Lee Hurst, the stand-up comedian, has become the latest performer to succumb to "stage rage" when he launched a tirade against an audience member who had the audacity to send a text message during a gig in Guildford, Surrey.
Hurst, 46, reportedly saw red when he believed someone in the audience was secretly filming his gig on a mobile phone.
Witnesses described how the comedian, who rose to fame in the mid-Nineties as a team member on They Think It's All Over, launched into a four-letter tirade before seizing the phone and throwing it on the floor. He stormed off and refused to return, leaving an audience of 300 without a headline act.
The incident occurred last Wednesday at The Stoke pub in Guildford, which hosts a regular comedy night, "You Must Be Stoking". Police are deciding whether to bring charges.
Spectators were dumbfounded by the incident. Comedy website forums have been inundated with amused messages of support and criticism for the Cockney comic.
One witness told Chortle.com: "All was going well until Lee went ballistic, grabbed someone's phone and accused them of filming. He smashed it into tiny pieces and hurled obscenities before storming off stage, leaving 300 people staring at a microphone."
Some reports say the audience member denied filming, and said he was texting a babysitter who was looking after his children.
Hurst kept a low profile yesterday, refusing requests to explain what exactly happened during the £9-a-ticket gig. His agent did not respond either.
The incident comes at a time when Hurst is making his way back into regular television appearances after a hiatus. The comedian stars alongside Marcus Brigstocke in a new Five quiz called The What in the World Quiz.
Hurst was not the first performer to have seen red over mobile phones. Richard Griffiths was cheered in 2005 when he asked security to evict a woman whose phone kept ringing during his performance. He also took on a Broadway audience for The History Boys in 2006, telling them: "You should be ashamed of yourselves. I am not going to compete with these electronic devices. We're going to start this scene again. If we hear one more phone go off, we'll ... quit this performance. You have been warned."
In 2005, the comedian Richard Herring smashed an audience member's mobile. When the owner went on stage to demand £70 for the phone, Herring quipped: "I'm not giving you £70 for that. It's broken."
*Hurst, 47, an East Londoner, found fame in the 1990s as a team member with David Gower on the BBC comedy sports quiz They Think It's All Over, and stayed for six series. After leaving the programme in 1998, he worked on a few other shows before concentrating on his comedy club, the FymFig Bar in Bethnal Green, where he comperes most Saturday nights.Reuse content