Thursday, August 25, 2005


So I'm at one of my usual spots last night. It's a club where I hang out in hopes of getting on the showcase, kind of like a feral cat hanging around the back door of a restaurant.

Last night, a pretty well established comedian was on-- nobody the average person would know, but he has TV credits. There's a woman in the audience who just won't shut up. It was fascinating to watch a guy with a lot of experience under his belt deal with this, for two reasons. One, he has been around enough to be pretty confident about handling a heckler. And two, because, despite all his experience, it clearly bothered him. A lot.

He started off fairly gently-- you know, maybe if I say something to this person, they will realize that they aren't part of the show, and stop. That did not work. In fairly short order, things escalated until the comedian let go, and just BLISTERED her. He called her many, many names which I choose not to print. Basically, he just called her out for being inconsiderate, starved for attention and immature.

One basic rule about dealing with a heckler is always keep the audience on your side. If the audience sides with the heckler, you're cooked. The audience was on this guy's side, but sort of luke warm. Well, this kind of pissed him off, too-- he was like, hey, she's disrupting the show you came to see. Do you even care? (I'm paraphrasing.)

He said, hey, I don't need this, I'm not even getting paid. I know how my jokes end, so I don't need to tell them. I know I'm funny, I don't need to hear it from you. Do you want to hear more jokes, or not? (Still paraphrasing.)

Apparently the call for more jokes was not sufficiently emphatic, so he dropped the mike and flipped off the crowd as he left the stage.


Seeing a seasoned comedian handle a heckler fascinates me. I have dealt with hecklers only a few times, and they were fairly tame. There was the couple sitting directly in front of me who talked all through my set, and basically ignored me. I have had a couple of audience members who talked to me during my set. One even started to give me a suggestion about changing a punchline. In the middle of my set.

Um, dude? Hi. Yeah, this isn't a workshop. I'm performing right now.

But these people weren't malicious. Strange, stupid maybe, over-served definitely, but not malicious.

This woman last night was a hard core heckler, someone whose sole reason for being there seemed to be to get under this guy's skin. And she did, no question. It really bothered him, and it totally derailed his set. She got called a lot of names, but she also got a lot of attention, which was probably her primary aim anyway.

I liked that this guy could say, hey, I know I'm funny, I don't need to hear it from you. Also, I admired the fact that he had the stones to just drop the mike, flip off the crowd, and walk off. Flipping off the crowd is not recommended in any section of Judy Carter's "Comedy Bible." I checked. Still, it was gutsy. A little cocky.

I remember another time when I saw a pro in NY deal with this woman who wouldn't shut up, so he let her have it. But she was accompanied by her brother and a friend who were very, very large. Menacing. I was worried about the comedian's safety after the show. Does the club have security? Is there a secret exit? I made a mental note that if I ever think about going off on a heckler, I should make sure they don't have a tough-looking posse.


At 3:00 PM, Blogger Dan said...

I remember this one time, at band camp....oh wait, you've probably heard that one.

I'm surprised the crowd wasn't more on the comedian's side. I get ticked off when people talk during a movie at the theatre, essentially it's the same thing isn't it? I guess it's the 'car accident syndrome' that people are attracted to. They want to see if the heckler can bring the comedian down. Very sad.

I'm even more surprised there's a comedy bible! It would be great to see that made into a movie. The three stooges as the three wisemen, Bobcat Goldthwait (sp?) as Moses...the cast list is endless.


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