Punchline Magazine analysis: Is it ever OK to heckle a comedian?

The implicit agreement when you go to a live comedy show — whether it’s stand-up, sketch, or improv — is that you are there to be entertained and hopefully you do some laughing. Thus, the dynamic of a comedy show should be: the audience sits and listens and the comedian or group of comedians make their attempt, whether it be a failure or a success, to entertain.

In the video below, comedian Jarrod Harris tells a story about being contacted through MySpace; a very drunk-sounding woman felt the need to pipe up to tell him that Facebook is now the preferred social networking site. Keep in mind, this happened at a comedy club where people pay to get in and watch comedy as opposed to a bar or a coffee shop where patrons are “ambushed” with comedy.

The rest of the audience is intently listening to Harris. Even so, the woman in the video, like other hecklers, thought she needed to add her input to the show. Hilarious sidenote: the woman in the video says she’s smarter than Harris while informing him about the popularity of Facebook.

As people pay to be entertained, are they granted any right at a comedy show to call out or comment on the performer because they don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth? Any comedian of any type would certainly tell you that audience members don’t get the right to potentially ruin everyone else’s night because they’re not having a good time or are irked at a specific moment, especially since the option to walk out is always there.

Yet, over the last several months, I’ve talked to several people who say they actively go to comedy shows and take it upon themselves to “help” the show if they perceive the performer is bombing. These real people almost think it’s their right to do so.

In an absolutely perfect world, everyone who took the stage would be funny and everyone who paid an entry fee would laugh, but. But that’s not going to happen.

So, what do you think? Is there comedy show etiquette (as I’ve outlined at the start of this post) to be observed? Or is that thrown out when someone pays to see a show and is not entertained? Is there ever a moment when someone should heckle?

Jake Kroeger

Jake Kroeger has dedicated his life, for better or probably worse, to comedy. Starting and continually running the Comedy Bureau, a voice for LA comedy, by himself, he also writes and performs stand-up comedy in LA and watches more live comedy than is probably humanly tolerable. He's been a daily contributor to Punchline Magazine, now Laughspin.com because he loves and believes in comedy so much. Said of Kroeger, "...without his dangerously insane, unhealthy work ethic, certain comics would not have any press at all."

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