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Drunks. Wiseguys. Louis C.K. wannabes. We’ve all had ’em. Here are three ways to deal with these show-stopping pests.

1. The Steve Martin Method

Dude in the fourth row drowning you out with his commentary? This one works well if you’re monologuing, or already downstage.

Look out to the audience, smile fondly and say, “I remember my first beer.” Then continue your scene.

(From Martin’s autobiography, Born Standing Up)

2. The Tom Vest Method

You’re doing a grounded two-person scene when a couple of dweebs decide to have their own conversation. Loudly.

Calmly walk downstage (or simply turn to face the audience).

Lean your upper body over, as if you’re sticking your head through an open window.

Yell “Shut up!”

Pull your head back in and mime closing the window. Bonus points for locking it, or pulling the curtains shut.

3. The Matt Folliott Method

For fearless performers only.

Bring the heckler up on stage and make them part of the show.

Matt did this during a show at Comedy Bar, and basically used the (by then mute) heckler as a silent scene partner. Genius.

Got any tried and true methods you’d like to share? Post a comment below.

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4 Comments

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  1. May 9, 2012

    When I did improv in Vancouver, we used to have a thing where if a cell phone rang, we would stop the scene, jump into the audience and grab the phone and answer it. We had long conversations with the caller (“Hello? No, this is Josh. Yeah. No, I’m just in the middle of an improv scene right now. Yeah, no, no problem, they will call you back later.”) Sometimes we would confiscate the phone. It got to a point after a few months where if a phone went off, the whole crowd would go “uh-oh!” and laugh because they knew what was coming.

  2. Peter Cianfarani #
    May 9, 2012

    Usually stand ups will tell you NEVER to let the heckler have the mic but I think that’s a mistake. They already have the floor but are in a shielded, comfortable environment. I say, put them in the spotlight and make them perform, not cut up what you were doing but actually do stand up (or improv or sketch). If they fail, GOOD, serves them right (and any other potential hecklers will learn their lesson). If they are funny, do like Jamie Kennedy does; sit in the front row and heckle them (“Boo” “You Suck” “Who buys your clothes for you”) before the get on a roll.

    • May 9, 2012

      Agree. I think it depends on the comfort level of the performer with doing this, but if someone in the audience wants to take focus, why not give it to them?

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