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Behind The Desk #47: How To Heckle
May 25, 2012 | 12:45PM

Brandon Wetherbee hosts the talk show/podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody the first two Friday’s of the month at the Wonderland Ballroom and in Brooklyn and Chicago once a month. Listen to it online at youmethemeverybody.com. He’ll be at the Wonderland Ballroom on June 1 hosting YMTE Live with co-host Jenn Tisdale and guests Ed Ugel, stand up comic Russ Green and a set from Andrew Grossman.

Disclaimer: This is not a plea for everyone to try to take the stage at an open mic. If anything, it’s meant to scare sensitive souls away from the odd form of torture that is stand-up comedy. If you want to speak into a microphone and muse, consider storytelling. The performers are nicer, the crowds are more receptive and you’ll have a healthy lifestyle. Anyone brave/dumb enough to try their hand at stand up or something like it will do it regardless of some column. This also isn’t meant to silence the crowd. Maybe it is.

The crowd needs to be respectful. Whether in an arena, theater, club, bar or black box theater, no one is there to listen to the person that bought the ticket. The ticket-holder, while very important, should not feel free to utter their thoughts and feelings out loud during the show. Ever. Unless you’re at a magic show. Why are you at a magic show?

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If you’re not going to be respectful, why are you there? Really? There are many bars you can drink at. Go there. It’s fine if you leave during the show. In fact, it’s extremely appreciated if you leave during a show. The performer will figure it out. There are multiple reasons to leave a show. The form of entertainment isn’t good. You hate what’s being said on stage. Your ex/ guy that you might have made out with that one time there were shots involved just showed up. All of that is fine. It’s much better if you leave than spout some quip, that’s not good. You know what, let’s say it is good. You’re the one percent (#occupy) that added to a show with something off the cuff. Now do it again. Nope. That’s not how it works. You may get one good line in, but the second one will bomb and now it’s awful for everyone. Now you feel bad and the crowd feels awkward and you’ve oddly validated the performer. The opposite of good has happened.

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This isn’t meant to discourage interaction. Not at all. Anyone that’s worth their salt (that’s a weird saying) appreciates criticism. There are just appropriate ways to do it. Screaming something from crowd is the worst form of feedback. You’re not at a Richard Pryor concert and it’s not 1982. You are not meant to be part of the act. Unless you’re at an improv show. I don’t understand those.

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The goal for a show is for everyone to leave happy that they left their house and spent money in the outside world. The performers job is to be well equipped to make that happen. It’s like the Boy Scouts motto or something. I wasn’t a Boy Scout. My mom thought I’d get molested a lot (not even close to a little, A LOT, like at least 80% of the time getting molested) so I wasn’t a Boy Scout. But their motto, ‘Be Prepared,’ rings true in this scenario. If the performer is not
prepared, the show will suffer. You do not need to point that out. When you interrupt a bombing act with a not prepared line, the performer will justify their performance with, “Man, the crowd really sucked.” Trust me. These performers are nuts. Anything that can be used as a scape-goat will be used as a reason to go up yet again. In a way, you’re making horrible things happen to good crowds.

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So let’s say you attend a show and it’s sub par and you want to let everyone know that the performer, venue, bartender, sound guy, busboy, dishwasher, etc. is awful and should never leave the house again? Twitter. Yes, tweet at everyone and god. Tell the world that what you witnessed should be avoided at all costs. @ the performer. They will read the tweet. It will eat them alive and, if it works, help them consider their life path.

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If you hate me, this column, my talk show, the way I part my hair, the idea of words, tweet @YMTE about why I suck. Really. This, sadly, will stick with me more than anything you could scream from a crowd. When I hear someone talking in a crowd, I dismiss them. I have to. This isn’t about any one individual. It doesn’t matter if the room is half empty or packed, it’s impossible to cater to someone that heckles. It’s not worth doing. Twitter feedback, that’s what kills.

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Use the technology that hate created to heckle the right way. Screams become inaudible after a few times on stage. Unless you’re really nuts. Those people become magicians. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful night.

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  • william alberque says:

    I recall two ripostes John Cooper Clarke used on hecklers to great effect:

    1. Your bus leaves in ten minutes…be under it.
    2. I can’t hear you mate, your mouth’s full of shit.

    Genius.