Comedians like to talk about destroying a heckler. I don’t really think they can be destroyed, but that would be interesting. I have silenced many. I’ve also amplified them and I’ve befriended them and I’ve utilized them.
Hecklers usually think they’re being helpful to the show. People in general want to make the world a better place. Either the interruptor thinks the performer is great for the audience and wants to give them some gold, or thinks that the audience is better off without the performer and wants to give the audience some gold.
Understanding this benevolence is important if we want this audience member to shut up. It’s unlikely that a heckler is going to provide a way to make the show that I’ve been doing for 20 years better, so usually, I’ve gotta get them to chill.
I can’t chill them in a way that turns the audience against me, so if I’m going to be mean to the heckler, I have to turn the audience against them first.
If a heckle isn’t loud enough for the audience to hear, I’ll say “what?” This…
- Includes the audience in the dialog
- Makes the heckler an even more obvious interruption in the show
- Gives me extra time to think of a response
If the heckle is unwarrantedly mean or rude, I’m clear for take-off. I can let ’em have it.
If the heckle is non-sensical or benign, I can point out how it’s an interruption and bait a response.
Then, they may just be quiet, or they might come back with more. The audience sides with me, and I dig in with a lot. Make it wild and funny and make the audience feel they got to see something special. The heckler did help. We did it together!