I want to try performing stand-up comedy, but I’m nervous about getting heckled. Does that happen a lot? What should I do if it does?
–Nervous in Novi
Heckling is always a possibility — or just disruptions in general, from table talk to cell phone use during a show. Learning how to deal with those situations will get easier with time. Ironically, your patience may get shorter.
Over the years, I’ve had my share of disgruntled bachelorette parties letting me know I should change professions. I’ve had things thrown at me and fights break out in the middle of a set. I once watched a guy in the front row vomit in his beer glass, then look up at me like nothing happened.
Some people struggle with the concept of live performance
as well as alcohol.
Just remember to be in the moment and take control as best you can.
Here are four ways to deal with a heckler:
- Ignore Them: Sometimes these situations correct themselves. Friends or other tables might shut the culprit down through “shush” shaming. I love a good shush shaming — it sounds like a train leaving the station.
- The Long Stare: Sometimes staring silently in the direction of heckler or chatty table with a confused or stern look might work. A lot of times, people don’t want the whole room against them, so they will get the hint. It’s also an effective shaming technique.
- Go After Them: If you want to work on your improv skills and crowd work, this could be a good time. Just remember you’re the one with the microphone. Be confident and start slinging insults; you’re a comic for a reason, prove it. Now you risk a verbal back and forth at this point, so be ready for desperate comebacks: “Bring out the real comic” or “You’re not funny.” No comic wants to hear that they’re not funny, true or not.
- Lose Your Shit: Some of my favorite memories in comedy are the ones where comedians have “lost their shit” on stage after being heckled. I don’t recommend this, but I understand it. Hell, I’ve done it. Losing your composure can make a bad situation worse and might cost you work in particular rooms, but at times, can be cathartic.
Hecklers are out there, no doubt. But for the most part they don’t affect many shows. At least, that has been my experience.
The good venues will work diligently to keep it from happening. If it does happen, look at it as an opportunity to learn.
Bill Bushart, the “Godfather of Detroit Comedy,” is a stand-up comedian with 20 years experience. He’s a regular at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak and clubs and bars across the Midwest. Bill teaches the Stand-Up 101 class at the Comedy Castle. For more info, call (248) 542-9900.
Have a question for Bill? Email us.