Soap Box

Entitled to heckle

So you’ve been offended by a stand-up comedian. Congrats. It finally happened. 

You might be thinking, as a newly empowered adult:  “It’s my right to let everyone know how offended I am.”  You may have even downed a few alcoholic beverages, so heckling is definitely becoming an option. However, you might want to consider your other options. 

None of this is groundbreaking, or even new. Many have covered this territory before, take Louis CK and Patton Oswalt, for example. This should really be common knowledge, but sadly, it isn’t. This is merely a public service announcement. 

If you’re at a comedy club and you feel the comedian has gone too far, you have a few basic options. You could walk out quietly and go home. You could protest silently: Do not laugh, clap or make a sound. Comedians hate it when you don’t laugh. 

You could also interrupt the performer: heckle the comedian and get your valueless point across. You have free will, so you could do that.

The first two would be wiser choices. If you choose the third, you will have waived your right to enjoy the show, even if you’ve paid to be there. The comedian is now well within his or her rights to verbally trash you. I mean, really badly humiliate you. And they will. 

The crowd will laugh at you. Rightly so. 

You’ve just ruined a comedy show for who knows how many people. Prepare to reap the consequences. Did you come to the show with your significant other? They’ll also be mocked for dating a discourteous simpleton. The comedian will make an example of you. 

You’ll be treated with the same respect you treated everyone else. It’s never okay to heckle a comedian, or any performer. Never. Even if you’re drunk. Even if it’s your friend’s birthday. There’s no excuse.

You might be thinking: “But Tony, you didn’t see this comic. He was super offensive!” Super offensive?! Why didn’t you tell me? This brings us to option number four.

Look around. Is the rest of the audience becoming a frothing, angry mob of unbridled offense? Are they on your side? If so, they’ll likely walk out with you, much to the comic’s chagrin. If not, consult the first three options. If this problem persists, stick to watching comedy on TV in the safety of your private residence. 

If you become offended, here are your home-options...

You could walk out of your house. Leave the TV on, drive to an empty parking lot and wait until the show ends. “Make it go away,” is a popular choice: Pick up your remote and hit the power button, or just smash your screen with a blunt object. 

You could also heckle your TV. Shout in protest, weep openly, and breathe into a paper bag. In this case, the heckling is permitted, because it’s your house. Your TV. Your blunt object. 

The comedy club does not belong to you. If you’ve paid admission, that’s fine. At most, you may be entitled to ask for your money back, but not to interrupt the artist on stage. You’re certainly entitled to feel offended. However, that wordless feeling is the only thing to which you’re entitled.

Tony Hinds is a Uniter beat reporter. He also writes about comedy (and movies and TV) for ShowbizMonkeys.com.

Published in Volume 69, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 11, 2015)

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