First published on 5 Oct 2012. Updated on 24 Feb 2014.
I usually start by letting them know that they are not going to win, given that I have a mic, PA, lights, talent and wit. Then I start to slowly dissect their heckle and give them tips on how they could improve it for next time. I follow that up with questioning at length their motives for heckling in the first place. Then I conclude by shitting on the heckler’s soul leaving them feeling hollow and with no will to live.
If I get heckled, I repeat it so everyone’s heard it, then do a joke off the top of it. That usually settles things down. The audience is on your side – they came to see you, not some wasted dude trying to impress the hot backpacker sitting beside him. If a heckler’s really disruptive, getting the audience to shout-swear at them in unison is also a subtle yet effective way to shut them down.
Hecklers boggle my mind. I mean, live comedy is a service that an audience member has paid for, yet they want to ruin it – it’s like hiring a plumber and when the broken pipe is finally fixed you kick it in. Way to go, Captain Halfwit. There’s no sure way but, rest assured, if someone heckles you at something other than a stand-up comedy night a restraining order is a nice option.
I guess my approach is to engage with them. I generally find that the more you know about someone who yells out from a dark corner of a crowded room, the funnier they become. Sometimes they retreat, hide and pretend they never yelled out in the first place. But most of the time they’ll give you something you can play with. Some of the best moments I’ve had on stage have come from having a good chat with a heckler.
I usually get the heckler off guard by responding with something edgy such as “What did you say?” Then I make them feel really intimidated by threatening: “I’m gonna tell on you.” If they keep going I really go in for the kill with. “That’s not very nice.” And then if they’re still heckling I really take them by surprise by bursting into tears and running off stage.
I deal with hecklers by talking to them. Most hecklers just need some love and attention. I give them approximately 30-40 seconds worth. If they persist I give the ushers permission to capsicum spray their eyeballs out.