It’s helpful if you’ve read my blog Handling Hecklers – Part 1, as it explains some of the psychology. In this blog, Handling Hecklers – Part 2, I’ll explain three principles that can help you to maintain the correct state of mind to successfully keep yourself and your show within your control.
When handling hecklers, no matter how strong your comments, they still must be in the spirit of fun. If it appears that you’re trying to hurt the heckler, the audience will turn against you because the hurt line has been crossed. Remember, whatever state you’re in, the audience is in. If you become mean and vengeful, the audience will become mean and vengeful. The heckler may be messing up your show, but you can always make it worse by attacking without a sense of humor. The audience is there to laugh, not watch you seek personal retribution from some jerk. Once it stops being funny, you’re not doing your job.
Make Sure They Deserve It
This is so very important. The time to verbally cut down a heckler is when the audience is just as irritated with him as you are. If the audience doesn’t perceive that he deserves it, they’ll view you as an overly aggressive jerk.
Here’s another Chippendale’s story: one night I was doing a show and two very beautiful women were sitting about three feet to my right. They considered me to be an obstacle to them getting to see the male exotic dancers, a common audience attitude that I had to overcome as the opening act. These women were particularly nasty. They said personal things about me, just loud enough so only I could hear them. Things like, “God, he’s got such bad skin. He’s kind of ugly,” and “Get him off and bring out the real men.”
This pushed my insecurity button, so I tore into them with several mean lines, “You’re not good looking enough to have such a snobby attitude.” They shut up. But, of course, so did the rest of the audience. Only I had heard the comments, so all the audience saw was my vicious attack on these two sweet, innocent ladies for no apparent reason.
I didn’t even realize this until after the show when one of the waiters asked me why, out of the blue, I started yelling at those two ladies. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it, only that the audience perceives they deserve it. On the other hand, once the audience perceives they deserve it, kick butt.
Avoid Taking Things Personally
There are people who go to comedy clubs who find their fun in messing with the comics. From my perspective these people are evil, but nonetheless, from time to time, you’ll have an encounter with this sort of cretin. If a heckler can push your buttons, he’ll control you and the show or you’ll lose the crowd. I know it’s difficult to avoid getting personally hooked because you care so much about doing your best. But a heckler who gets to you can put you at your worst. Once hecklers can made you mad…they win.
Now read Handling Hecklers – Part 3.
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