It’s all part of the job, isn’t it? Comedians are there to be heckled. They should be prepared for it. Shouldn’t they?
While one of the absolute delights of a comedy show is to see a comedian genuinely improvising, and to see them win in a bit of banter with a regular guy off the street, the question you want to ask yourself when you go to a comedy show is whether you want to be THAT heckler.
To paraphrase comedian Daniel Kitson – if you interrupt the show you’d better be doing so for a damned good reason. If you can’t destroy the person on stage, then you shouldn’t be heckling. The deal with stand-up is that the heckler is never right.
Sometimes heckling is not even about wit – and can lead to violence. Jim Jefferies has found that out..
Sometimes the heckler starts a long protracted argument. Just ask Richard Herring…
And sometimes the compere effortlessly tears the heckler a new buttonhole:. Kudos, Laura Lexx.
The sad fact is that most female comedians have to face the worst sort of heckling, based not so much on wit but on sexual insults and latent misogyny.
There is an up side to heckling though. Comedians have a mini compendium of put downs they use to resolve little fights with audience members before they escalate. Comedian Rufus Hound compiled a bunch of these into his book, Stand-Up Put-Downs.
If you see a comedian doing something stupid, you might think you SHOULD heckle. Perhaps the situation demands it. But be aware that you’re starting a fight you might not finish.
If, however, we’re into the territory of banter or even audience participation, then don’t fight it. Amazing things happen when you play along…