Saturday, January 31, 2009

hecklers and haters.

First, let me say that you should be thankful that you're not a stand-up comedian. I thank myself at least once a month that I've never felt the urge to get up on stage and make people laugh. See, comedians understand that you have to take you knocks. You will get verbally beaten up on stage by hecklers. Often. Think about it: the comedy club environment encourages hecklers. Walking onto a stage in an attempt to make people laugh has to totally suck if you don't have your own Comedy Central special.
Unlike we musicians, comedians who tour the country have to adapt their acts to their ever changing demographics. The routine that worked in Boston may totally flop in Salt Lake City. And, there's only one way to test if a routine works or not...
Those who can grow thick skin (or are at least quick-witted enough to ward off rebuttals) eventually earn their place on stage amongst the weathered professionals.

All that being said, if you stick with performing you will eventually run into hecklers. Lucky for me in all the years that we've performed, I've only run into two. One time back in 2000 when we played an arts complex a guy yelled for me to show my boobs. The other time happened in 2006 at a rough rock club here in ATL. Just days after Thanksgiving, we picked up the show last minute. We didn't have our regular 4 piece, it was just Robert and I and a Roland recorder.
I heard it was a tough place to play. I'll be the first to admit that we were out of place there. We're more artsy-provocative. I mean, we had backing tracks and an acoustic guitar. This venue wanted rockabilly and domestic beer the regulars could afford. I heard the animals in there throw beer cans at you sometimes. Ladies and Gentlemen: this is where the grown-up neglected children of Georgia go to drink.
It started probably in the third song. One of the regulars started in on me and my outfit while I was on stage (at least they weren't slamming our music). They continued being disruptive through the whole set. It was one of the few times I didn't feel comfortable on stage.
Alright, fine. We cut the set short, got the fuck out of there and let the yokels have their drinking hole.

I wish I could tell you methods to debunk heclkers. But, there really aren't any. Every experience is different. You will see for yourself what I mean. My advice to you is to take it as it goes. Don't get discouraged. Or, if you do, you're slimming the herd for the rest of us.

Am I bitter about my heckling experiences? Yeah, probably a little bit. But, it would never stop me from continuing. I'd rather be on the stage having the time of my life rather than cowering in the dark trying to impress my friends. We all take our knocks. If you get on a stage and perform professionally, prepare. For one day you will be heckled. An old Improv friend once told me, "you can be on the stage or in the audience. Make your choice." And, I did.
At least I'm not doing improv.

Kristen Strezo