Comedians put themselves in situations no one else will. They stand up in front of crowds of people who don’t like them and talk about how sad and weird they are on the inside, then hope everyone laughs. It’s no wonder that sometimes people don't.
So what happens when someone in the audience isn't just unimpressed, but mad? Like lawsuit mad? Or “I’ll see you in the parking lot” mad? To find out, we spoke with four professional comedians about their very worst hecklers.
Years and years ago I used to use a PowerPoint presentation for some of my shows. I wrote a show called Grindr: a Love Story? about all of my Grindr escapades and all the weird shit that had been sent to me and my friends from other people using the app. At one point of the show, I give a little TED Talk on the art of the dick pic. It was basically a piss-take on how to take the perfect dick pic— good lighting, cleaning your mirror before you snap the pic, etc. It ended with a penis mural. I used Google Images to find the dick pics for my content.
After a show one night I received a Facebook message from a guy saying that he had recognised his own dick pic and he was threatening legal action. I spoke with my manager and we decided to remove his dick immediately. Imagine recognising your peen on stage in a comedy show! What are the chances? But I often wonder if, had the legal action gone any further, he would have proved in a courtroom that it was his dick.
I was a very young and fresh comedian to the scene and I wouldn’t pull a stunt like that again. Now I just concentrate on embarrassing myself, not taking the piss out of random dicks from the internet.
Nath is touring Adelaide at the moment.
It was my very first gig in Hollywood. I was fresh off the plane from Australia and I had a short little seven-minute set which I thought went well. So I went to the bathroom after my set and a guy stopped me at the door. He was huge, as big as a boulder. Scary stuff.
“I paid $15 for this show and I didn’t laugh,” he said. I panicked massively and tried to run back into the toilet stall. But he spoke again and yelled, “Make me laugh! I paid fucking $15!” I really didn’t have too many options. So I did my full routine in the bathroom of this shady comedy club in Hollywood. And the crazy thing was, people came in and out of the bathroom during this impromptu seven-minute set. I can’t imagine what they were thinking, but they definitely couldn’t have known that this may have been the most important stand-up comedy gig that I, or any comedian had ever performed. I mean, my life was at stake and I was trying to survive!
Finally he let out a grumbled laugh after my routine and that was the Caesar’s thumb that let me know I’d live another day.
I was doing one of your sticky-floor pub gigs in Melbourne. One night there was a back row of big, bald guys who had decided that once the comedy started, they were the main act.
They heckled the MC mercilessly, and most of the other acts. It felt like something was really brewing in them and I could feel the sweat collecting on me, part terrified, part wanting to put them in their place. When I stepped on stage, the fellas were a bit shocked because I was only female on stage that night.
They held back initially, until I decided I didn’t want to be treated differently and yelled out, “You all okay back there, mates?” and one of them said, “I could be your Dad!” and so I yelled, “You could all be my Dad! He bolted!” And then one said, “Yeah and I could be your Mum!” and they had a good chuckle at that and before I knew what was coming out of my mouth I said, “That’s true, because you’re both little cunts!”
I wanted to actually say that my Mum’s little cunt reminded me of this man’s little cunt. But what happened is I directly insulted both my Mum and this man... and not very well. The c-word rang out over the speakers and travelled in slow motion until it hit the mate in the face. A great gasping silence followed as the air hung low, sweaty and hairy like an actual cunt. A shiver passed over me that I was the one that got it wrong and these men were going to violate all of their “never punch a girl” codes.
Later on they called me over and I checked that the bar staff were watching me, potentially free to protect me if need be, but instead of bashing me—which I was waiting for—they told me I was a legend and beers were bought for me as a round of “good onyas” rained down like they were all my Dads and were very proud ones at that.
Moral of the story: never be afraid to sacrifice your family’s dignity to get beers.
One time, Chopper Read asked me to come out and do some stand-up comedy with him. (This was during Chopper’s brief tenure as a stand up comedian). He picked me up in his car and I sat in the back with these huge blokes next to me. The car had a sunroof and the guys were shooting their guns out the top of the sunroof. Chopper asked me, “You all good mate?” and I said “Yeah, all good!” and then he passed me his gun and said, “Here, try mine!”
At the show, there were sometimes guys who didn’t like Chopper who would come down to the show and try to start shit. They’d be calling him a dog and other names and Chopper would be giving them shit back. Things got really heated and one guy was yelling and screaming and tried to get up on stage. I was trying to push the guy off and I noticed he had a huge buckle with a gun bobbing out of his pants. The crowd starting turning on this guy, so his mates came up to grab him and tried to take him away. He was definitely there to just cause trouble for Chopper.
I was pretty worried. Chopper had security around but these guys weren’t the kind of people you’d want to mess with and I was just trying to make people laugh!
After I finished the show, we went back out to the green room and saw that a brawl had started from an argument with the guys outside. People were bashing each other so Chopper and I ran outside and ducked past the brawl as sirens sounded and the police arrived. We got back into the car quickly and Chopper got me out of there. That was a pretty tough crowd.
Interviews by Sam Howard
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.