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Published on June 10th, 2012 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Defending the Indefensible: Heckling as an Artform

From the “how can this possibly be okay” files…

If you frequent Reddit, you become accustomed to your faith in humanity being challenged.  But the smaller the subreddit (topic area), the safer your sensibilities tend to be.

Take /r/StandupComedy, for one.  Lots of young comics learning, lots of comedy fans sharing.  Happy place.

Enter user wav4rm, in a discussion about the documentary Heckler, to fix all that.

“I’m in a club whose express purpose is to go hikeling (hiking followed by heckling). We go to local comedy clubs once every month or two. But we’re trying to explore the role of the heckler from an artistic standpoint – recognizing that a good heckler can save a comic who is dying onstage, etc. we always stick around to talk to the comics, and do our best to self-police for shitty/unfunny/poorly-timed heckling. I personally hoped this film would explore that concept a bit more, but what little time it spent on the topic was pretty interesting.”

Yes, you read correctly.  Planned, predetermined, purposeful heckling.  In a group.  Because they are artists, don’tcha see.

We’ve all heard the post-show rallying cry of the drunken douche: “I was just helping ya out!”.  But this guy has a new spin: it’s a social experiment, to, like, push the boundaries of interaction ‘n stuff.

Lest you think wav4rm is simply trolling with a throwaway account, think again: he’s remarkably easy to track down.  The same account includes posts about dj’ing, and attending a Scottsdale, AZ burner event (as in Burning Man). A DJ Wav4rm, aka Mike Garcia, is also based in Scottsdale (Facebook Twitter).

So this is sadly real. And woe, he seems to have thought it through, at great length.  Despite other comics in the thread trying to reason with him, and staying remarkably calm in the process, he remains adamant that his pursuit is admirable.

Gems include:

“Standup is an interactive art form, not one to be quietly observed and then politely applauded. As such, I’m interested in the boundaries of the interactions in standup.”

“we’ve “converted” about 80% of the comics who we’ve talked to.”

“We all strive to be really good hecklers.”

“heckling is an essential and sometimes hilarious interaction”

 “We’re not there to disrupt someone who’s killing, we’re there to help. Honestly.”

 “We’re honestly and soberly trying to help dying comedians in small rooms. Better us be their helpful hecklers than somedrunk roid rage dude tell them theyre not funny”

“My feeling is, if you can’t deal with the live aspect of performance, record your jokes at home and upload them to YouTube.”

And to answer the most obvious question: no, he’s never done standup himself.

Much of the exchange, still growing at the time of this writing, can be found here.

(You may have to manually expand the comments, as they’ve been downvoted so heavily that they’ve become automatically hidden.)

Have any Arizona comics encountered this guy?  What would you say to him if he interrupted your set and unloaded this philosophy on you afterwards?

About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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