One of the biggest fears for a beginning comic is how to deal with hecklers. For the most part, it is more difficult for a heckler to try to ruin a comedy show at an actual comedy club than at a bar. After all, people are paying their hard earned cash to be entertained but, give a person enough alcohol and anything is possible. I so desperately needed to learn how to deal with that type of disruption so, I hit the local bars to perform my stand up! There, I knew that the atmosphere was ripe for hecklers. I mean, people go to bars to drink, watch sports and cheat on their girlfriends, not to watch a stand up comedy show! Dealing with a heckler can be difficult because all that’s on a comics’ mind is to do their set and not screw anything up. Then, when you add a heckler in to the mix, it can throw any beginning comic right off their game! I won’t claim to know to much about the subject but I will admit that, I’ve sure shot down my share of hecklers in the funniest ways possible! Here are a few things to consider when dealing with this most annoying of species:
1.) Ignore it. Just like a comic, if their joke falls flat, they go into panic mode and would love nothing more than to rush through the rest of their set and get off the stage! The same is true for a heckler. The heckler is looking for attention and when their heckle falls flat, the last thing they want to do is to continue their poorly planned out attack.
2.) Let them say their piece. In fact, if you’re sure that not everyone had a chance to hear their heckle, give them another opportunity to repeat it. Ever try to repeat a joke to someone that wasn’t paying attention only to repeat it and not have the same affect? Same thing goes for this tactic. Let them repeat themselves and watch it fall flat! Then fire back with something well prepared for any occasion. “What was that?”–‘I said you suck!”– “Wow…thanks, dad.”
3.) Write a comeback. Any comeback. Preferably, one that will let you naturally go into your next joke. The comeback needs to be well written enough so that you can use it in almost any occasion. I, for example, have one aimed only at a woman heckler. Regardless of what she may say, I’ll fire back with:
“You ladies just gotta be the center of attention and CONTROL everything, don’t ya?” (That leads in to my divorce joke…”See? That’s why I’m divorced. But going through a divorce is brutal cuz my wife was EXTREMELY controlling! I’m just glad the divorce is over and I finally got my maiden name back.”
That not only brings a laugh, but it also gets the heckler on your side! If you can get the heckler to laugh then all is well with the world!
As I continue on this journey, I know I’ll only add to this list. As for now, this has gotten me by quite nicely.
How about you? How would you handle this? What have you seen other comics do that would prevent you from EVER uttering a peep at a comedy show? Your comments are more than welcomed!
One thought on “HECKLERS!!”
Here’s yet another stand-up/teaching connection! I have had my share of “hecklers”, and your advice is right on. After some experience teaching, I’ve learned what students are most likely to say and have responses ready for them, such as:
Semi-disgusted look and “Really?”
“No you don’t HAVE to do that assignment, but if you want to pass my class you will.”
Or to the complaint of only receiving two bathroom passes for a semester that are worth extra credit if not used: “If you don’t like them, why don’t you give them back to me?” (said in the sweetest, most concerned tone).
But as you say, humor works best. Making a joke is much better than getting upset. Good post!