who spin-off series, Torchwood. This for me and a few others, was one of the most exciting pieces of news imaginable.