As a standup comedian, I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t had to deal with very many hecklers.
A heckler, for those of you who have never seen live comedy (I’m not judging you), is a person who shouts out to the comedian and interrupts his or her routine.
Side note: A comedy show is NOT the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The shouting out is not encouraged.
But I digress, like I do. Back in the day, I was just starting out as a comedian in Los Angeles. It was many years ago – emphasis on many. It was almost 20 years ago. Yikes!
I had booked a gig at the world famous Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. At the time, the club was owned by Mitzi Shore – mother to Pauly (“Bio Dome,” “Encino Man” and a string of other bad movies). If Mitzi liked your act, you got a lot of work. She had been known to make people’s careers.
I circled the gig on the calendar and realized it was the week my mom was coming to visit.
I didn’t want to cancel the gig and take my mom to Disneyland. It came down to a choice between “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and a comedy career.
So, instead, I asked my mom to come to the Comedy Store and watch me perform.
I got up on stage and started with, “My mom is in the audience and I’m not going to be able to talk about sex or drugs – or anything good.”
And she yelled out, “I don’t want to hear about any of that!”
The first time I was heckled and it was my mother.
Once, I had to drive an hour away to do a gig. When I got there the crowd was watching a hockey game and the show’s producer said, “You guys go on after the hockey game.”
To make matters worse, the home team lost.
The first performer went up and a dude in the audience had heckled her so mercilessly she got off the stage and cried.
Comedy became a blood sport.
I watched the next performer and noticed that there was one drunk guy in the audience who was riling everyone up. He was shouting obscenities at the comedians.
I waited in the wings, terrified. Then I heard my name. It was my turn go out there. Into the wild.
As soon as I got on stage, I took the microphone out of the stand, walked over to the drunk guy’s table, sat down and said, “You seem to have a lot to say. Let’s chat.”
He was stone cold silent and the audience cheered.
Last week, I had a gig in an art gallery. Yeah. I went from playing the Comedy Store to playing an art gallery in Carnegie, but whatever. A gig is a gig.
My mom came to the show. I did not get heckled – by my mom or anyone. I will consider that a win.