(This is going to be a bit of a longer one. I apologize.)
So it has come to my attention that some casual comedy show attendees don’t know what heckling is and often have an opinion on what they think comedy should be. I learned this the hard way last Thursday night when an otherwise lovely audience was robbed of an amazing performance by David Heti (and an okay experimental set by myself). The culprits were two men in the front row, drinking. One from Ireland, the other from Australia (Aussie Man). They had never met, but they shared a table and an opinion on what stand-up comedy should be.
Having spent three years doing stand-up comedy regularly and many more years performing in a more general sense, I learned that sometimes you get some people who don’t like you or what you have to say. Usually, they keep to themselves, but sometimes (again, usually, when these people are drinking) they don’t.
Here is my experience. I got on stage, said “Hey” (literally. It was a long drawn out and lazy “haaaaaaay”) and didn’t get to say another word before these two men started asking me when Superbad 2 is coming out. For brevity’s sake, I will just say that these guys interjected every time I tried to do a bit.
Suck it up. It’s cool. It’s part of my job. But I fucking hate it. Because I know what the hecklers wanted (and I later confirmed this while speaking to both of them). They thought that I was getting laughs when they heckled me with Superbad comments, but really they got laughs. I was being laughed at. Aussie Man later told me, “Hey, it’s a comedy show! Get laughs any way you can!”
No. While, yes, it is a comedy show, this is also my artform. Damn right, I said it. Stand-up comedy is goddamn art. I pour time, blood, sweat, and tears into my comedy. I have embraced the delusion necessary to embark on such a career-path. Most important of all, I’ve given up the quote-unquote “normal” way of thinking, because I am always always looking to create.
And so when I am finally on a stage, getting it all out, constant heckling after everything I try to say (not to mention heckling in the form of comments made by people who would want to personally hurt me) is a roadblock. It stops the pattern that I’ve set up for myself wherein I receive a very crucial part of why I do what I do: the laughter and validation.
Normally, I would have let it go, but the two persisted through Dave Heti’s set. Heti is a comedian who skirts the fine line of comedy and tragedy, tackling tough subjects like the women held captive in Cleveland. So when Heti started setting up that joke, Aussie Man got up and said, “You can’t make fun of this kind of stuff. Get off the fucking stage” and left (Note that Aussie Man’s departure was met with applause from the rest of the audience).
Like I said, I would have normally let it go, but that night I couldn’t. Besides, the two approached me.
I told them that heckling sucks.
Aussie Man insisted that what he did during my set was not heckling. I defined heckling: Even if you’re saying I’m the best comedian in the world, if I’m on stage and I didn’t ask you to speak, you’re heckling.
He agreed he was heckling and argued, “What kind of comedian are you if you can’t handle a heckler?”
Well, what kind of piece of shit are you that you would come to someone’s happy place and shit on their work?
Aussie man apologized, but insisted that he would not apologize to David on the basis of terrible subject matter. But I, being the comedic scholar I am, pulled on my knowledge of jokes and how it is possible to take something tragic to find the funny. I spoke of Jimmy Carr and then delivered two rape jokes. Aussie Man was laughing at the first rape joke so hard that he continued laughing when I started the second one. I then told him he was a piece of shit hypocrite whose words mean nothing.
But it didn’t end there.
I had hoped it didn’t have to come to this, but after trying several lines of discourse to teach these men that heckling is a bullshit move and every comedian would agree, I had to resort to putting them in my shoes. Turns out Aussie Man was a marketing consultant who worked for a hospital.
So I asked him “What would you do if you had a huge client on the line and he’s in your pocket. He loves what you’re saying and wants to hear more? This is a career-making call and it can line your pockets nicely and all it takes is for this one person to hear you clearly, without distraction, on this phone call. What would you do if there was a third person on another line who, every time you began speaking, made fart noises and screamed words like ‘genocide’ or ‘murder’? What would you do?”
And the second he began trying to speak, I screamed and made fart noises.
BECA– USE I AM AN ADULT.
I then sat with two Australian girls and their beef-head boyfriends. They all commended me for my discussion with Aussie man and his companion. Then one of the beef-heads looked at me and said “Seriously, though, when’s Superbad 2 coming out?”
I turned my seat toward him, stared him in the eyes silently, only to lean in and say just loud enough for him to hear, “I’m better than you.”
People will never learn.
Mike “Barely Regal” Carrozza
Emery is a man I’ve worked with plenty and a man whose wit is laid-back but packs a punch. You might say he’s a “one-liner type comedian”, but I’ve repeated so many of his jokes to friends because I just can’t stop thinking about them (always citing his credit, of course). He is amazing and we’re both on the Young Guns of Comedy 2014 show together. Come support local comedy.
If you’re in the mood for a one-liner type comedian to get you in the groove for Emery, why not go for a legend? We lost Mitch in the mid-2000s, but we’ll always have his charm embedded in our minds. Check out any of his albums: his jokes are timeless. R.I.P. Mr. Hedberg.
Please come to the Young Guns of Comedy 2014 hosted by Darren Henwood on January 2nd – 4th at the Comedy Nest in AMC forum. It features Mike Carrozza, Scott Carter, Molly Brisebois, Emery Fine, and Geoffrey Applebaum. It’ll be a blast. Shows Th, Fri, Sat, 8 p.m.; and second show Sat at 10:30 p.m. $6/10/12/15.