As you may have heard, the appearance by star comic Michael McIntyre in our region last week made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
By all accounts, he went down really well at the lovely Darlington Civic Theatre, but the night was spoiled by a woman in the front rows who played noisily with her phone during his act.
The poor chap on stage finally snapped and left the stage while the security people sorted the situation before he returned.
Of course, there has been a long list of big names on stage being rattled by boorish behaviour from the audience and it’s certainly not new.
In Shakespeare’s time the so called “groundlings” sat on a dirt floor at the cheapest prices and weren’t afraid to raise their voices if they wished.
They didn’t have mobile phones, of course, and there’s little doubt that these useful little beasts can be a prize nuisance when in the hands of grossly inconsiderate people today. It’s the same with music as with comedy.
Of course, some music is meant to be there for background purposes, but there is still the, perhaps, old-fashioned belief that a live performer deserves respect.
The local live events under the splendid name of Pindrop sum up how it should be.
If a singer is giving it his or her all with a tender and moving song, you should indeed be able to hear a pin drop.
Sadly, some people wreck it for others and, if you want a noisy chat with your mates, surely you can go to a pub without live entertainers and get on with it.
I’ve just about given up on trying to watch big name entertainers at huge venues as it’s akin to trying to listen in a cross between a circus and a fast food outlet.
My last two visits to Newcastle Arena have been to see Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton and both were spoiled by the audience members’ non-stop trips to toilets and bars, as well as loud conversations all around you. One of the best ways I’ve seen of reminding audiences to turn off their phones during live entertainment came at the Royal Albert Hall a while back.
As most of us settled down ready for the start, a single mobile phone could be heard ringing all around the huge space.
It grew louder and much louder and then suddenly stopped.
After a moment’s silence, a voice on the public address said quietly, “Annoying isn’t it?”
A laugh from the audience and message well and truly delivered.
Long before mobile phones, I remember some of the comedians who worked the club circuit in Hartlepool and district having wonderful techniques in dealing with bad mannered members of the audience. Perhaps pick of the crop was TV’s Tim Healy in his early days on the circuit.
The whole audience was lapping up his act and laughing fit to burst, apart from one chap. He sat at the front, back to Tim, reading a Sunday newspaper and turning over the pages noisily.
Mr Healy leaned forward and set fire to it. Mr McIntyre must have been similarly tempted in Darlington.