Matt Baker on Comedy Fest Hecklers: Shut up

If you’re a heckler, you’re a terrible human being [by Matt Baker]

In the first two weeks of the 2014 International Comedy Festival, I’ve been lucky enough to see fifteen shows. As a reviewer of theatre, it’s been a great, if not difficult, opportunity to expand my critical analysis of the arts. From a sell-out crowd in The Civic, to some undeservedly small audiences of first-class comedy, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve seen.

There is, however, one thing that has ruined my ability to fully enjoy a handful of these shows. Hecklers. For 99% of you reading this, the concept of heckling is about as easy to comprehend as advanced physics. I, for one, genuinely cannot understand the thought process of a heckler. It takes people of a very particular predisposition to believe that what they have to yell out is either helpful or funny in any way. More often than not, these people are inebriated to some extent, but inebriates are not an uncommon constitute of the comedy festival audience. There has to be something inherent in the heckler’s personality, and that something makes them a terrible, terrible human being. Yes, heckler. You are a terrible human being. Your ‘contribution’ is literally the worst thing a person can do in a comedy show.

Without attempting to reduce or categorise the entire spectrum of human emotion, an audience essentially has three options in a comedy show: laugh, clap, or neither. You don’t have to like every joke, but you don’t need to articulate your thoughts in reaction to them. Unless you’re directly addressed by the comedian or comedienne, there is absolutely no reason to speak during a comedy show – and this includes talking to your friends.

From the moment you open your mouth, the entire audience bands together in hating who and what you are. I’ve even witnessed audience members heckling the hecklers in a bid to shut them up. Three times. In three separate shows. Not only that; every heckler I’ve seen has been slammed by the comedian. Your strike rate is shockingly bad. The statistics are against you, and yet, there’s something deep inside your ugly, black soul, that makes you think that somehow, by yelling something out, you’re going to be the star of the night; that man or woman who nailed the comedian. It doesn’t work. It never works, so, please, for the sake of the remaining acts and audiences for the 2014 International Comedy Festival, and every comedy act from now until the end of time, I implore you to shut the f*ck up.

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