Edinburgh Fringe

John Hastings talks about dodgy audience members

John Hastings

Standing at 6ft 4, Canadian comedian John Hastings says his stature and his 'sweet eyes' has always made him an easy target: "In the noughties short men with daddy issues always tried to fight me in nightclubs, wrongly assuming I'm some kind of jock and could fight".

The multi-award-winning comedian's troubles continued, including bizarre stage invasions and raucous audiences, while hosting Edinburgh Fringe's notorious Late'n'Live shows: "I had an argument with an inebriated heckler over Canadian history with me A CANADIAN... He was so annoying that the audience started to chant 'you're a c**t' at him. He then jumped up on stage and tried to steal a drum. At this point security hustled him out. His girlfriend was immediately convinced I'd had him kidnapped - so also decided to storm the stage. After the gig I was walking back to my hotel when I saw them again - they both thanked me for a great night started throwing up in a dumpster - whilst still trying to shake my hand."

John, who is a Fringe regular, recalls another incident back in 2017. "I got into an argument with a bunch of hecklers who just wouldn't leave my show, they even offered me outside for a fight - which I politely declined as I'm not a fighter, I'm a lover (once every 3 years or so). To my surprise they turned up the next night for more of the same (I appreciated the ticket sales) - but after fighting between themselves at the very start of my show security had to once again ask them to leave.

"I've also had a family of fifteen people all leave during a show - one by one! - then wait outside the venue to tell me why they'd left. The show poster had featured a photo of me as a child, and (not having read it) they had wrongly assumed it was a family-friendly comedy show. That was a weird night, especially as the last one of the group to leave the show was grandma."

John admits it's not only the audiences that can be challenging, "I had one tech who wanted to finish early - so he shone a spotlight into my eyes, effectively temporarily blinding me during a show full of reviewers.

John Hastings

"Another time a venue manager and his girlfriend were a little over 'refreshed' and heckled me, causing my whole audience to get up and turn on them. It was also the most efficient firing of anyone I've ever seen; 5 minutes after the show the venue manager was sacked."

John, who has been told he has had more major incidents at his shows than any other comedian at Fringe, says: "There is a perception from some audience members that heckling is part of the show. It is not! When you pipe up, I feel you are saying to all the audience 'I know you paid to see this show but my feelings or opinions are worth more than yours'. It can be frustrating when I want the audience to get a chance to hear the jokes properly. So please don't come to my shows expecting heckling and stage invasions, come to enjoy the comedy - If you want, please google 'John Hastings Dennis Rodman' or 'John Hastings Cancer Heckler' to witness a talent honed by a disgruntled participant."

Edinburgh aside, John says his most shocking experience ever was having a gun pulled on him during show in Nova Scotia. He recalls: "I suddenly became a ninja and I got the f**k out of there. I make it a priority not dying on stage and not being murdered off stage."


John shares his insight on topics including TV auditions, mental health, kinky sex, alternative spirituality, psychedelics and self-acceptance with his new show: The Times They Are A John Hastings at Monkey Barrel 2 until 27th August.

Published: Friday 18th August 2023

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