Do Hecklers Make Comedy Shows More Fun? The Chicago Tribune Thinks So!

Comments

1
Well, sure people are going to heckle regardless of what anyone else has to say about it. But to act like it's not annoying and stupid -indeed, to give it a critical stamp of approval- is just gonna make it worse.
2
I hate hecklers because they are fucking assholes who simply want to revel in the waft of their own flatulence. I paid to see the goddamn guy on stage, not some guy named "Phil" with mommy issues.
3
Heisler nailed this, for the most part. I still can't believe most comedy clubs don't have strict anti-heckling policies. It doesn't need to be a mood killer, just a big, unmistakeable sign as people walk in:

"Comedy seems interactive but it is actually not. Any patron who interacts inappropriately (including hecklers) will be immediately removed without refund. People have paid to see someone else's performance, not yours. Respect that."

It's awkward to remove someone, and you can bet that particular person won't come back (great!), but how long would it really take to change the culture of clubs where everyone who walked in (and the people in their groups) knew they were risking ejection by mouthing off?
4
heckling in comedy is sorta like fighting in hockey. i know it's stupid and senseless, but i'm still entertained by it.
5
If you're not interacting with the audience, you're a shit comedian (which is why Ross Noble is pretty much the best comedian in existence right now). But it should be at a time and manner dictated by the comedian, not the audience who don't know whether they're in the middle of a great setup or they're at a convenient point in the night.
6
I even used to think that heckling had a purpose as far as reminding the many, many awful comics out there that they're awful. But Heisler covered that one, too: comics find out they're not funny when no one laughs. Simple.
7
Sometimes heckling, like trolling, is to tell the center of attention that they're wrong.

i.e.
Rape isn't funny.

I don’t get out to see comedians that often, is it really that big of problem? How often are comedians heckled?

I agree with Colin, if someone interrupted a live music show by heckling, they’d likely get the boot by the venue, the same should apply to other performers. It strikes me that comedy is a little different than other performers since they rely on the audience participation and reaction more than musical or theatrical acts, so comics often solicit the audience for information, “Hey does anyone here NOT have a Facebook?” I would think a comedian could take measures during their performance to mitigate the chances of hecklers too.
8
Portland (at least Helium, I've never been to Harvey's) has a very polite crowd, and most "hecklers" here are just drunk and/or stupid people that agree or audibly respond to the comedian far too loudly.

Sure, it can be funny when a comedian tears apart a heckler. Just the same Patton Oswalt is a funny guy anyway, so I'd prefer he be allowed to do his great set instead of giving asshole 5 minutes of attention.
9
I saw Paula Poundstone heckle an audience member. The lady had merely wanted to leave briefly to use the rest room, but no: Paula wadn't havin' it. She heckled her on her way out, and even more extensively when she came back, suggesting that no one should ever be able to excuse themselves from a fucking Paula Poundstone set.

If it had been done with a modicum of grace or originality, it would have been awesome. But it wasn't. It sucked, and the only reason I didn't leave was because I was running spotlight at the Aladdin that eve.
10
Sometimes comedians are completely unable to deal with hecklers and it becomes even more awesome (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoLPLsQbdt0). Also internet trolls are the best people in the world. We deserve your accolades.
11
Thanks for reading my piece and for the thoughtful response! I just wanted to briefly qualify that no, I don't think critics have a responsibility to make comedians feel warm and fuzzy for no good reason. You're right—readers are king. But what I was trying to say is that the Ivory Tower mentality of criticism, where they refuse to talk to comics nor understand their struggle, just doesn't cut it for modern comedy. You have to be there in the trenches right along with people, and report back to your readers. You're the ambassador of sorts, is how I see it.

In any case, nothing major, I'm just flattered you took the time to read and respond. Keep fighting the good fight!

Best,

Steve
12
I've been waiting for a good opportunity to set the record straight on heckling and this would be perfect BUT I'M OUT OF TOWN AND TOO BUSY. So you'll just have to wonder about my (correct) opinion on heckling until it comes up in another news story. In brief, though, heckling isn't real and comedians are whiners.