How to Shut Down Trolls and Dickheads, According to the Experts
Our experts include a defence lawyer, a mixed martial artist and a small child.
You've probably been there before. In the middle of a verbal spar with someone, you're suddenly standing there, completely blanking on a comeback. You're afraid of saying something unfunny because it will thrust you further into your already deepening hole of embarrassment. So instead, you stay silent and accept that you've lost the argument. If only the fight took place on Twitter, where every comeback is perfect and essential. (This is where sarcasm font would come in handy.)
In an era where a gif can be confused with wit, it's pretty easy to think most people are fairly clever, which is why an actual IRL fight stings so bad when you miss the opportunity for a much-needed burn.
But for some people—mostly professionals—coming up with an appropriate kiss-off line seems to be a lot easier.
So we turned to a comedian, a former NHL player, a defense lawyer, a mixed-martial artist, and others—all of whom have dealt with their share of enemies—to give us the low down on how to tell off our haters IRL.
Dave Merheje, Stand-Up Comedian
Some months I won't run into a heckler, and other months I will. Usually, the heckler is either like, "I just don't like you," so they'll just start saying shit, or other times they think they're helping [my act], and after they'll just be like, "Hey man, sorry about that, but I just thought I was helping." Well, we're not a duo.
Hecklers are like that one person in everybody's circle that thinks they're funny. For example, imagine a saxophonist, or somebody who plays the flute. I don't know anybody who plays the flute, so if I'm at a show, and I see someone playing it, I'm not going to heckle them. But when somebody who thinks they're funny is at a [stand-up] show, it's psychologically easier for them to be like, "I can say shit to this person." But I don't really have a go-to phrase in response. It's usually what's in the moment.
One time we did this show in Ajax, Ontario, back in the day, and this dude was there with some of his employees at a work event—I think he worked at a grocery store. This guy just kept going at me, and I don't remember the exact things I said, but I kind of shut him off. And then after the show, he wanted to fight me. But I was with a bunch of other comics who were on the show, so they protected me.
Then later at his job, he was in a grocery aisle working, and another co-worker came up to him and was just like, "Hey man, way to ruin a comedy show." The dude punched his co-worker, and then he got fired! This guy worked at that grocery store for like eight years, he built a foundation there, and threw it all away on one knockout. We were laughing for years. It was like justice.
Anyway, sometimes someone in the audience will say something charming or witty and you just play with it because I don't think their intention is to derail you. But other times, it is. As you grow as a comic, and as a person, you know how to handle it better in more of a charming way where the audience is with you. Instead of just going, "Shut the fuck up, you piece of shit," just spin it on them and ideally turn everyone against that person. That's what you want to do.
Terry Ryan, Former Montreal Canadien
You deal with a lot of hecklers on the way [to the NHL] because usually people who make it that far are good players growing up, and they probably stood out. For me, it started in minor hockey.
Honestly, what I did when I hit major junior, which is the best under 20 in the world, I wrote like 15 or 20 [chirps] down so I could have them in my head. But it's not like it was bothering me. I just wanted to have a comeback.
Now I just laugh at it.
One night we were playing the Blackhawk,s and I had my first shift in three games, and one of their players looked at me when I was on the ice and said, "Does your coach know you're out here?" [It's] shit like that.
But I think it's part of the game, and if they say something funny, I'll chirp back.
For example—and none of this is going to make me look good—but if someone chirped me in Montreal, let's say I was on the ice and a fan said, "Ryan, my rum and coke gets more ice than you do." I might say to them, "Where can I pay to watch you drive your cab?" In other words, more thanks for paying my salary.
Or there's the, "Yeah we're losing the game, but your face is always going to look like that." If they've got a big head: "Hey bud, I don't know if I'd rather win the lotto or have your head full of nickels." It's just second nature at this point.
You could google hockey chirps, and there would be like a thousand of them. They just get reused and recycled, and people laugh.
If you're going up that ladder and you're making money in any sport, you're making a good paycheck. So you expect people to do it because they're paying to come watch you. I don't know many people that would really let it get to them.
Kim Schofield, DefenSe Attorney
I'll never forget this one case, from early in my career: It was a nasty sexual interference case, so sexual assault of a child, and there were some reasons why the kid was lying, and there was a divorce going on. So I'm there, a very young lawyer. I'm against two crown attorneys, and it's in front of the jury. I remember thinking on the way there, if I can get through this, I can get through anything. I was successful, and the client was acquitted. So the crown attorney came up to me, this woman who I still have dealings with, and she just said, as close to me as she could get, "You disgust me." I've carried that with me through my whole career.
I was just dumfounded. I was shocked that someone would treat me in that fashion. But I think in retrospect, the best way to deal with that is through time and through building up your own integrity and your own credibility and not to be knee-jerk. Sometimes you have to just take it.
Let's say you're representing someone charged with a murder, and the family members have been known to approach defense councils. Obviously, they treat you with hatred, vitriol, etc. But I would say that in those cases, you have to just take it. You can't respond. Because it's not about you as a person.
I think the only response is a non-response. Haters are haters, they're going to hate you regardless.
Elias "The Spartan" Theodorou, UFC Middleweight
When I was younger, I got into mixed-martial arts because of my love of getting into high school fights. I was never the person that started them, but I always finished them. Anyone with their own insecurities would constantly call me [names] and constantly push me. So I would rightfully beat them up and take their girl or something like that. Many, many people grossly overestimate how capable they are in regards to fighting.
Whether it's haters, naysayers, or just people who are on the opposing team, I've started loving the boos that I get.
With social media, I take it with a grain of salt. Online, some people will maybe not like me as a fighter, not like my style or something. But it doesn't really matter what anyone thinks or says to some extent. People just say horrible things to get your attention.
On my last birthday during my training camp, UFC tweeted out a happy birthday to me and some random dude was basically like, "Hope you enjoy your birthday because this is the last one you're going to have. [Your opponent] going to kill you." I was just like, it's my fucking birthday, can you just chill?
So what I did was retweet him and say, "Thank you for these birthday wishes," and then at that point, my little Twitter Spartan Army took him for me.
Also, you can do something called a Twitter audit, so it will take the analytics from [an account] and show how many fake users they have. I did that on his, and low and behold, he only had 9 percent real Twitter followers. So I tagged him in it and said something like, "More proof that so and so is living in his mom's basement spewing hate because he's not too fond of his own situation."
That actually had more pushback from my followers, and I don't think he's tweeted too much since. At least that guy, @jerkface69 or whoever he is, is gone.
Mirna Eljazovic, Former Bouncer
As a bouncer, I used to be hated on a lot just for the fact that I'm a female. Men would be like, "Oh, you guys have the bartender out here doing security? That can't be very serious."
With bouncing, our set of haters is a little different from a lot of other people's set of haters because ours will actually hurt you. It was totally normal that I would deny someone access because they weren't dressed right or were too drunk, and I would have people telling me they would wait for me outside when I'm done my shift.
Threats don't ever mean anything. I laugh at stuff like that. Nobody who warns you about hitting you is ever going to hit you. It's the people who just hit. And I'll hit back, hell yeah. I've been in more fights than I can count over five years. If you hit me first, that's open season.
I'm nice to people at daycare. Sometimes I get mad, and sometimes I don't.
My friend Ben doesn't annoy me. But Jason pushed me down a lot of times. When Jason's annoying, I say, "No way."
If someone is being annoying or mean to you, say, "Stop, no way." Or at least that's what my Grandma said to do.
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