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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Comedy Tour: The Heckler

Posted by Alex Falcone on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 9:59 AM

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[Editor's Note: Up-and-comer comedian/actor Alex Falcone—who you've seen perform with Action/Adventure theater, as well in the live talk show Late Night Action w/ Alex Falcone—will be furnishing semi-regular updates from the road to give us an inside peek at the real life of a struggling comic. Want more Alex? Check out his website and his podcast Read It and Weep—a funny show about bad books, movies, and TV.]

THE HECKLER

Saturday, June 9th - Westminster, CO

When people find out I'm a comic, the most common question is about dealing with the fearsome North American Heckler. The problem is, and this is not a popular opinion among comedians but I'm pretty sure I'm right, 99% of the time hecklers only exist in your imagination.

"But Mr. Funny Comedian Blogger Guy, I've seen comedians make fun of hecklers tons of times." Probably not. What you saw was a comedian on stage lashing out at an audience member, which isn't the same thing. Also, you can call me Alex.

Here's what I'm saying: yes, people talk during comedy shows. But that doesn't make them hecklers. The only time I've ever seen an audience member actually tell a comic "You suck!" was at an Applebee's, and in the heckler's defense, the comedian did suck and the restaurant hadn't told it's diners they were going to be subjected to an amateur comedy show.

You'll almost never see that kind of response from the audience at an actual comedy venue. "So what's actually happening, if it's not heckling?" I'm glad you asked, Previous Sentence. It's one of two things:

[1] People talk to each other and it's distracting for both performer and audience. They're terrible human beings, but they're not hecklers. These are the same people that talk loudly into cell phones on the bus, and you'd never say they're heckling the driver.

[2] Somebody in the audience says something to the comedian because she thinks she's helping. This is the most common situation and it's actually the opposite of heckling.

During a show last night I mentioned that blah blah blah "penguin love is forever" blah blah (it's a better joke when I say it out loud). A young lady yelled, "Penguins are my favorite animal!" Not a heckle, she just lost control of her inner/outer voice regulator because of how much fun she's having. I frequently get small additions to jokes, people guessing the punchline before it comes, or just plain compliments "That was funny!" Thanks. I also think it's funny. That's why I wrote it down and then said it into a microphone at a comedy club.

Many comics believe they're doing a piece of scripted theater where the audience is behind an invisible wall. They think they're artists, albeit ones painting with a brush made out of dick jokes. If the audience does anything besides listen politely and laugh on cue, they're cretins. So when somebody yells "Penguins are my favorite animal" they lash out with "shut up you drunk bitch."

I think this anti-heckling is great for the show in small doses. I can respond quickly (as I am a professional) and then I look like a genius. Then I move on quickly so the show doesn't become a survey of everybody's favorite animals.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP, INCLUDING $$$$$$!

Sunday, June 9 - Aurora, CO

I got paid! I mention this because apparently this is sometimes an issue. Long time comics sometimes insist on getting paid in cash because they've had checks from clubs bounce before. I'm not really worried about it, but I've been warned enough that I'm glad to have the money in my hand. Actually it's a hollowed out book in my backpack because I enjoy feeling like a spy.

Speaking of money (writing of money?), I've been told you might be interested in how much money I make. At the feature level, at these types of clubs, the answer is "a tolerable amount". Clubs will usually provide lodging, but they don't cover any other expenses. For the interested, here are the cold, hard numbers from my first trip.

Payment for 11 shows: $750
Plane ticket: -$248
Gas: -$72
Food: -$175
Profit hiding in my hollow book: $255

I need to eat while I'm home, so let's say my half of the groceries cost $50. Thus, I made about $300 for 10 days. There's obviously other benefits to working the road like this; 11 shows is a lot of stage time to refine my jokes and delivery. I also met more comedians who could get me more and better paying work, and I got in front of 1,000 potential fans.

Basically, I'm thinking of this year as my comedy internship. I'm making a little money and learning the trade. Next year, I expect to be crazy rich.

Monday, June 10 - Portland, OR

I'm flying back to Portland today for a couple days to kiss my fiancée (not continuously), wash my laundry, and repack everything.

Before taking off, I decided to Tweet "I'm more worried about the world disappearing while I'm in the air than the plane crashing. Stay safely where you are, earth!" In addition to being funny, I wanted to prove that I don't believe in jinxes. Mere seconds later the captain announced that we were going to be delayed for mechanical trouble. If you're reading this, assume that the universe let me off with that warning and didn't take any drastic action.

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