By Nick O’Connell
There’s a saying in comedy: it’s not a matter of ‘if ’ you get heckled, but ‘when’. I recently was involved in this sacred, sacred initiation right at a gig in Adelaide’s delightful northern suburbs.
After seeing some members of the audience and hearing their reactions to some of the other performers’ jokes, I realised very quickly I would need to dumb down the language that I was using. I should point out I wasn’t exactly trying to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity; it was a banal piece about the idiots I have had to serve at various retail jobs. It was some new stuff intertwined with some old stuff that I knew would please the crowd. This was my first mistake. All of my gigs bar one have been in proper comedy venues, full of people ready and wanting to laugh. This particular venue was the foyer of the Playford Civic Centre, and the scant audience was filled with people who apparently didn’t mind the odd semi-racist joke. My jokes would do very well at the Rhino Room in the CBD; the Lizbef Locals would prove to be less understanding of my attempts at humour.
The first heckle was less of a witty remark and more of a drunken vocalisation. I didn’t quite hear it or understand it, but I pushed on despite the interruption to my routine. At this point I stopped caring about the reaction from the crowd. They weren’t really there to laugh and I wasn’t going to come down to their level. There were four main tables in the front row, two were polite and laughed when appropriate, and two 19 had drunk enough Jack Daniel’s to support Tennessee’s economy for the next 300 years. It was these two tables that gave the comedians the most trouble.
The people on these tables paid $25 for a night of comedy just to ruin it with stupid comments that only their fellow idiots found funny. I don’t understand why people would heckle a comedian and ruin the night not only for the rest of the audience, but for themselves.
The second heckle came as I was wrapping up my set, but this time it was more understandable and a little intimidating. I gradually got angrier and angrier, then paused and straightened myself up. It was during this pause that the same woman who had heckled at me before yelled, “I can’t wait to heckle you mate.” I promptly decided to say goodnight and left the stage.
It wasn’t exactly my best gig, but it provided me with some valuable experience. I’m now a little more prepared if an audience member pipes up during my set, and I also learnt that audiences differ depending on the venue. I may have been heckled, I may not have got as many laughs as I had wanted, but instead of dimming my passion for comedy, it has only motivated me.
Follow Nick on Twitter @nd_oconnell, or hit up his blog ‘Witty, Pithy And None Of The Above’ wpanota.wordpress.com.