Thursday, December 11, 2008

You better shut it up...

The biggest hazard for stand up comics is hecklers. People always ask if I have been heckled. The answer is "always, oh, you mean while I am on stage?" Actually heckling is a common occurrence at comedy clubs. The recipe for heckler is take one idiot, add alcohol and surround him by his or her friends and you have the perfect heckler. Usually the heckler wants to be a part of the show. He feels the need to chime in and let the comedian know he agrees with what he is saying. He wants to be funny too. Someone forgot to tell him this is not television and everyone can hear him. One way to handle this type of heckler is to politely tell them to be quiet. Some comics go right back at hecklers. Get in their face. Attack right away. This is a common approach and usually works. Sometimes it riles the heckler up and you have a two person show, which is anything but funny. It's uncomfortable and irritating. Nobody is having fun, except maybe the heckler. At least for a little while. Eventually, even the heckler feels stupid. An inexperienced comic can very quickly lose control of his show with a heckler in the crowd.

I can't think of any famous hecklers, except maybe the Muppet's. Statler and Waldorf. They were usually funnier than the Muppets. That's not good when the hecklers are funnier than the comic. I have seen that happen. Not to me, of course....(ahem). Heckle was the name of a cartoon crow. Here he is with with his sidekick, Jeckle. I never really thought they were funny. I hardly remember them.

The other kind of heckler is destructive. he is there to ruin the show for everyone. I am convinced that some people make a decision to go to a comedy show and bust on the comedians. They think it's fun. They don't think about how this affects the show for the other people. People go to comedy shows to see the comic on stage. To be entertained. Hecklers are not entertaining. You don't see people going to a boxing match wanting to get in the ring. I wish these hecklers would go to a boxing match and heckle. Then they would get what they deserve.

In the old days of vaudeville comedy, people would attend shows equipped with rotten tomatoes. If they disapproved, they would throw them at the performers. That is far worse than heckling, and a hell of a lot funnier. I hope this doesn't come back in style.

Michael Richards was involved in a semi-famous heckling moment. He was at The Laugh Factory in Los Angeles when he was heckled. He went into a racial tirade that has pretty much ruined his career. there is one case where the heckler won.

I have heard stories of hecklers rushing the stage and physically attacking the comics. This has not happen to me, yet. I try to do a lot of gigs in nursing homes so if this happens, I feel confident that I can take these people in a fight. Although, I am not so sure. Some of these old people work out every day.

I can tell you some horror stories about being heckled. The random heckler at a club is common and I am getting pretty good at handling those types. Once at a firehouse show with over 300 drunk firemen a guy got up in the middle of my act and started yelling at me. "I'm gonna get you, me and Charlie here are coming up their to kick your ass". I said "settle down there, you don't need to come up here, this lady over here can kick my ass". His friends settled him down and I replied "proof that you are never too old to do crack". Not the best of comebacks, but it seemed to work. i am still not sure what got him so riled up. I have a pretty friendly act.

Another time, I was hired for a Christmas party. Mostly male office party. They heckled me non-stop. I could not finish a joke. These guys were relentless. I had to do 40 minutes and they stared in with me at minute two. It was brutal. I survived the beating and did my thing. Afterwards, they came up to me and said "good job, we decided weeks ago to hire a comedian and heckle the crap out of him and you handled it really well". Nice guys, very nice. Hey, I got paid, so what do I care.

Mostly, I hate hecklers. They ruin the show for everyone else. Comedians are in deep concentration up there. It's all about memory, timing and flow. Hecklers disrupt that flow. So, how do I say this in a nice way?

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