One thing that non-comedians are very interested in is the subject of hecklers. There is an idea out there among some that heckling is as vital to a comedy show as booing is at a Pro Wrestling event. What I’m going to say next is not particularly modest, but here I go. I’m really great at dealing with an unruly audience. My buddy and Comedy Hall of Fame member, Al Canal, calls me the human paper shredder. It comes naturally for me, I guess from my training as a child from being mentally abused by my Dad!
So I posted this boast, but let me promise you; I never want to deal with a heckler. The thing I love most about standup is writing the material and then seeing if it will connect with an audience. I can and will take on an audience member or 3, if needed, but I never leave my hotel room thinking that’s what I want to do that night. What I won’t let happen is allow some heckler to wreck the rest of the audience’s show. Some will like the live excitement of it, while others will have wished that I could have just focused on my material, but I always want the crowd to leave thinking they got their money’s worth. So take it from a comic who is really good with dealing with hecklers. Despite this ability I have, I have never responded with a yes, thanks so much for heckling, to any heckler who came up to me after the show and said I was just trying to help your show.
So last Friday night I might have faced my difficult heckler of my career. I have been asked by a ton of former classmates at my high school, when am I going to do another show close to them. I have done one the past couple of years to varying degrees of success, but I thought I would give it another go. My friend, Jason Brady, has offered his families golf course ballroom to do the show, which I can’t thank him enough for. Since I have no budget to advertise, I used Facebook. I had 20 people say they were going to attend and another 45 say they were a maybe. If they brought another person it looked like it would be a decent turn-out. Of the 20 who said they would attend, 3 showed. Another 3 of the maybe’s showed. There was a barely over 20 people there. I appreciate the people that did come. Thank you. Now to those of you that didn’t, but have continued asking me when will you be doing a show because I will come the next time, Next time is over. I know I sound like a dick, but I’ve lost my ass the past couple of years trying to make his happen, and the great people of Toad Valley who have put it together are looking for their asses too. Just thought I should publicly mention this, so I have a place to send people who ask when am I going to do another show in the area. (I’m not as pissed as this reads, just tired of responding to former classmates who ask me when I will be in town, next time. There are some markets I’m a draw in but not in regards to my fellow classmates. I think I need to turn in my class clown award I won in High School, because it must have been a sham.)
Want to share the funniest excuse I have ever gotten for not catching me and it happened during the Toad Valley show. As I mentioned, I knew most everyone there that night. One of the guys at the show during it let me know that one friend who was going to come with him told him at the last minute he couldn’t make it because he had some clothes in the dryer. It was such a horrible excuse that it just might be the best excuse I’ve ever heard. I’m going to start incorporating into my life. Sorry dude, can’t help you move into your new place, I’ve got clothes in the dryer. I feel honored that I was chosen to be a pallbearer, but I’m going to have to cancel last minute. You see I’ve got some clothes in the dryer.
So I don’t have the best frame of mind going into the show, but I really wanted to put on a great performance for the people who were there. In the past year, I have add 30 new minutes of my material. I also stopped doing the good Scott/bad Scott thing that a lot of fans really liked. I will get into the reasons why I went away from the good Scott/bad Scott thing in another post, but I do appreciate that some fans miss it. Having said that, I feel my new material is more personal and raw and I think is smarter and more connective. I bring this up because after doing about 15 minutes of this new material, one of the audience members started to shout-out, how about some good Scott/bad Scott.
Now, it is flattering to have someone yell out something that you did in the past, because they are a fan. Having said that, I told him I had moved away from a lot of that material. My fan (and former high school classmate) told me he watched my good Scott/bad Scott videos on Youtube all the time. I told him I would do some of that material later. Well, after another 15 minutes or so, he started calling out the punchlines of my jokes like “Do the Teabagging joke.” Now, this was new issue I have never had to deal with. Comics like Larry the Cable Guy or Dave Chapelle have to say Git er Done or Rick James, Bitch, early in their show so their fans don’t constantly yell it out. Comedy isn’t like music. Lynyrd Skynyrd can do for their encore, Free Bird, even though people are yelling it out their whole show because they can’t hear people yelling it when they are jamming loudly. I responded by mentioning that there is something different tonight than when he watches Youtube and that is when he talks to the computer screen, no problem, but here right now, I’m a 3-dimensional figure who can hear him.
It didn’t take much longer and he was requesting the teabag bit again. I acquiesced and did the bit. What I discovered was that the most difficult heckler to deal with is someone who loves your jokes and his crime is wanting you to do them, even though you have moved on. I’m guessing this might be why Steve Martin stopped doing standup. He tired of having the audience yell out Do Wild and Crazy Guy or Do King Tut. It’s hard to want to take someone down who loves what you do. When you are trying to shut-down a heckler, if you know them or in this case, they love something you do, it takes just enough of your venom away that you come a little soft back at them, which just doesn’t work as well. Audiences want you to be vicious in your responses to hecklers because they only respect the alpha dog in a verbal skirmish. I had lost some of my power to my fan who had taken me down a road I didn’t really want to go.
Well since I opened the door to breaking away from the script I had planned for that night, my fan started to yell out more bits. He yelled out my Tar-Zhaay bit. So I start doing it, but quickly realized that he given away the punchline by saying the French version of Target. I actually had him say the word himself when it came up, because it was fruitless to do it myself. The surprise of the joke was gone. I had him do this a couple more times as he continued to yell out other punchlines to bits. The only way I can explain what it felt doing comedy this way is it’s like when you tell a street joke and you say the punchline too early, totally screwing up the laugh. Well, that was what happens when someone yells out your punchline to request you doing the joke. I have had hecklers who have threatened to kick my ass, say horrible things about my mother or be so drunk I can’t understand what they are saying. This was worse. This guy was the worst heckler I’ve ever dealt with. And it was done out of love for my material. Weird, huh?
Just in case you thought this was all I was dealing with, I will offer up part 2 of this night tomorrow. A little preview is that at the same table where my worst heckler was at, there was a drunken dude who was constantly yelling shit out at me, as well. It was like I was taking double-barreled gunfire. This guy was not a fan, though, just a drunken a-hole. I will share some of what I offered up to him, so check-back tomorrow.