In the 2007 documentary Heckler, Joe Rogan says that “the number one thing about hecklers is 100% of them are douchebags.” A stand-up comedian’s act depends on the audience reaction by nature, but when someone attempts to derail the performer’s work, well, that’s something a douchebag would do. Still, heckling creates exciting moments of discomfort for the audience, and hecklers have instigated some great moments in comedy (Bryson Turner’s comeback) as well as some terrible moments (Michael Richards incident). Whether the outcome is funny, awkward, or awful, the eternal battle between heckler and stand-up is always fun to watch. Here are eight kinds of hecklers, and fifteen different ways of dealing with them.
1. The Instigator
Some hecklers just want to start trouble, so they pick on comedians who are notorious for blowing their tops at hecklers.
Instead of making a joke out of his heckler, George Carlin instead opts to unleash his fury.
2. The Non-Participant
Making an audience laugh is a difficult task in itself, but some hecklers go out of their way to be overly negative and non-participatory toward the comedian.
Rule #1: Always say yes. Jacqueline Novak’s heckler must not be aware of this rule, but it makes for a hilarious response.
Zach Galifianakis deals with a girl who would rather be on her cell phone than pay attention to his act by letting her be the center of attention.
3. The Corrector
This kind of heckler thinks they’re doing the comedian a favor by interrupting the act to bring up of some kind of ambiguity or inaccuracy.
They’re called servers, not waitresses. Also, nobody cares.
Steve Hofstetter mentioned it was 60 below zero when he went to Canada when his heckler asks “Celsius?” Of course the joke would lose all its humor without this key piece of information.
4. The Uptight Fan
Much like The Corrector, this kind of heckler seems to think that right in the middle of the act is a perfectly appropriate time to present their grievances to the comedian.
Okay, this isn’t a stand-up clip, but the way Kevin Smith handles a guy who tells him his recent movies suck is worth watching.
Because what better time to accost a comedian for selling his book at Barnes & Noble than right in the middle of his act? (Heckling starts right at 1:00)
5. The WTF?
Some hecklers don’t have to say a word to create an awkward moment for everyone.
Take it from Laurie Kilmartin: If you make a joke about how much you love something, be prepared to have that something thrown at your face.
6. The Bringer of Awkwardness
These hecklers often don’t have to say much to trigger a complete comedian meltdown.
Kenny Moore has a temper. And a guitar. That’s about it.
Bill Hicks lets one “you suck” get the best of him, and his audience gets to see his pent-up venom explode.
7. The Drunk
Most hecklers are at least a little drunk, but some are really, really, really drunk, so drunk that they forget they’re at a live show and not watching TV at home with friends.
Ari Shaffir integrates a belligerent female heckler into his act seamlessly. In his video description he says, “She tried passively apologizing after the show and I told her to die.”
Amy Schumer came prepared for this lady who had been heckling all night. She aces it.
Some hecklers think about something then yell it out, and others just yell for the sheer thrill of being drunkenly inappropriate. Here’s how Patton Oswalt takes care of the latter. (Heckling begins a little after the 4:00 mark.)
8. The Fake
Some comedians get the best flow by being interrupted, so they actually recruit their own hecklers.
Probably the best way to combat hecklers is to do what Andy Kaufman did — plant fake ones in the audience, or turn the idea of being upset by hecklers into part of his act.