Milton Jones reveals the secrets to heckling a heckler and creating a memorable bit of comedy.

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Milton Jones: How to make a memorable bit of comedy by heckling a heckler

Unplanned interruptions are the spice that distinguishes stand-up comedy, as both the performer and the audience are aware.

At parties, it’s the most common question comedians are asked.

I’ve worked as a comic for the majority of my life, but I’ve only been floored by a heckle twice.

The first was when someone exclaimed, “These are just words!” In a way, they were right – but it was a little disappointing that they didn’t see what I was trying to accomplish with those words.

I suppose it’s an occupational hazard.

The second time was more upsetting: halfway through my act, someone simply exclaimed, “What is this!” In the long silence that followed, I couldn’t tell whether they were asking what kind of comedy I was doing or if it was a more profound question about the universe.

The longer I thought about it, the more either seemed perfectly reasonable…

Sure, when you first start doing stand-up, even a simple groan or animal noise can throw you off, let alone a full-fledged verbal attack.

However, you quickly learn that when your “script” is interrupted, it becomes completely irrelevant.

Following that, the situation requires you to do several things at once – maintain control, judge intent, and, of course, be amusing.

The audience will start to smell blood and lose faith if you don’t respond at all.

Obviously, who you are on stage – genial observer, aggressive rebel, or just a humble weirdo – affects the tone of your response.

This skill can only be learned on the job.

When you see a comedian deal deftly with an existential threat, it’s usually because they’ve failed to deal with one before.

You must be adaptable, quick-thinking, and capable of allowing your subconscious to make connections.

(To a rowdy stag party of Elvis impersonators: “Oi, lads, a little less chatter!”)

Every heckler believes he or she is assisting.

One or two of them may actually be – asking what happened in the story you didn’t finish or adding to your act.

Insecure comedians are prone to taking good-natured banter too seriously.

It’s also a good idea.

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Milton Jones: How to heckle a heckler and come up with a memorable bit of comedy

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Milton Jones: The secrets of how to heckle a heckler, and make a memorable bit of comedy

This week I have been…

Watching…
Fauda on Netflix. Israel Defence Force vs Al-Qaeda antics. Generally ruthless behaviour with goodies and baddies on both sides and, of course, no real winners. Gripping, topical, and excellent casting. Cops and robbers, Middle East flavour with no rules (Fauda means “chaos” in Arabic). Some people think comedians have the “hardest job in the world” – they definitely don’t. For me, this is post-gig with bottle of beer territory. If I ever need security as a comedian, I will definitely hire some ex-Mossad dudes. Hecklers would “disappear” before they had finished their sentence.

Running…
slowly. I used to go to the gym and occasionally even employ a personal trainer, but now I just do a few exercises, then run along the Thames towpath in west London.

Occasionally, I have to make a detour to avoid a high tide, or take off my shoes and socks and wade through floodwater. It puts me in touch with nature and probably all sorts of waterborne diseases. No headphones, mind – I like the sights, the sounds and the smells.

Running is one of the few things that turns my head off and, who knows, one day I might need to make a speedy exit from a show. People often smile back at me as I jog – but only because they mistake my grimace for a grin.

Listening…
to Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky on audiobook. Normally I just read football autobiographies, but I kept hearing this is a classic. It’s not so much a whodunnit as an “I-dunnit-but-don’t-tell-anyone”. But it’s such a brilliantly nuanced description of guilt and self-deception that you are left wondering what the author himself had to hide. It’s also a fascinating window into the lives of ordinary folk in 1860s St Petersburg. There’s also the occasional amusing anachronism, such as: “He had curly hair like a German on his wedding day.” I like audiobooks for car journeys and working out (exercise, not maths).

(Illustration: Tim Alden)Read More - Featured Image

Milton Jones: The secrets of how to heckle a heckler, and make a memorable bit of comedy

This week I have been…

Watching…
Fauda on Netflix. Israel Defence Force vs Al-Qaeda antics. Generally ruthless behaviour with goodies and baddies on both sides and, of course, no real winners. Gripping, topical, and excellent casting. Cops and robbers, Middle East flavour with no rules (Fauda means “chaos” in Arabic). Some people think comedians have the “hardest job in the world” – they definitely don’t. For me, this is post-gig with bottle of beer territory. If I ever need security as a comedian, I will definitely hire some ex-Mossad dudes. Hecklers would “disappear” before they had finished their sentence.

Running…
slowly. I used to go to the gym and occasionally even employ a personal trainer, but now I just do a few exercises, then run along the Thames towpath in west London.

Occasionally, I have to make a detour to avoid a high tide, or take off my shoes and socks and wade through floodwater. It puts me in touch with nature and probably all sorts of waterborne diseases. No headphones, mind – I like the sights, the sounds and the smells.

Running is one of the few things that turns my head off and, who knows, one day I might need to make a speedy exit from a show. People often smile back at me as I jog – but only because they mistake my grimace for a grin.

Listening…
to Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky on audiobook. Normally I just read football autobiographies, but I kept hearing this is a classic. It’s not so much a whodunnit as an “I-dunnit-but-don’t-tell-anyone”. But it’s such a brilliantly nuanced description of guilt and self-deception that you are left wondering what the author himself had to hide. It’s also a fascinating window into the lives of ordinary folk in 1860s St Petersburg. There’s also the occasional amusing anachronism, such as: “He had curly hair like a German on his wedding day.” I like audiobooks for car journeys and working out (exercise, not maths).

(Illustration: Tim Alden)Read More - Featured Image

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