I don’t envy what Patton Oswalt had to do at one of the best comedy shows I’ve ever seen.
He was dealing with a very vocal heckler in the front row, and her extremely polite friend. This boorish annoying person had a gravely voice and a sharp temper, like she was the female equivalent of Frank from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. She shouted things that made absolutely no sense, constantly. Patton dubbed her, “Snagglepuss.
“Fuck you,” shouted Snagglepuss, to which Patton remained adroit and shut her down. This repeated until Snagglepuss stormed off. The crowd cheered. Patton was our hero. It was hilarious.
You know what else was hilarious? When that guy vomited over the balcony at the Broadway production of Grace.I see virtually no difference between those two stories.
Please read Steve’s full post, a response to this wrong-headed defense of heckling in the Chicago Tribune by two critics whose work is otherwise thoughtful and considered. Steve dismantles each of their arguments, piece by piece. It’s a well-informed discussion of comedy from someone who’s been a comedian, critic and comedy producer.
My take? The Trib piece rests on redefining stand-up comedy as audience-participation improv. If you have to re-contextualize the art you’re criticizing then you’re no longer offering a criticism of that art. (“Hey, what if we wrote a defense of heckling?” “That’s so crazy, it just might work!”) It reads more like a creative exercise or editor’s folly than a serious examination of heckling.