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.06.2007 @ 6:48 PM
Dave McAnally
I'm kinda the same way (re: fighters were cool when younger, not so much now), but I gotta admit, I'm always entertained by clips of Dave Mustaine flipping out and getting pissed at fans (and he does it all the time) just cos he cops that whole 80's thrasher arrogance thing
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Axl Rose freaking out on the audience was/is entertaining too, even though he's just an asshole all around by from what I can tell.


Aug.08.2007 @ 5:51 PM
In the documentary Dig!, some guy heckles the Brian Jonestown Massacre at a sparsely populated gig, and Anton promptly kicks him in the face from up on stage, snapping the guy's head back with considerably force... which promptly landed him in jail, booked for assault with a deadly weapon.

I've seen a member of a local misogynist/shock/comedy/grossout band called The Shit Thieves get so fed up with a heckler that he picked up his mike stand and whacked the guy in the face with the butt of it. Happened to be recording the show and the THUD of the mic stand making contact came through quite nicely. :)

I've been heckled by a drunks who wanted Stone Temple Pilots instead of the acoustic country we were doing, and wouldn't shut up no matter how nicely we explained that we were playing acoustic guitars while wearing cowboy hats and embroidered western shirts, and maybe he was in the wrong place. Eventually his appalled girlfriend hauled him off. Been annoyed by drunken and surly lesbians who were absolutely incensed that I wouldn't play a Jewel song for them, and would not stop berating me. Eventually, after many polite refusals, I told them that I'd be more inclined to play anything they wanted to hear if they were more inclined to put something in the tip jar for once. This seemed to (finally) shock them into silence, and I quit the gig at that bar shortly thereafter.

On the other hand, one of the waitresses consistently requested my originals by name.

Any time you play music in front of people who are drinking, you're running the risk of someone who wants to get involved, and thinks yelling at you is more entertaining then listening to you.


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