WINCHESTER Theatre Royal boss Mark Courtice has defended the handling of tickets for the sell-out Michael McIntyre shows.

The phone lines jammed and website crashed this morning as thousands of people tried to buy tickets for the gigs next month.

Mr Courtice said this afternoon: “It was sheer weight of numbers. He is a very popular artist and normally plays enormous venues.

"There is no system in the world that can deal with 45 hits a second. The big ticket agencies have the same problem.

“We constantly look at the ticketing system and ways of updating ours. But there is no system able to cope with that demand.”

The Box Office phone lines opened at 10am but quickly jammed and the website crashed despite the creation on an ‘online waiting room.’

The comedy star is trialling new material in Happy and Glorious at the venue on October 27 and 28.

The theatre tweeted that the show’s more than 800 tickets were sold out at 11.55am today only some two hours after they went on sale.