Heckling is easy – that’s why idiots do it.
100% of the hecklers I encountered in my twenty-four year standup career were both drunk and ignorant. If you think about it, you have to be pretty dumb to believe you can out-quip a professional quip-er with a microphone, and pretty buzzed to have the nerve to give it a try. In this era of rude, though, plenty of hammered dunces still feel the need to disrupt.
Each heckler I’ve faced had their own reasons for interrupting.
Many were tough guys who saw a professional comic getting laughs out of their woman and got jealous enough to say something. These guys were dangerous because they were usually one harsh burn away from rushing the stage. I’d have a lot of fun embarrassing these aggressive attention seekers in front of their dates and everyone else. The worst that ever happened was at a Chicago bar when one of them rushed the stage swinging his beer bottle. I used the base of the mic stand as a shield until the staff escorted him from the show.
Hey, he started it.
A few hecklers had no idea they were interrupting the show but were too drunk to care. These mumblers were difficult to handle because they were no longer interested in being entertained. They had no idea how rude they were being and couldn’t have cared less when I pointed it out to them. They were easy to take shots at, but they became an opened can of slurring worms once they got started.
Women hecklers were the worst.
Only because I’m a man, and insulting a woman, even a rude one, is generally frowned upon. When a female heckler started up, I found the best way to handle her was to insult her date. Put enough pressure on him and he’ll shut her down for you. Push him too far or insult his woman too deeply, though, and you’ve just added another heckler to the mix.
The goal is to shut them up and move on.
Problem is people enjoy watching rude guys get burned. My audiences loved seeing a jerk get punished. The laughs seem unplanned and spontaneous, and those types of comedy moments often produce the biggest crowd reactions.
Only they’re horrible for the show.
Trying to get back into scripted material after that is tough because the rhythm is different. The audience just watched the performer successfully and hilariously survive a brutal attack, which is a different dance than listening to pre-written bits. A comic’s job is to make that shift appear seamless, but that’s no easy feat once the audience gets a taste of fresh heckler blood.
Hecklers thought I was happy they helped. I wasn’t.
Without fail, each heckler I’ve faced has come up after the show. They talked to me with the confidence of a co-worker, and I always felt it was my job to let them know that what they did was not acceptable. Ever slap a puppy for licking you? Me neither, but I’m guessing it’d have the same look on its face that these chastised hecklers did.
They all thought they made the show better. They didn’t.
Just because I was able to turn your rude interruption into a brilliant comedic moment doesn’t mean that you helped with the show. That’d be like Harvey Weinstein taking credit for the new war on sexual harassment.
Here’s how I’d destroy a heckler every time.
The bit was called ‘Bucket Boy,’ created about twelve years into my career. It was basically a fancier improvised version of a classic heckler put-down that goes like this:
Heckler: You’re not funny.
Comic: Ma’am, please don’t interrupt me while I’m trying to work. I don’t go to where you work and jump on the bed.
My version went like this:
Heckler: You’re not funny.
Me: Congratulations, sir, you’re now officially part of the show as the ‘You’re Not Funny’ guy. (I’d pretend to be him, sharing this news proudly with his table.) Watch, he’ll brag about it on the way out. (I’d be him shaking everyone’s hands after the show.) His wife won’t hear the end of it. (Him on the car ride home.) He’ll be at work tomorrow retelling the whole story. (Him mopping the floor telling his co-workers about how he was the best part of the show.)
Don’t be the Bucket Boy – we were laughing at him, never with.
- Mike Lukas
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