Join 3,520 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"No, no, you can just talk to the comedian anytime!"
May 16, 2011 10:57 PM   Subscribe

[NSFW: swear words galore] Hecklers, the bane of many a performance. Here you can watch a documentary about Hecklers [ part 1 - part 2 - part 3 - part 4 ] and other critics. Someone at the beginning of that "Heckler" movie says something like, "A show was never made better because of a heckler." If only all of the banter was as funny as when Matt Walsh was heckled at SXSW. More often, it's like how Kyle Kinane states right off the bat during his act: "Every trainwreck needs a fuckin’ caboose; let’s get it over with," before he launches into a semi-drunken 9-minute conversation/shoutfest. But every once in a while, you get the perfect "point, counterpoint" moment. Let's see how different stand-up comedians react when the social contract of audience/performer is broken.

How to deal with Hecklers? Here are some tips from the pros, and some semi-pros:

KNOW THE CROWD. CONTROL THE CROWD.

• Bill Maher reminds the studio audience of Real Time that the word audience stems from the Latin, to listen. Of course, this is after he bum-rushes the first heckler.
• Steve Hofstetter deals with multiple hecklers: he calls out a texting heckler, who is a doctor, no, wait, a lawyer. Steve Hofstetter vs. the Ukelele Audience. He doesn't convert jokes into Celsius when in the USA, either.
• Rich Vos easily maneuvers his way out of what would be a tight spot for many others.
• David Cross loses his timing and is about to lose control of the audience, but is able to rein them back in.
• Louis C.K.'s timing is thrown off too, and he gets the saddest heckle ever. He also loses the crowd and then wins them back.

SHUT THE HECKLER DOWN, NO MATTER THE COST!

• Bill Hicks gives the classic "going nuclear" example.
• Dave Bishop takes his cue from Bill, then introduces Joe Rogan onto the stage.
• Joe Rogan gets a lot of hecklers, and enjoys griefing them.
• Todd Glass unleashes a pre-emptive strike, and wins.
• Arj Barker hates hecklers, and wins the audience over to his side.
• Jimmy Merritt hates hecklers, and tries to win the heckler's girlfriend to his side.
• Joe Matarese doesn’t care about the audience and will take them all on.
• Elliott Chang and Travis Howze both offer free drinks to their hecklers.

PULL THE OL' SWITCHEROO

• Mitch Hedberg likes to turn the tables
• Zach Galifianakis invites a woman on her cellphone onstage, and caters his act to her.
• [Unidentified] just confiscates the phone and makes a call.
• Richard Herring tries to get the heckler to understand how stand-up comedy works, before suggesting that he and the audience murder the heckler.
• Joe Klocek invites the heckler onstage, gives him a mic, and provides commentary.

BOB AND WEAVE! LEFT!! RIGHT!!

• Jim Gaffigan having a hard night.
• Jamie Kilstein tries, for a moment, to appeal to higher states of thought.
• Gary Owen goes for the low shots.
• Amy Schumer deals a one-two knockout blow.
• Jacqueline Novak needs the heckler to say only two words before shoving those words back down the heckler's throat with a well-reasoned philosophical stance.
• Jamie Kennedy has The Defender of Servers on the ropes!
• Greg Giraldo practiced on guys like this.

REALIZE IT'S JUST NOT YOUR NIGHT

• Jesse Fernandez just deals with it.
• Doug Williams is blindsided by a really mean heckler, Jamie Foxx.
Realize it's just not your planet.

[PREVIOUSLY]
posted by not_on_display (96 comments total) 364 users marked this as a favorite

 
A bravura outing my good sir.
posted by killdevil at 11:02 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


My dog has pants like this post!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:13 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Steve Martin's immortal "yeah, I remember when I had my first beer" was a pretty good shut down
posted by the noob at 11:15 PM on May 16, 2011 [20 favorites]


Stand up is the art which all arts aspire to.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:18 PM on May 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Todd Glass unleashes a pre-emptive strike, and wins.
No link for this one.
posted by Flunkie at 11:21 PM on May 16, 2011


No link for this one.
Huh - more accurately, a link when I'm logged in, and no link when I'm logged out. The link being a Metafilter embedded video, with no hypertext.
posted by Flunkie at 11:23 PM on May 16, 2011


awesome post, but a minor [possible?] grievance: matt walsh's heckler appears to be matt besser, fellow ucb member.
posted by maximum sensing at 11:24 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is wierd. Here is the link to Todd Glass's dressing-down of a patron.
posted by not_on_display at 11:26 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


maximum sensing: "awesome post, but a minor [possible?] grievance: matt walsh's heckler appears to be matt besser, fellow ucb member."

Yes, they announce that at the end of the clip.
posted by not_on_display at 11:26 PM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


where's the Todd Glass link ?
posted by dawdle at 11:27 PM on May 16, 2011


really thought i struck some gold there. guess that's what i get for leaving early
posted by maximum sensing at 11:30 PM on May 16, 2011


Jamie Foxx fucked a muthafucka up. Dayum.
posted by orthogonality at 11:33 PM on May 16, 2011


This is a superb, thought-out, detailed post.

Thanks.
posted by gcbv at 11:39 PM on May 16, 2011


So far "The Ol' Switcheroo" delivers the most laughs. I actally wanted to post the Galifianakis bit in a previous thead.

There's something about that particular method that requires wit, highly advanced technique, and immense balls, and when it works, it's deadly. Like, if you have heckled someone who has perfected The Switcheroo, your family will be shamed for generations.

Goddamn Mitch Hedberg was funny. If you click on no other link, seriously.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:45 PM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


THIS POST SUCKS!
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:53 PM on May 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Not to mention "That's what happens when you interrupt a white man."
posted by orthogonality at 11:54 PM on May 16, 2011


Goddamn Mitch Hedberg was funny. If you click on no other link, seriously.

I'm a huge Hedberg fan. I've never heard that "Phil" heckle before, but it does point
to one thing:

Hedberg was truly an original.

He turned that heckle into PART of his style and delivery. Just brilliant.

I also recommend.
posted by gcbv at 11:57 PM on May 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jaime Kennedy is so, so not funny. I kind of want to heckle him, and kind of just want to slap him until he cries.

But I also feel sorry for him. He's one of those people that is so bound and determined to do something for which he has neither the aptitude nor wit that he actually has some success. But that success cruelly exposes his weakness, and it's a sad thing to witness.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:58 PM on May 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hedberg was truly an original.

He turned that heckle into PART of his style and delivery. Just brilliant.


YES. More than any of the others, he actually made the heckle into a very listenable and funny bit. There is nothing about it that feels like a disruption. It's really elegant.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:01 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite bit from Louie is the Heckler bit, apparently available for free on YouTube, which is scripted, of course, but still great. But the end, outside the club, sends it over the top.
posted by TypographicalError at 12:11 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jimmy Carr deflects a heckler's comment about his mum with more of the same.
posted by Cpt. The Mango at 12:15 AM on May 17, 2011 [13 favorites]


Matt Walsh getting heckled by Matt Besser reminds me of Andy Kaufman getting heckled at Kutchers hotel.
posted by Simpsolover at 12:27 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Go on, have another go, I do this for a living. Snerk."

Kiwi muso Chris Knox likes to pull people out of the audience and get them to play and sing his songs. As a punishment.
posted by rodgerd at 12:27 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear Comedians,

The female woman person who is heckling you might be loud, obnoxious, drunk and horrid. Yes.

But do you seriously have to go for the sexual insult every single time?

I mean, not only are "whore" and "cunt" insulting, they also seem to be really ineffective, and when you get to the point where that's all you've got, you've lost both your audience and your funny.

Those words don't address the real problem. This person is being rude to you with an entirely different part of her body than the one you're addressing. She isn't heckling you with her vagina.

If you have to go there, everyone has an asshole, and we're all capable of being one. Including you, apparently.

I know you're angry, and that's cool, but please be more clever. It's kind of your fucking job.

Yours in Christ,

Louche Cuntwhorchio
posted by louche mustachio at 12:41 AM on May 17, 2011 [50 favorites]


This is a good post, and much better than the documentary it links to, which quickly became a whiny complaint that film reviewers wrote bad things about Jamie Kennedy's horrible movies, rather than what could have been an interesting discussion about hecklers.

But I shouldn't criticise the film, since that would be rude and of course the only valid critique of any film is how much money it made (thanks for the tip, Guber). BoxOfficeMojo tells me that Heathers made $1.1m while Kennedy's opus Malibu's Most Wanted brought in $34.4m. That's 31x a better film. Can't argue with that, that's science.
posted by dumbland at 12:46 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Telling jokes and being generally funny is the comedian's job, not being clever.

If a heckler is a man, he's a dick. If a heckler is a woman, she's a cunt. It's called human physiology.
posted by Jan Coztas at 12:50 AM on May 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Excellent post, but no Carlin?
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 1:19 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at an open mike show in London in the mid-90s. The MC started out asking us to "give it our best" to prepare the comics for the potential hecklingness.

I can yell pretty loud, and I was right near the front of the club. "GET OFF THE STAGE! YOU FUCKING SUCK!"

When the MC tried to engage me, I put hands over face and refused to respond. Later on, I screwed up the first guy's act by laughing really loud and long at his first joke. It was sincere, but sadly I was the only one who found it hilarious, and his timing and delivery were just completely screwed up.

A couple of the next guys sucked. When I happily gave them my full bore opinion (along with the rest of the crowd), they tried again to engage me, bring me in, but I went so far as to hide under the table until they let it drop.

So a tip for hecklers: don't engage the comic, you can't win that way. And sorry to any of you if I fucked up your comedy night.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:19 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do more presentations in more variant crowds than most public speakers in the computer history realm, and there was one conference where I was one of a half-dozen speakers, some of which were doing first-time presentations or otherwise were not in any shape to be dealing with hecklers. Naturally, there were hecklers through the first couple of speeches, and I was a tad concerned about how this was all going to go for speakers after me.

I decided it was time to risk having an unpleasant scene with my talk (after all, I'd given a bunch in the past, I'd be giving more in the future). So after giving my presentation, I called one of the hecklers onstage, and told him that the whole audience was ready for him, kissed his hand and said it was his big chance tell them what he wanted them to hear. Let's go with "he kind of choked".

They left the other speakers alone.

I also make the distinction between "heckler" and "it's all about me", where someone in the audience jumps into a talk because for some reason they don't have that synapse that says "this is not your time, nobody needs you jumping in". They're not designed to derail, they just don't know how to be an audience member. I've had a few in the past - I can generally steamroll right over them - but the key, I think, is not to punish the audience for one person being broken.
posted by jscott at 1:29 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy crap, best FPP in months, I do declare.

Sam Kinnison had a nice "that's what your mom said last night" rejoinder when a heckler told him (ironically) to "speak up" on one of his live albums.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:30 AM on May 17, 2011


Telling jokes and being generally funny is the comedian's job, not being clever.

Allow me to clarify.

First, when I say clever, I mean witty. I mean, you can think on your feet instead of grabbing the biggest wrench in your toolbox and beating everyone over the head with it.

Yelling "SHUT UP WHORE! SOMEBODY PUT A DICK IN HER MOUTH AND SHUT HER UP!" is neither funny nor clever. And there seemed to be a lot of that sort of thing. (I go back to the Hicks bit because it was really disappointing.)

I don't object to sexual language in general, or even the words "cunt or "whore" in particular. I discerned a thread of this really poisonous sort of invective directed specifically at female hecklers that was really disturbing.

Simply lashing out isn't necessarily funny or clever, and if it's entertaining, it's not for the right reasons and doesn't reflect particularly well on the person on stage.

If a heckler is a man, he's a dick. If a heckler is a woman, she's a cunt. It's called human physiology.

This isn't an anatomy class. I can identify human genitalia, too - some may say too well - but that doesn't qualify me for a spot on stage.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:41 AM on May 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Malcolm Hardee (RIP) apparently used to say "Sorry mate, I can't hear you - your mouth's too full of shit" which is pretty succinct
posted by DanCall at 1:48 AM on May 17, 2011


Thank you very much for this. I was wanting to watch 'Heckler' the other day.

That said - nothing kills my productivity more than a Youtube Heckler video black hole.

So Screw you very much for this.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 2:14 AM on May 17, 2011


First, when I say clever, I mean witty. I mean, you can think on your feet instead of grabbing the biggest wrench in your toolbox and beating everyone over the head with it.
- louche mustachio

What if what you are trying to do is bash someone over the head and make them realise that it isn't a game and that they are screwing up your performance, breaking the whole structure and lead-up that you have spent a whole career working on? I think what you are picking up is called extreme frustration.

I think it's justified. But then I don't go to any comedian to listen to some idiot in the audience. YMMV.
posted by aychedee at 2:26 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a greast post! I've been checking out the links all night.

More:
Maria Bamford Talks about Heckling:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5Yt_br2_uY

Guy who yells throws off Patton Oswalt's set up to a joke:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBguQZzXzyw

Language can be used to disarm people. While it doesn't reflect well on anyone who uses words to insult (by pointing out and exaggerating a feature of the other person, etc.), you have to look at the context. The comedian works on an act, wants to perform the act, and is loudly and exasperatingly prevented from doing so. The comedian has to humiliate the heckler by all means necessary. Shame them into being silent, so the comedian can quickly get back to the act.
posted by Jan Coztas at 2:31 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Great post!

Kyle Kinane. Wow that was painful to watch. Must have been painful for the six other people at his show as well.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 3:00 AM on May 17, 2011


This may very well be the finest post ever.
posted by _aa_ at 3:49 AM on May 17, 2011


I ended up detouring after I heard enough weird defensive misogyny and found a bunch of clips from roasts. For some reason it's so much better when you know the malice is pure theater. So, thanks for the detour if nothing else.
posted by tmt at 4:13 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


A legendary, possibly apocryphal, heckle put-down - Bernard Manning was walking out on stage to the microphone before he had started his act when someone in the crowd shouted out 'fuck off you fat bastard!' Bernard ignored him until he got to the mic then turned to him and said 'get it right son, fuck off you fat rich bastard!'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:25 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


My uncle is one of the most genuinely funny men I've ever met, incredibly sharp, witty and smart - and one of the most bitter and resentful men I've ever met.

So, he and my aunt, my folks, and my wife are attending a standup event - it's a children's charity held in the most dingy sportsman's club in the middle of nowhere you've ever seen. It's more of a rathole where retired charterboat captains go to drink away the rest of their lives - the soda machine vends beer and tins of sardines. But it's a good sized room with industrial kitchen facilities, and the members vote to rent it out to charities for nothing when everyone's out chunking for stripers anyway.

One of the charities has some pretty impressive contacts in showbiz, and manages to put together a show of 3 or 4 national acts who are Not Happy to Be There.

Sitting next to my uncle was like sitting next to an armed landmine. One false step, and you knew he was going to go off...

"Hey! When's the funny ones going to be on?"
"Excuse me sir?"
"I wasn't talking to you!"
"Then why so loud?"
"You put my buddy to sleep, and wanted to wake him up..."

And it was brutal. It wasn't fun for the audience, and my Aunt was about to die of embarrassment.

The next guy up was prepared - he put the charm offensive on my Aunt first thing. Got her laughing and giggling and ready to stab my uncle in the neck with her desert fork if he so much as coughed for the rest of his set...
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:25 AM on May 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Fantastic post, man. I can't wait till I get home where I can watch these.
posted by absalom at 4:39 AM on May 17, 2011


I think it boils down to something like:

When confronted by a heckler,

a good comedian __________________.

but a GREAT comedian _____________________, _________!

(I don't know what's in any of those blank spaces, but I'm very keen the hear what follows that comma!)
posted by ShutterBun at 5:08 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alexei Sayle deals with a heckler
posted by tomcooke at 5:37 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I used to hate hecklers.

But, in a contrived though easily parodied observational comedy style...

You know that thing that happens to everyone, where you're sitting at the front of a comedy show, enjoying the comedy, and then the comedian compares you out of nowhere to a well known and relatively recent local serial killer. And then he suggests that somehow you're paying for the services of your long term girlfriend. And then, because said girlfriend has the temerity to ask him not to be so mean, he launches into 30 seconds of vitriol aimed at your girlfriend's strong local accent.

Well when that happens, it's enough to make anyone think ruining it for everyone might not be such a crime.

Fuck comedians. All hail to the hecklers.
posted by seanyboy at 5:53 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]



awesome post, but a minor [possible?] grievance: matt walsh's heckler appears to be matt besser, fellow ucb member.


Watching it, I was thinking how much funnier the heckler was than the comic, and now I get that that was the actual joke. I'm surprised more comedy doesn't involve those kinds of meta-layers of reflexivity and ambiguity about who is the participant and who is the audience.

This is a fascinating FPP. Great links, thanks.
posted by Forktine at 5:58 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


As someone who aspires to do comedy at the amateur level this FPP is amazing.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 6:01 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is awesome, thx. (Having been both a heckler (young, drunk, stupid + first time in comedy club = POWNED + last-time I ever heckled anyone) and subsequently been heckled (tech events), this is a handy, fun, set of resources!)
posted by jkaczor at 6:04 AM on May 17, 2011


Well, that was a heckuva fun hour.
posted by Rumpled at 6:05 AM on May 17, 2011


I'm surprised more comedy doesn't involve those kinds of meta-layers of reflexivity and ambiguity about who is the participant and who is the audience.

This reminded me of a couple of things. First: (partially triggered by a segment from yesterday's Universal Horror retrospective) the notion of a performer getting legitimately injured/killed during a performance (i.e. Dick Shawn who was known to be over-the-top zany. What would *I* do if I were witnessing a performer legitimately in trouble?

Second: how far would I go to "defend" a performer being mercilessly heckled, even (or especially) if the heckler were scoring points?

I saw a high-diving show at an amusement park some 20 years ago where a diver was preparing for (what was described as) a particularly dangerous dive. Total silence was demanded of the audience. We all obeyed. Except one guy. At the moment of truth, he kept shouting out: "YOU STINK!"

I was mortified. This loser was potentially risking another man's life just to be a heckler. I (along with many others in the crowd) vociferously tried to shout him down. Eventually his heckling became so belligerent that he was invited to leave the audience and replace the man on the board and "try it himself," which he of course did, with total success.

He was a plant, just there to make the show more exciting. And he did. Was I a "sucker" now? Or was I "doing the right thing" trying to protect the performer on the platform? I dunno.

So there's a part of me that says: "whatever makes the show more exciting, more uncomfortable, more...itself" is a good thing." (would Andy Kaufman's "Great Gatsby" shows have been interesting if everyone knew what they were in for?) But these are of course staged events, which have been predetermined for maximum effect.

So I will say this: god damn all hecklers, who attempt to usurp those who would entertain us,
but
God bless those hecklers who, in their ignorance, have provided such fertile set-ups that result in comedy none, not even the performer, could have foreseen.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:16 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


'See, for him it's a night out. For his family, it's a night off.' - Jack Dee v heckler
posted by permafrost at 6:22 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Jo Brand, to heckler: "Oh, there's a comedian in the house".

Heckler: "We wish".

Ouch.
posted by Decani at 6:45 AM on May 17, 2011


Well when that happens, it's enough to make anyone think ruining it for everyone might not be such a crime.

Fuck comedians. All hail to the hecklers.


I think you mean "fuck lazy, shitty comedians." That kind of scenario isn't what a good comedian uses for material.
posted by odinsdream at 6:47 AM on May 17, 2011


Eddie Pepitone heckles himself
posted by Jofus at 6:47 AM on May 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


That is wierd. Here is the link to Todd Glass's dressing-down of a patron.

God, Todd Glass is one of the best and underrated standups out there (kind of like Mitch Hedberg is one of the most overrated). Thin Pig is fabulous, as is his Comedy Death Ray bit.
posted by anothermug at 6:48 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course there was the infamous Tunnel Club where apparently heckling was raised to sublime levels....

It was at the Tunnel Club that comedian Jim Tavare once began his act with the unwise opener, "Hello, I'm a schizophrenic" - to be met with the lightning rejoinder from a heckler in that night's audience, "Well, you can both fuck off then!"

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:53 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I was in college, I saw Marsha Warfield do a show. It was meh. At one point, she was pushing the audience into a "you all hate fat people" direction and asked the rhetorical question, "What's so bad about fat people?" I couldn't help myself. I couldn't. I was thinking about this Odd Couple episode and yelled out, "You ever see one tap dance?" The audience lost it. Her rejoinder: "I seen your momma tap dance." Well, OK then.
posted by plinth at 6:59 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you mean "fuck lazy, shitty comedians." That kind of scenario isn't what a good comedian uses for material.

Definitely, yes. The way to punish bad comedians is with silence and indifference, not by handing them the opportunity to make the most of a bad situation by getting some lowest common denominator laughs.
posted by permafrost at 7:01 AM on May 17, 2011


What if what you are trying to do is bash someone over the head and make them realise that it isn't a game and that they are screwing up your performance, breaking the whole structure and lead-up that you have spent a whole career working on?

Seems like it would be simpler and far more effective to just ask the establishment to remove the disruptive patron than to scream "YOU FUCKING CUNT!" at her.

I really don't think it's too much to expect people in public to avoid angry sexual invective just as they avoid angry racial invective or angry homophobic invective, and for more or less the same reasons.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:44 AM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is the best FPP in a long time. (I, um, need to do better. The bar has been raised. Wow.)
posted by andreaazure at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2011


That Patton Oswalt one linked above is maybe my favorite. If nothing else, it has my favorite old-timey curse ever: "You will miss everything cool and die angry."
posted by Navelgazer at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Seems like it would be simpler and far more effective to just ask the establishment to remove the disruptive patron than to scream "YOU FUCKING CUNT!" at her.

Keep your day job kid.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:05 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thank you for this. I was up until 1:00am laughing my ass off, and now I need extra coffee to jumpstart my day.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:11 AM on May 17, 2011


I'd loved to have seen links featuring the angle a significant amount of comedians take, which is to crack on members of the audience. You don't dare heckle them, because you're just setting yourself up to get destroyed. Sommore, Monique, Joe Torry. I mean you wouldn't even think of heckling. You'd get embarrassed so bad you would never live it down.

You may not be familiar with those comedians, or perhaps you didn't think to include them. Otherwise, great post!
posted by cashman at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


cashman: "You may not be familiar with those comedians, or perhaps you didn't think to include them. Otherwise, great post!"

I just heard Jimmy Pardo for the first time recently. That's his whole act, it seems, and he'd pertty good at it. That's a whole 'nother FPP right there, starting with Don Rickles, . . .
posted by not_on_display at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2011


She isn't heckling you with her vagina.

But if she was...wow.
posted by stormpooper at 8:51 AM on May 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I was eighteen and living in New York, I went to a comedy club for the first time and Jeffrey Ross was performing. This was about 1997, long before he made his name as "the Roastmaster General" and I had no idea who he was.

Anyway, he got about a minute into his routine and some drunk woman yelled something. He got into it with her and turned it into (what felt like) a half hour of the funniest fucking rant I've ever seen in my life. I felt bad for her (and her boyfriend, who was out of the room when she started it and returned only to see a comic railing at his girlfriend) but goddamn, it was funny.

He's funny on the roasts, but those performances can't touch the one he had back then, at least not to me. He's a fantastic insult comic.
posted by callmejay at 9:18 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Astounding that Milton Berle vs. Stadtler and Waldorf hasn't been posted here yet - yeah, it's staged, but it is hilarious.
posted by Michael Roberts at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


I would like to apologize to my students for turning their final grades in late.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:43 AM on May 17, 2011


Glad I wasn't the only one disturbed by the misogyny of Bill Hicks' rant.

I mean, I get that it's frustrating to be interrupted while performing. It just seems odd that Michael Richards getting frustrated enough at a heckler to jump up and down screaming the N-word is career-destroying national news, while Bill Hicks getting frustrated enough at a heckler to jump up and down screaming the C-word apparently doesn't raise many eyebrows.
posted by DiscountDeity at 10:02 AM on May 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know that thing that happens to everyone, where you're sitting at the front of a comedy show, enjoying the comedy, and then the comedian compares you out of nowhere to a well known and relatively recent local serial killer. And then he suggests that somehow you're paying for the services of your long term girlfriend. And then, because said girlfriend has the temerity to ask him not to be so mean, he launches into 30 seconds of vitriol aimed at your girlfriend's strong local accent.

No. I don't know that thing that happens. Maybe you should shut your trap when watching a stand-up show.
posted by grubi at 10:06 AM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe you should shut your trap when watching a stand-up show.

Huh wha? Where did that come from? Are you a stand-up comedian?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:22 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you a stand-up comedian?

Not yet!

It just struck me that the comment was about something I don't think people *do* see -- because they generally aren't heckling. If you get 'attacked" by the comic, it's almost guaranteed you brought it on yourself.
posted by grubi at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2011


Cpt. The Mango, I totally came in here to see if anyone had posted Jimmy Carr. Still makes me laugh and I've seen it so many times...
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:35 AM on May 17, 2011


Every woman I've ever dated has heckled me with her vagina. How DARE YOU! *sobs*
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 10:41 AM on May 17, 2011


Every woman I've ever dated has heckled me with her vagina.

Watch where you're pointin' that thing! It could go off.
posted by grubi at 11:11 AM on May 17, 2011


Jofus, I loved that Eddie Pepitone bit you linked to. And I'll confess I wasn't expecting something that conceptual when I saw the name 'Pepitone'. My prejudice.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:20 AM on May 17, 2011


Slap*Happy, you paint a vivid picture in few words. When is your collection of short fiction coming out?
posted by benito.strauss at 11:23 AM on May 17, 2011


DiscountDeity: "I mean, I get that it's frustrating to be interrupted while performing. It just seems odd that Michael Richards getting frustrated enough at a heckler to jump up and down screaming the N-word is career-destroying national news, while Bill Hicks getting frustrated enough at a heckler to jump up and down screaming the C-word apparently doesn't raise many eyebrows."

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's made that comparison. I'd seen that Hicks video before (it seems to be one of the clips of his that his fans always link to) and when I saw the Michael Richards thing, I thought it was the exact same bit, except with the N-word in place of the C-word. One is treated as a hero, and the other is treated as a disaster.

Also: if you watch the Michael Richards video again, the "pitchfork" line gets a pretty big pop. He just hadn't thought through what to follow it up with.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:26 AM on May 17, 2011


Damn I really miss Mitch Hedberg. Watching his mastery at dealing with hecklers just makes me miss him that much more.

I mean, we needed Mitch. Still do. Only comic who made any sense to me for a long time (other than Carlin, of course).

Boy, comedy can be tough, tough work. But it's magic when it's done right.
posted by kinnakeet at 12:04 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, Joe Klocek's was masterful.
posted by odinsdream at 12:06 PM on May 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


It just struck me that the comment was about something I don't think people *do* see -- because they generally aren't heckling. If you get 'attacked" by the comic, it's almost guaranteed you brought it on yourself.

Not at all true. Not even close to true. The opposite of true. Crowd work is a staple of stand-up, particularly for less experienced writers. All you have to do to "bring it on yourself" is to be sitting where they can see you.

But in reality, it's all part of the fun, and as an audience member you've got to take it in stride.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:12 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Navelgazer: " Not at all true. Not even close to true. The opposite of true. Crowd work is a staple of stand-up, particularly for less experienced writers. All you have to do to "bring it on yourself" is to be sitting where they can see you."

I recently saw Patton Oswalt in San Francisco. Throughout the act, he kept coming back to these two well-dressed, elderly men in the front row, just at the edge of the stage. But he wasn't making fun of them; he was just putting a voice to everyone's unspoken question: was this really what you meant to come to?

It was funny, but part of why it was funny was that it was so good-natured. He wasn't making fun of them; he was making fun of the rest of the audience for looking so alike. To me, that's about as far away from the "let's make fun of fat guys and their girlfriends" school of comedy as you can get.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:26 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


It helps that Patton is a fucking genius. Saw him at the 40 Watt in Athens, GA, at the end of March. He had a full-on conversation with front-row girls who were recording video of the whole show. He asked them not to, and proceeded to go into a story of why (seems a "fan" posted his stuff on Youtube once and went mildly psycho when Patton asked him to take it down). He turned a tiny interaction with the audience into a bit. A really funny bit.
posted by grubi at 12:31 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Realize it's just not your planet.


Uh, oh....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 1:02 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hecklers serve the same function as griefers in online games. They annoy, they harass, they distract, they waste our time, they are universally reviled. But they serve an important purpose. They inject chaos into an otherwise predictable system.

A comedian who can't handle a heckler doesn't deserve the attention they get for being on stage. It's like the wrecks in car racing - nobody, aside from some boorish asshole looking for attention - will ever admit that is one thing they love about racing. Without the crashes, there is no risk. Without the risk, there is no thrill. Without the thrill, there is no entertainment.

That's why car racing doesn't have to have crashes to be entertaining. And we can enjoy comedy without hecklers, or enjoy an online game without getting griefed. It's the risk. But without the risk, it's not as good. And when it's good, when a heckler is deftly put down, it's exquisite.
posted by Xoebe at 2:07 PM on May 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


You suck!!
posted by chillmost at 2:59 PM on May 17, 2011


I most certainly will not, good sir, as I see very little in the surrounding area to suck upon. Good day to you.
posted by not_on_display at 4:05 PM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then there's Bill Burr's infamous twelve-minute rant in Philadelphia in 2006. After two comedians before him are mercilessly heckled by the crowd, Burr abandons his prepared material and takes on the entire city of Philadelphia, trashing Donovan McNabb, cheesesteaks, the Flyers, Ben Franklin, and the Liberty Bell. And he somehow ends up winning back the audience at the end. [part1] [part2] NSFW, naturally.
posted by horsewithnoname at 5:10 PM on May 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Slap*Happy, you paint a vivid picture in few words. When is your collection of short fiction coming out?

Wow, wait until you discover sonascope!
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:27 PM on May 17, 2011


How about when, on the Opie & Anthony Traveling Virus Comedy Tour a few years ago, Bill Burr decides he has had enough of the rowdy Philadelphia crowd and decides to take them and their whole city on. I especially like when he insults the Liberty Bell.

Link
posted by Man Bites Dog at 7:13 PM on May 17, 2011


Ahhh beaten by two posts.
posted by Man Bites Dog at 7:14 PM on May 17, 2011


Yeah, Patton is brilliant, and is only mean-spirited when it's really called for. But I used to hang out at the Comedy Cellar all the damn time, and I know my stand-up etiquette. I don't heckle (obviously, because that is indescribably douchey.)

And I don't have a problem with what I am about to describe, but it happens to me almost every time I go to a comedy club. Some comic (usually more than one) will pick me out and fuck with me for crowd work. I don't know what it is about me, but it's unfailing. (The rare times I've been to a strip club I have seen the same effect. I think I just have the look of a "mark.")

First time I went to the Cellar (for those who don't know, it's a pretty small space on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, and is definitely the most "legit" comedy club on the East COast, and probably in the world) it was 1999, and I was 18 and in my first week of college at NYU. Oh, and I was wearing what I realize in retrospect was a really stupid hat, though the era and my age made me think I was pulling it off.

Orlando Jones was emceeing in those days, and after he warmed up the crowd, the first act was Todd Barry, who almost immediately set upon me, pointing me out to the rest of the crowd as "Floppy Hat McGee." For the next twenty minutes, he would start in on his prepared material and then break away as if swatting a fly to just lay into me like it was a primal need of his. I became the punchline to every bit of his. Oh, and he was hilarious.

Towards the end, he built this up into a thing where he was just losing his shit that I existed and was sitting near the stage (for the record, I was laughing along and being cool about all of this) and just went, like, "motherfucking Floppy Hat McGee, what are you even... I can't even find the words. I bet your name is something like 'Dawson'. What the fuck is your name?"

...

"Dawson," I meekly and truthfully reply. It was kind of awesome.

The rest of the night, most of the comics came around to me at one point or another. When I went back, I wouldn't wear the hat, but the comics would still unerringly find me. In my mind, this was part of the fun. Show up, see some great comedians, and take a little abuse to be a part of it all. It was like clockwork. If I went, I was going to be called out. It was a guaranteed part of the show.

When I moved away from Washington Square I stopped going for a few years, and then, shortly after college, I started going again, as a sort of "first date test," whereby if a girl wanted to see me again after dealing with being a part of the inevitable crowd work at the Cellar, she had a good enough sense of humor to make the effort worthwhile. It was still unfailing. I remember one first date where the moment we were seated Rich Vos pointed us out with a, "God damn if this isn't the most liberal fucking couple I've ever seen," and riffed for a few minutes on us. But it was, literally, every time I went there.

And I have never heckled. I have only ever responded as enthusiastically and appreciatively as I could muster, in order to better feed the energy of the performer. But they will sometimes be vicious, just because the bit needs it. Sometimes they will be cooler about it. But comedians don't just take on hecklers. This is truth.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:16 PM on May 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


Sam Kinnison had a nice "that's what your mom said last night" rejoinder when a heckler told him (ironically) to "speak up" on one of his live albums.

Heh, that was choice!

"Speak up, man"

"Well, that's what your mom said last night, but I couldn't understand her because she had my sperm gurgling in her throad. 'SAAAAAMMMM - whhhennn you go to the show, be sure to SPEAK UP. And tell my retarded son not to fuck with your act.' You might not recognize her when you get home, I shaved her back. Still wanna HELP OUT, HUHHH????!??"
posted by porn in the woods at 9:27 PM on May 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


My cousin Ted is a stand up. He told me about the most terrifying heckle he ever received:

Big theatre; warming up for someone else; dying on his arse; he begins to pace nervously as he fumbles for some familiar material. Out of the darkness of the room in front of him someone barks "STAND STILL!" in a voices so authoritative he couldn't disobey. He stopped in his tracks, frozen in the spotlight for a second, there was a long, agonising pause and Ted - envisioning a lunatic with a high powered sniper rifle in the Gods - scurried off the stage to the sound of his own footsteps.

benito.strauss - Yeah, that Eddie Pepitone clip I linked above is wonderful - high art, even. I bet you any money you like he uses that bit when he's actually heckled. 'That's not how you heckle, son', he'll say; climb down into the audience and descend into that wonderful chasm of self hatred that would silence anyone.
posted by Jofus at 2:47 AM on May 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Though my on-stage career has been on a several year hold as a result of the coming of a great dark funk that's made me disappear down the rabbit hole, I've had the occasional heckler. They're not hecklers as such, and the most articulate of them is my mother, who actually heckled the preacher at my father's memorial service, when he couldn't quite manage to pronounce "Ziegenthaler" correctly. It was a moment all of us enjoyed immensely, hearing my mother yell "Ziegenthaler, Ziegenthaler!" in the midst of the service, because it's part of what we love about her, even if it makes us roll our eyes at times.

I've had post-hecklers, though. Because I'm enough of a solitary perfectionist in my stage work that I can't be bothered to get anyone to be a part-time roadie, I always get stranded at the stage, winding up cables and packing up my synthesizers and other gear, when I'd really rather just be driving home, very very fast, to sulk. I feel awkward when I get positive feedback, just getting red and saying "thank you" a lot, but I'll occasionally get helpful critics bent on improving my performances.

"Joe," a woman says, oddly grabbing both of my hands in a kind of weirdly intimate, yet forceful, gesture, "you've just got such a talent, such imagery, but it really lets down your work when you stand up there and say horrible racist and anti-semitic things."

I'm a little gobsmacked, because I say horrible racist and anti-semitic things in the character of a lovely mess of a woman I stalked for a while in the august surroundings of the local porno store, but all that's there to indicate how I figured out that she wasn't my fairy godmother.

"But I'm speaking in character," I protest, but it isn't good enough. Her hands tighten on my hands, and she pulls me in close, like she's either going to kiss me or tell me to stay after class.

"Why that character, then? Why not someone nicer?"

"Well, I'm telling a story about trying to find a fairy godmother by hanging around porno stores, insane homeless women, and six dollar prosititutes. I don't know if I can tell nicer stories in that context."

"Oh, Joe...Joe, you're such a talent. You could do it if you wanted to."

The claws are digging in. I really, really want to be in my car, driving home very very fast and stopping at Checkers to get a vanilla shake. Now, it's weird. The lady is telling me I'm great, but instead of it feeling great, I'm feeling like I felt through my entire school career, when people would tell me I was just so smart, but that they just couldn't figure out why I did so badly in school.

"I'll take that under advisement," I say, dropping into the glacial reptilian cool that I developed in all those other years, and she relaxes her grip.

Speeding home in my car, I can't help but think I'm still paying some cosmic price for torturing TV's Shirley Hemphill back in the eighties, when a friend would drag me out of my monastic hidey holes to get me into the public realm. She was a wild woman, a lifeguard at the nearby naturist camp, a bit of a libertine, and almost peripherally someone with a profound disfiguring disease that left her eyes on different planes in a Picasso-esque face.

Shirley Hemphill, on the other side, was a terrible, terrible comedian. She'd gotten her needle stuck in that "black people are like this, white people are like this" groove early on and wasn't inclined to bump the phonograph as long as someone, somewhere, would still book her. It was almost hypnotically awful comedy, something that would have been ironically enjoyed these days if she'd lived long enough, and my friend had a plan. When she'd hit the local comedy clubs in and around Baltimore, my friend would show up, hiding out behind me and tossing out rather well turned-out barbs, until Ms. Hemphill would get angry enough to lash back.

My friend would leap to her feet to mount the counterstrike, and it was as if David Cronenberg had taken up body horror comedy as a new phase in his career. The second she hit the lights, the air would go out of the room, and Shirley Hemphill did not seem to grasp the fact that going for the obvious attack was going to turn the room against her.

We were such assholes in those days, but we were teenagers.

Still, I think I'm due a little celestial retribution, sometimes, for taking part, so I'm patient with the critics, even when they're selling me the same old lines about myself.

I'm talented, but don't use it in a worthy way. Got it.

When I'm lucky, though, it's funny criticism, and makes for a good anecdote at a party, like the gig where I was invited to come and play my brand of slow-moving ambient electronic music. Forty-five minutes into a set, the hostess stepped over and whispered a question.

"Umm, we were all just wondering when you were going to start," she said.

Ouch.

What's left, in the years where I've just been hiding out behind the screen, is my mother, who rather sweetly believes she can nag a manuscript out of me when the thing holding it back is something far worse than me being stubborn. She heckles my Facebook comments, my Livejournal entries, and would likely be on here, too, pointing out that my stories are not being told with complete journalistic fidelity, at least to her perspective, but I've not bothered to clue her in about where I'm writing these days, except when I'm producing work that I know she's not going to question.

"You don't write about me very much," she says, with a trace of frustration.

"I'll write about you when you're dead," I say.

"But then you'll write anything you want!"

"I know," I say, and I smile and smile and smile, which makes her furrow. Sometimes she doesn't love the things I love about her, but that's okay. Our parents make us crazy in retribution for having to put up with our craziness for years.

My ex, a talented keyboardist who toured with the seminal DC surfpunk band, Insect Surfers, gave me the best advice when I was starting to venture into performance.

"Audiences," he said, "are like dogs. They come there wanting to be happy, and wanting to have a good time, and it's pretty hard to get them to turn on you. Until they smell blood, they'll make up for a lot of fuck-ups on your part, so just don't bleed."

Easy, right?
posted by sonascope at 8:31 AM on May 18, 2011 [17 favorites]


Wow, wait until you discover sonascope!

I searched around a little, and I didn't get it.

Now, I get it.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:40 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


« Older "I wanted to do a movie that would give the people...  |  Boot linux in your browser... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments