Handling Hecklers – Part 4

The art of comedy Aikido.

handling hecklers

In my previous blog, Handling Hecklers – Part 3, I discussed using heckler lines to get heckler to back down and shut up. In this blog, Handling Hecklers – Part 4, I offer several more tips for dealing with obnoxious morons.

Never Invite the Heckler on Stage

Guess why I know about this. When I was first beginning back in the mid-70’s in San Francisco, I was working at a hole-in-the-wall club known as the Holy City Zoo. I was being heckled mercilessly when I lost my temper and said, “If you think you can do any better, then come up and try.” This one did. He pushed me out of the way and proceeded to tell one really funny joke. The guy running the open mike night came over, I thought to help me, but instead he told the heckler to get off stage, then turned on me and yelled, “There are tons of people who have signed up to get on this stage. You can’t put anyone you want up here. Don’t ever do that again. Now finish your show.”

Does the word “mortified” seem appropriate here? I was so devastated that I didn’t do stand-up for the next six months. Never invite a heckler on stage because, oddly enough, most people can tell one really funny joke. He’ll get the laugh and you’ll look like a jerk.

Challenge Them to Continue to Make More Remarks

Comedy Aikido is using their own talking and interruptions against them. This turns the tables so you can berate them for not coming up with clever comments. If they do hit a good one, then prod them to say more. They’ll quickly run out of steam. The aim is to embarrass them into submission by goading them on.

Here’s a paraphrase of one of my sessions following a comment from a male heckler:

That was very funny. Anymore? Come on, you Don Rickles wanna-be. Have at it. Come on. You’ve gotta have a couple more.”

The heckler shot back:

You’re not so clever.”

He was clearly flailing, so I nailed him with:

“Wow. Another scathing comment from our literary wizard. That sucked. Come on Dale Carnegie, speak up. Oh, now that I give you the chance to talk you won’t. Come on, let everyone know why you need attention during the show they paid for and why you’re making it harder for me to do my job. I don’t go to where you work and take away your shovel. So now, shut the f**k up.”

Of course, this must be done with a sense of play, but mean-spirited play because you want the heckler to know he’s not welcome to talk out loud during your show. I’ve found this effective in several shows. Then again, I’ve also really pissed off some people. But hey, if they take the risk, they also have to accept the consequences.

In my next article, Handling Hecklers – Part 5, I’ll give several more tips for handling hecklers.

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