Friday, October 3, 2008

Ask Abbi: Hecklers

Chris of writes:

Hey have you ever been heckled while on stage?

The third time I ever performed stand-up, I talked about working as a waitress. I said something about the tips I get, and a guy shouted, "Your what?!" I was so focused on telling the joke right, I had no idea why he was confused. "My TIPS." The audience giggled, and I realized what "tips" sounds like. I felt like Moe on the Simpsons. "Bea O'Problem! Bea O'Problem! Come on, guys, do I have a Bea O'Problem here?" He heard me wrong and got a laugh. Heckle or not?

Another time, I was talking about being single after a breakup, and someone in the crowd muttered, "Good," but no one in the crowd reacted. He had a knee-jerk reaction to my anti-man rant that only I heard. Heckle or not?

Once a couple in the front row was whispering to eachother about what to order, and several heads turned away from me and in the direction of the couple. Heckle or not?

Often I mistake a distraction for heckling, and I point it out when the audience was already listening with full attention. This breaks up my momentum, and it's best to ignore it and roll right through. From the comedian's perspective, we see and hear everything. A fly buzzing around, a cell phone opening in the back, the air conditioning rumble, someone shift in a chair. Being comfortable on stage and staying focused are two good ways to not be distracted. When someone flat out interrupts, the audience becomes distracted. Diffusing it with a joke shifts the control back to you. Then there's always the Bill Burr approach...

Feel free to post your questions for Abbi in the comments section, to be answered in a later post, or write curlycomedy (at) with "Ask Abbi" in the Subject

Photo credit:


Mo Diggs said...

I prefer to handle the heckler head-on. One time I was heckled by this guy who looked like the Marlboro man and this other guy who looked like Gallagher. I said the latter guy was like Gallagher without the talent and - after saying that Marlboro man looked like Marlboro man- I said "Isn't the Marlboro man dead yet?"

Abbi said...

I've never been heckled by anybody that looked like anybody. Rob O'Reilly has a great story on his myspace blog about a man with white frizzy hair on the sides of his head who heckled him. He was too nervous to deal with it, so he went on with his material that included a non-sequitor: Koalas are cool.

The audience thought he was referring to the guy and howled.

Chris said...

:( I was kind of hoping that you got heckled and went all Bill Hicks on someone.

Abbi said...

LOL. My secret dream is to cry on cue. And just make everyone in the room feel awkward.