The View From The Cheap Seats


One of the more important lessons I am beginning to learn in stand-up comedy are about people in the audience who think they’re funnier than you, or that everyone else in the room wants to hear their opinion of your set.  They are called the hecklers.  I just wanted to share my thoughts about them, as last week during the comedy competition I was heckled on Tuesday (Specklebelly’s), Friday (The Adobe Inn) and on Sunday (Manchesters).

As a comedy fan in general, I was indifferent on the thought of hecklers.  Now that I am in the stand-up genre, I don’t have a lot of respect for them, then again, that’s just my opinion.  The first two nights I was in the competition I was uncomfortable with it, because for one, my set wasn’t going very well and two, because I didn’t have the confidence in having a good set, to be able to neutralize the situation properly.  Sunday however, a different story.  I got beaked off to by some chick and I put her in her place.  It wasn’t the best line in the world, but it worked.  What it did, is it shut her up.  The others applauded my efforts, and from the reaction it got, she saw that it was a waste of time to go any further.

I got a good lesson on hecklers that week.  At the Tuesday night performance, Dez decided to play to the hecklers and make jokes about my act not being good that night.  This one young guy sat back and said I wasn’t funny.  I replied that all my critics say that.  Junior applauded my comeback.  Was it weak?  Yep, but at least it shut the guy up.  Then Friday night, wow, what a gong show that was!  These two or three guys beaked off to Dez right at the start, and he tore into them for a good several minutes.  Then when I got up onstage I was half wasted already.  Apparently these same clowns were beaking me off too, but I couldn’t hear them.  I did however, see Junior and Dez both walk up to this guy and say something, making him leave.  I think maybe they came to my defense because I actually had a good set where I got a legitimate reaction for the first time from Junior, and a sustained one at that!

I notice that the hecklers seem to be the guys more often than not.  They either are young and drunk, or else they are uncomfortable because somebody other than them is getting the attention in the room at that moment.  Think about it.  Why would you go to watch a comedy show, and feel the need to try to be funnier than the comics onstage?  Comedy is very difficult to do, and most times I find these guys who think they are doing the world a favour by speaking up, are generally too chicken to try it for themselves.  Women I have to say, don’t heckle really.  They will shout out during a set, but it’s more in response to something the comic said, to try and enhance the act.

Dez once said that anyone who heckles will be asked to leave, because the comics don’t go to this guys workplace and razz him to his face all day long, so what right does he have to do that to us?  He’s got a point, but I now welcome the challenge of putting these people in their place.  It’s because I now have the confidence after my showing in the competition.

It really all boils down to your comfort level in the end, and knowing your audience.  For example, when I run karaoke on the occasional weekend, once in a blue moon there is someone spouting off.  Usually I’m able to diffuse the situation immediately by saying something funny or something scathing to put that person in their place.  It comes with having been a regular there for over 15 years.  It’s the same in comedy.  If you know your audience, you can get a sense early on if they are into your show or not.  If they are, you can pretty much say anything to shut this person up and they will be on your side.  I never really understood it.  If everyone else in the room is having a good time and laughing, what right do you have to sit there and spoil everyone’s night by opening your mouth and disrespecting the people who are trying to entertain you?

So, in summation, I want to say that I think hecklers are like bullies in a sense, but this time around, I have the ability and the confidence to put them in their place.

I look forward to people beaking me off in the future.    🙂


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