Handling The Heckle

Jan 9 2013 @ 8:02pm

Nina Metz and Chris Borrelli pen a "tribute to hecklers":

Chris: If you mean am I pro "audience trolls"? Well, in theory, no… These people are the audience equivalent of those who walk down the street talking on speakerphone. On the other hand, as someone who wants an event to be memorable, yes, I'm pro-heckling. Who isn't? I have seen countless comedians and forgotten most of them. But I remember each and every time I have witnessed a performer get into it with an obnoxious audience…

Nina: Yes! As journalists and critics, we're trained to stand and back observe, so I don't think it's ever occurred to me to heckle. But I am always secretly thrilled (and nervous!) when someone else does it… Heckling throws a big, honking wrench into that and suddenly — record scratch! — here's a moment that feels unpredictable. What is going to happen? I also think heckling separates pros from amateurs. It gauges how fast a comic can think: How funny are you really when your back is against the wall? 

Steve Heisler is unimpressed:

The article is a series of anecdotes that highlight what happens when a critic thinks that if they will themselves hard enough, they will somehow have control over the absolutely uncontrollable.

Heckling will never be an acceptable form of behavior. It happens, yes. Should it? No. Can it be entertaining? Let’s put it this way: In Chicago, and I assume other places, traffic is sometimes caused by gaper’s block, meaning an accident has occurred and even though the damaged cars are off to the side, everyone else slows down to see what happened. One time I got stuck in traffic for an hour, only to pass a bag of clothes. Then things cleared up. I was late to work because someone’s trunk opened on the way to the Salvation Army.

I mean, I was entertained…

(Hat tip: Patton Oswalt)