August 4, 2007

Dealing with hecklers...

by Chris Randall

In my years of playing live, I had to deal lots of hecklers. Twice I jumped in the audience to try and fight them (which was foolish) and once I stopped the show to have a conversation, which was admittedly lame, but overall I could usually take 'em down in the between-song banter. I have some stock takedowns, but I generally just go with the flow. As you may imagine from reading this site, I'm pretty quick with the mediocre wit.

In any event, the best artist I've ever seen on stage consistently dealing with hecklers is Billy Bragg. I think, by this point, people heckle him just to get him to do his thing between songs. On the tour he did with Wilco doing the Woodie Guthrie stuff, people heckled him between every song, and I couldn't really figure out why someone would pay $45 to see a headliner then talk so much shit, until it occurred to me that dealing with hecklers was kind of his stock in trade, and as entertaining as the show itself. Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) is another one I've seen who's pretty good with that sort of thing.

In any event, I just watched the Kevin Smith pwnage from ComicCon the other day, and have to say that this is more how I'd deal with a heckler than how Billy Bragg would. My thought was always that, well, I have the last laugh for two reasons. (1) I have the microphone, and (2) you paid to see me. So while you might not be entertained, I'm still leaving with your money. That always made me feel better.

How do you deal with hecklers? What's your favorite takedown?



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Aug.04.2007 @ 1:30 PM
Best at dealing with hecklers? Hmm, not sure. Definitely not Michael Richards.

Best drunken between-song banterer? Bob Pollard all the way: link []">link []

""Rolling Stone just published a list of the top 100 guitar players of all time-- and they included Joan Jett. How can you fuckin' put Joan Jett in the top 100 guitar players of all time? Ahead of Pete Townshend! Rolling Stone sucks! They can blow me forever! If anyone here is from Rolling Stone they can blow me. You want some payola? Here's some payola, motherfuckers!"


Aug.04.2007 @ 1:36 PM
i was at a rollins band show in miami long time ago.. early 90's i think..end of silence tour.. there was one really drunk heckler laying into henry in those quite moments of various songs. he just kept playing and looked madder and madder. it was twisted. he had these two fat guys w/him on stage in diapers w/masks on and anyone who would go up on stage to stage dive would get seized by the fatties and grinded on and they would try and take the persons pants off. it was an interesting stage presence and kind of hilarious at times. eventually the drunken heckler got shut up by some chick in front of the stage.

i never get hecklers but usually get someone coming up to the stage and saying "do you have any hip hop?" or "can you play a beat?"

my friend who plays live a lot and DJ's says that whenever someone asks him "do you have any (insert genre here)?" he says "yeah.. i have tons" then goes back to playing his set.

pete townsend deals w/hecklers or people who try to jump up on stage by cracking them in the head w/guitar. thanks abbie hoffman!


Aug.04.2007 @ 2:38 PM
Yeah the whole "do you have any (party music/trance/hip hop/lcd soundsystem/whatever)?" thing is a super annoying beast of a different kind than hecklers. That shit kills me especially when I'm doing a live set. And sometimes they're not even making requests, they just want to talk-- when we put on a show with Bounte last month it seemed like he couldn't get 5 minutes peace without someone trying to have a conversation during his set.

Aug.04.2007 @ 3:19 PM
Dave McAnally
Doesn't seem like I ever had any ongoing heckler issues where I had to come up wtih a stock line. I did kick a guy in the face with steel toes on after he spit beer all over me (note-don't spit beer on guitarists when your face is within punting range of their feet). That was surreal.

Aug.04.2007 @ 3:54 PM
I posted some thoughts on heckling with some interesting examples a little while back. link []">link []

Aug.04.2007 @ 4:46 PM
Chris Randall
That third example is good. You can either ignore a heckler (which in my experience emboldens them) or engage them. If you choose the latter course of action, you have to keep the majority of the audience on your side, or else it just gets sad real quick (as in the case of the acoustic guitar player dude.)

In my experience, the bigger the room, the easier it is to deal with. The Hive Mind is easy to turn, but the smaller the audience, the more individuality can be expressed, and the more free will people will exhibit. This leads to shit like fights, which are always bad, no matter what. (Never mind potential lawsuits, it's just unprofessional.) Of course, the smaller the room, the less likely you are to have security.

But all that said, the end can always be accomplished with words alone. If you actually _invite_ the person to fight, the whole audience turns on you instantly.



Aug.04.2007 @ 6:01 PM
uncle tubby
Gotta agree with Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) being adept at dealing with hecklers. I once saw the Whigs play and someone in the crowd made some nonsense comment which I cannot recall (probably something like "play some Skynyrd man" or some such shit). The show was in Vancouver and so after a few back and forths Dulli says, "Ok, well, you are the second ugliest Canadian ever. After Geddy Lee." I nearly pissed my pants.



Aug.04.2007 @ 10:04 PM
As an aside I saw Billy Bragg boo'ed off stage in the early 80's opening for Echo & The Bunnymen in NYC.. I admit that at the time no one knew who Billy Bragg was and Echo & The Bunnymen are known for their thuggishly witted audience. Cruel days to be sure.

I'm glad my girlfriend made me go to that show.. What a savage bunch.


Aug.05.2007 @ 9:09 AM
I've been playing 'off-stage' lately in brewpubs and I'm amazed how many times people want to talk to me while I'm playing!. WTF?

I was lucky enough to see the late Andreas Segovia play solo classical gtr (no PA) in a 2500 seat audtrium. A woman with cold, coughed constanly so he stops in the middle of a piece and stares at her. After a very looong minute or two, everyone was starting to feel uncomfortable and is looking her way. She became horrified and left.


Aug.05.2007 @ 7:48 PM
c'mon angels,
Who here has heckled? I told Damon Che to shut up and he got me good. Then I told him to shut up. It was a draw. Unbelievable drummer but still a fucking a hole.

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