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Trending: When handling hecklers becomes a performace

Dealing with unwanted interruptions to a stage act can turn into an elegant artform. Will Dean admires some recent examples
  • @willydean

Stand-up comedians will likely have stock responses to being interrupted by a member of their audience. They can range from Dave Spikey shutting someone up by pointing at their clothes and declaring, "Nice shirt, sold the caravan and kept the curtains?", to Richard Herring's made-famous-by-YouTube Soho Revue Bar rant at a drunken interrupter – "If you're going to heckle, at least prepare – don't get so pissed that you can't think. And maybe bring your own amplification system." (ind.pn/rherring)

But so far 2012 has proved a bumper year for dramatic responses to concert interruptions. New York Philharmonic Conductor Alan Gilbert threw his baton out of the pram when someone's iPhone "Marimba" ringtone kept on ringing during a performance of Mahler's 9th at Lincoln Center on 11 January.

To be fair to Gilbert, he left five minutes before ordering his players to stop and explaining to the audience – as detailed in student Matt Kitchin's blog – that: "Normally, when such a disturbance comes up during a performance, the thing to do is to ignore it but this was so egregious that I had no choice but to stop. I apologise."

A different approach was taken by Slovak violinist Lukáš Kmit, who responded to the infamous "Nokia Theme" going off during a recital in a synagogue in his hometown of Prešov by repeating the diddle-dur-dur racket back on his instrument. A little passive-aggressively, but in good humour all the same. A video of the event was posted onto YouTube last July but became a viral sensation in January after being shared on Facebook. It was soon picked up by news sites around the world (ind.pn/classicalnokia).

But perhaps the greatest mid-performance flounce of recent times took place last week in Minneapolis. Eight or so songs into a gig at the Cedar Cultural Center, musician Bradford Cox (of the band Deerhunter and his own project Atlas Sound) was jokingly asked to play The Knack's "My Sharona" by a wag in the audience.

Rather than ignore the request, Cox answered it by proceeding to play the four-minute new wave hit non-stop for an "hour". This barrage included asking his bemused openers to play along, requesting the audience to wave chairs above their heads and calling the square-looking "My Sharona" requester on stage to strip (which he did). (ind.pn/sharonaheckle)

Cox later rang Pitchfork's Jenn Pelly to explain the latter: "The person... commandeered my stage [by requesting 'My Sharona'] and made the show about his self-interest. I tried to emasculate somebody whose ego was super-potent. He asked me to strip when he called out the name of the song. It was a joke; he's basically throwing a dollar bill at the foot of the stripper. And I'm just saying hey, let's reverse the roles. Come on stage. Entertain me." Which is one way of putting people off doing it in the future.

A slightly more charming method was witnessed by this writer back in November when an errant tambourinist at a tiny church gig by Coldplay was silenced by Chris Martin changing the words of "The Scientist" to be about said tambourine (ind.pn/tamremix).

The lesson? Turn your phone off, don't heckle, don't shout requests and – if you have to interrupt – do it with hand percussion. You'll get a unique musical moment to treasure for ever.