Metro 62

Richard herring: We didnÂ’t have Twitter, so we had to heckle Ted Rogers in person

Friday 3 May 2013

I am two-thirds of the way through my tour. IÂ’ve been untroubled by hecklers so far. Though God knows I deserve some, because of something shameful I did when I was 16.

It was the summer of 1983. As we waited for our O-Level results, my friends and I took a camping holiday to Weymouth.

We kicked around, trying to amuse ourselves at that difficult Inbetweeners age where pubs are out of bounds and funfairs too childish. Then we discovered that Ted Rogers was playing the local theatre.

At the time, Ted was riding high as the host of the impenetrable, yet surprisingly popular, ITV quiz show 3-2-1. Though the real star was his lovable sidekick, Dusty Bin (a motorised dustbin).

Younger people might think I am making this up. I am not. Those were the glory days of Saturday night telly. Eat your heart out Simon Cowell.

We were fans of the cool and anarchic Young Ones, so resolved to go along and heckle this old-school comedian. IÂ’m sure we were secretly excited to be seeing someone off the telly in real life but we had to affect disdain.

We didn’t have the internet, so we couldn’t tweet him and call him a has-been – we had to go along and disrupt his show in person. It was much harder to be a prick in the old days.

We heckled our way through the support acts, including a flustered elderly magician and a female trio who sang (rather aptly) Does Your Mother Know That YouÂ’re Out?

When Rogers finally appeared on stage, we screamed with mock excitement, pretending we were the kinds of idiots who would be his fans (rather than the kinds of idiots who werenÂ’t his fans but would still turn up to his show in order to mildly spoil it).

‘Do the 3-2-1!’ we shouted, ‘Do the 3-2-1!’ We were referring to Rogers’ big gimmick. He would hold up three fingers, turn his hand quickly while putting down one of the fingers and then turn it again whilst putting down another finger. It was a phenomenon. People were easily impressed in the 1980s. Though the only skill was to manage it without flicking the Vs.

After a brief stand-up set, dominated by our interruptions, Rogers called for volunteers and we rushed the stage. Four of us were joined by four middle-aged women and divided into two teams. Rogers produced two spoons on strings. The game involved us putting the spoon down our trouser legs, then passing it to the women who put it down their dresses.

It was the kind of saucy fun that no one batted an eye at in the 1980s but would now attract the attention of Operation Yewtree (especially given the disparity in our ages).

Our desire to be subversive was overcome by competitiveness and we tried our best to win. My jeans were tight and this was mildly humiliating, the perfect punishment for our cockiness from the darkness of the stalls.

To our ironic and actual delight, Dusty Bin then wheeled on to the stage, carrying our prizes within – cigarette lighters! A dangerous gift to give to 16-year-olds. We were lucky that we didn’t burn our tent down that night.

As a professional comedian, I feel shame at our antics. And any difficult audience I get (or indeed any 16-year-old Twitter troll thinking theyÂ’re smart for taking the p*** out of a middle-aged comedian) is a fitting punishment.

In 1983, Rogers was 48. Only a couple of years older than me. Now thatÂ’s a sobering thought.
Sorry Ted.