As we pointed out last year, Adrian Poynton is one of the nicest people alive. The basis for his new show (and it is a new show, still going through the edit) is that recently, he's become a bit disillusioned with humanity - all the horrible things we do to each other, how nobody cares any more, how isolated we become when we don't make an effort to connect. So, after some preamble chat and a game of Guess Who using audience members, he tells us anecdotes of alienation and loneliness.
This could be depressing. However, Adrian Poynton being one of the nicest people alive, he often manages to twist these stories into self-deprecating tales of how brilliant people are and the excitement of experiencing new things. In fact, his enthusiasm seems like it's going to undermine the central tenet of the show - even disconnected, he can still locate a spark of joy - until he gets to the conclusion.
What he wants to do is draw everything together with a beautiful and poignant moment. He wants to read a little piece from Carl Sagan, astrophysicist beloved of Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince, who said such things as "we are all made of star stuff" and, on describing civilisation, that "these are the things that hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years". Specifically, Poynton wants to read the beginning of Sagan's Pale Blue Dot speech, which places us all in perspective, and how it made him feel given what he's just been telling us.
It should be a beautiful and whimsical moment. Unfortunately, there are several people in the crowd who are determined to ruin the whole thing. Poynton has been good naturedly bantering with the front row all evening, it's part of what he does, but as he first mentions Sagan one of them declares, "ah mate, I've heard comedians talk some shit in my time but that's fucking dreadful".
Now. Were this his genuine opinion, we might say 'fair enough'. But he turns out to be so drunk he is physically incapable of answering the simple question 'what is your job?'. His mates are also determined to interrupt with comments that are neither funny nor insightful, and then refuse to follow up when Poynton decides to roll with it and chat to them in the hope they'll run out of steam and allow him to continue. Other people in the audience start to be just rude and imbecilic. Nobody is allowing him the breathing space to finish the set - and it's not because they think he's been bad. Everyone has been laughing. And it's not because he, or the room, has been hostile. For some reason, this section of the audience has decided to be dicks. Presumably, this section of the audience are shitfaced.
We talked the other week about how comedy's rhythm and impact can be wrecked by ill-judged, continuous and pointless heckling. But this is something else altogether: this is a lack of respect. For the comedian they've paid to see, and the rest of the audience. And what's more, it shows they've completely missed the point of the show. After much provocation Poynton finally loses patience with the rudeness and makes the connection for them. What he was about to read was the thing that made him realise not everyone is awful, that there is something beautiful about humanity and the lives we lead. But when a show about feeling isolated and surrounded by wankers is ruined by wankers, it makes him - and us - wonder whether Sagan was wrong. Because what does it say about us if we can't treat one absolutely lovely comedian with courtesy and consideration for five minutes?
Hopefully the crowd won't be as drunk for the final show tonight, 8.45pm at the Camden Head, 100 Camden High Street. Adrian Poynton also hosts The Quiz That Ate My Brain at the Camden Head, 10.15pm tonight, 22nd and 29th August. All tickets £7.50. The Camden Fringe runs until 29th August. Read the rest of our Camden Fringe coverage.