Hecklers: A Comedian’s Best Defense (Video Interview Segment Included)

The best defense that I know of for dealing with hecklers as a stand-up comedian is to have the audience laughing throughout their entire show — no matter how long or short that show may be.

That’s right — the most effective way to reduce heckling is to be as funny as possible with the tightest act possible because…

When an audience is laughing loudly and frequently, they are not heckling.

I would also go so far to say that 80%-90% of the heckling a comedian experiences on the stand-up comedy stand is caused by the comedian themselves.

Now I’m sure somebody reading this will say to themselves:

“Well, I’m not getting any funnier, so I need some better heckler techniques.”

And to this I would respond…

Then you probably don’t need to call yourself a comedian.

Why does heckling happen in the first place?

While there are a number of possible reasons, the top two are:

1. The comedian’s material is not funny

2. The comedian is riffing or interacting with the audience in a way that’s not funny

Notice that the key phrase “not funny” shows up in both instances, which is also known as bombing.

No comedian is immune from the occasional heckler, no matter how skilled or talented they may be.

But it seems ridiculous to exacerbate the situation with a stand-up comedy act that most audiences don’t find funny or even worse, contributes to audience heckling.

Related Video Interview Segment On How To Deal With Hecklers:

Here’s the bottom line:

If a comedian is able to produce headliner level laughter consistently from audiences (an average of 18+ seconds of laughter for each minute they are on stage), they are going to have far, far fewer episodes with hecklers than a comedian who produces less laughter.

If a comedian wants to suck on stage but not deal with any hecklers…

I would recommend that they try karaoke.

That’s the only performing environment that I know of where a performer can suck, be funny because they suck and not get heckled.

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5 Replies to “Hecklers: A Comedian’s Best Defense (Video Interview Segment Included)”

  1. Its really easy to tell if you suck or if the heckler is an idiot. I once saw a comedian where a man in the audience roared ”BUMBUM”, he was obviously an idiot, or drunk, or both.

  2. It is very true “no comedian is immune from the ocassional heckler…” The key word is ocassional. If you are getting heckled most of the time, you probably stink! (You probably could remove probably from the above sentence.) I think the difference is, when you are preforming at the headliner level, the audience is on your side. The heckler sounds stupid. So you could either ignore the outburst or do a snappy comeback (which I’ve seen some pros just give a funny look) and the aufience laughs. When you and your material suck, the crowd is cheering for the heckler.

    • I agree. When good comedians get “heckled”, it’s almost always someone who’s talking to their friends too loud, not really heckling. It still has to be dealt with, of course. If they have a real heckler, the person is probably drunk. But these should be rare occurrences. Someone who gets heckled on a regular basis probably just isn’t funny. They either need to quit comedy, or radically change their act.

      • I read on a professional comedians website that if the audience are talking but half-listening to you, get quieter, than they’ll put their full concentration into listening to you.

  3. That’s actually good advice for a lot of questions in comedy —- “Just Get Funny.” If you get really funny, it solves a lot of problems. “How do I get club owners to book me?” Get Funny. ?How do I get people to shut up during my act?” — Get Funny. “How do I start getting paid?” — Get funny. Good stuff.