The Female Heckler Blues

With comedian Nickey Winkleman.

There is a new epidemic in the comedy world, Female heckling. It used to be that most hecklers were men, but I guess through the emasculation of men in our culture, we have become fearful of conflict.  Kind of like when men went to WW2, women have stepped in to fill this void. Unlike these Rosie the Riveter’s, no one asked for women to to fill this void of humanity.

When dealing with a male heckler you have pretty much everything available in your arsenal.  And generally if you slam a guy good, it ends there as just like a couple boxers who have respect for each other at the end, there is a respect earned from the knockout blow.  Not with the female heckler.  Usually these women are not used to a guy telling them off, so they don’t know how to react, except to continue on, further derailing the material the comedian has prepared.  And the biggest hurdle in dealing with a female heckler is that as the comic, you are a tightrope trying to detonate her while not going too far.

I call my method of dealing with hecklers—Aggressive Passiveness.  It is basically my genetic personality, so it comes easily to me.  My father was a man who tried to get under people’s skin. He didn’t seem to care too much if it pissed you off or not, it was all about getting a rise out of someone.  My Mom is a person who wants everyone to like her.  So here is where Aggressive Passiveness was born.

I will hit a heckler pretty hard with the hope that it will stun them, then I apologize to them right after.  Example: I slam them with some put-down, then I say something like…I’m sorry. You probably don’t deserve that. I’m sure you are generally a thoughtful person. This has the heckler’s brain spinning because despite being publicly castigated for their ill-behavior at the beginning, they are complimented at the end of my brief tirade.  It’s all about showing control, while not coming off unlikeable to the audience. Here is video of how quickly things can turn on a comic.

Just want mention a couple things about this video.

  • The comic discusses how they have someone who will come in a throw an unruly person out.  Not generally the case.  Comedy clubs have door people, not bouncers.
  • Just like how I don’t keep a gun in my house or car, I would never carry a guitar on-stage because I feel like my temper could make it a weapon.
  • If you do break your guitar over someone’s head, at least have a joke afterward like well, see what you did.  Now how am I going to play this or I’m the Pete Townsend of comedy.

Back to female hecklers. My worst experience with one was at a weekend comedy room in Indiana around 13 years ago.  It was one of my first headlining gigs and this drunken chick was with her co-workers and she would not shut up.  She had a comment after almost everything I said, completely wrecking my timing.  I took it for a few minutes than I started to hit her back with precise little jabs.  It worked a little, but this little lady was a fighter.  She kept coming back for more, so I made her the punchline in almost every one of my jokes. You could say I personalized the show for her.  The crowd loved it.  They did all but start chanting Maximus! Maximus!  After the show pretty much everyone who worked with her came up to me and thanked me for slamming her because they said she was a bitch.  Then a man came up to me and said he was her husband.

He told me that I went too far with my show.  I responded by saying that his wife tried to destroy my show, so I disagreed. I asked if he noticed me having a problem with anyone else?  Now I’m sure he felt that his wife’s honor had been besmirched, but he said I didn’t he needed to go as far as I did. He then offered up this surprise. Well funny guy, you stay here because I got a gun in my truck and I want to show it to you. He walked out to the parking lot and I did something I recommend to anyone in this situation. Get the fuck out of there. It was a gig in a hotel, so I went to my room, called the front desk, and told them under no circumstances were they to mention that I was staying there.

Recently at a show I had a group of women in the back who obviously don’t get enough attention in their lives because they were very interested in being a part of my show.  They were heckling away, which was worse because they were in the back of the room.  I dealt with it for awhile, then I walked off-stage to confront them.  I’m not sure this is such a good idea, but when a club doesn’t police their room, I kind of feel like I need to demonstrate I’m not some figure stuck on the stage.  I’m 3-Dimensional, Bitches! So I walked back there, which caused the audience to start clapping at my action.  I began to discuss how I was planning on filing a restraining order against them so they never could come to another one of my shows when one of them threw an ice cube at me—hitting my face.  At this point the audience really turned on the women.  These chicks response to being booed was that they loved me and they thought I was hilarious.  Uh, thanks.

Such is the life of being in front of a live audience.  I realize that I could just let things slide like most comics do and just try to get through the show, but I just can’t seem to do this.  I HATE having a show where people walk out feeling like it wasn’t memorable.  It is probably some type of character flaw on my part, as I should just be willing to occasionally accept that the show isn’t going to be great—but since I’m not afraid of a conflict and I think pretty quickly on my feet, I just embrace a heckler as someone I’m going to teach a lesson to so they don’t think it’s a good idea to do it again the next time they go to a club. I’m like a Super Hero. Out on the road fighting assholes so it’s a safer world for other comics. You’re welcome.

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