Following a recent stand up gig I thought I’d share an experience I had dealing with hecklers.

[Note: This was not in a theatre environment where the comedian is unseen until the show. It was in an informal environment at a football club where the acts mingle with the guests until their spot. My solution relates to this environment.]


I was closing a show, meaning that I was on last which gave me an opportunity to get a feel for the room and watch the other acts.

Right away there’s a quick tip to comedians:

Where possible, when headlining, try to get there early enough to watch the other earlier acts. You can learn so much about the room, the logistics (mic/lighting/stage) and of course the audience.

Arriving early helped me enormously. I watched as a heckler continually interjected mistaking the show for a 2 way conversation. Unfortunately, he was seated right next to the stage and worse, to the side where the performer least directed their attention. The stage was in an odd position meaning that 90% of the audience was to the left unlike the heckler tucked in to the right. The heckler’s location meant that much of what he called out could only be heard by the comedian and a few others. This is the most frustrating fact. It’s better if a heckler can be heard by everyone because then the whole audience is affected and supports your predicament. When you continually stop due to a disturbance only you can hear then you need to either ignore it and move on or spend time explaining what’s happening to the audience up the back.

Throughout the night, the heckler was dealt with by the earlier acts to varying degrees of success. At one point the heckler calmed down only to be replaced by another at the same table. I watched this knowing that I was still to perform in over 30 minutes time – plenty of time for the audience to smash down a few more beverages and completely lose the plot.

What was going to happen? This was a footy club gig and the audience were all friends. Would they all turn on me as one?

Through experience I knew I had something in my favour – a 20 minute break. After the 2nd bracket the audience were scheduled to have a dinner break. It was to be very informal though with people milling around the room chatting. This was my chance to quickly and easily negate the hecklers’ power.

I simply went up to the two hecklers at the bar and introduced myself as the final comedian of the night. I asked them their names and then I peppered them with the least alpha male questions possible: “Do you have children at the football club?” “How old are your kids?” “What are you raising funds for?” After a few minutes they dropped their macho crap and I was their best friend.

At this point I’ve also removed their anonymity. I now knew them and they knew me. I released a pressure valve allowing them to chat to me now rather than later.

A few minutes later I started my 30 minute set. I began with a quick reference to each of them by name. I didn’t look at them while doing this, I simply included them in my opening and moved on. Something like “I was chatting with Brian and Mick at the bar and they told me…” etc) Not only did this empower the hecklers in a positive way but it also showed the rest of the crowd that I was in control of the situation.

At this point it’s very difficult for the hecklers to play power games with me (i.e. heckle) when they both know me, like me and have no need to force their way into the show when I’ve already included them.

In the end the two hecklers sat back looking content and laughed their way through my set.

The lesson is: Don’t think that hecklers always have to be dealt with from the stage, if you get the opportunity, deal with them earlier off stage. It’s easier and more effective.

Good luck!

Having just returned from working in Japan, I have missed much of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I am however about to perform in a great show called “Who’s Your Daddy?” over the next 3 nights. Can’t wait. Someone must have found out I’m a dad to 3 kids under 5!

I’ve been having a ball working as a featured comedian on the Carnival Spirit in the last few weeks. Trips to Noumea, Vanuatu and most recently New Zealand. The best part about heading to the ‘land of the long white cloud’ was that it was the first time for most of the international crew onboard. They poured onto the crew only front deck of the huge ship as we entered Milford Sound. Luckily the weather cleared in time for us to take some great pics.

My last trip was Christchurch to Sydney arriving at Circular Quay. By a stroke of good fortune one of my favourite corporate clients called asking me to MC her corporate awards night at the Sydney Opera House. As luck would have it the dates aligned and I stepped off the ship, into a hotel alongside the ship and then I walked to the venue. Perfect! It was a sensational night which ended with a rockin’ set from Mahalia Barnes and Prinnie Stevens.

Finally, I have just returned from MCing the AIME conference ‘Hosted Buyers Breakfast’ for my 3rd year in a row. My job was to write a little comedy spot, warm up the 300+ international guests and introduce the various speakers. The most fun happens at the end when I have to send the audience off into small groups. This year I created a novel way of sending them off. Rather than just calling out their tour numbers I played a song to the whole room. They then had to identify the number referenced in the song before leaving if was theirs. Songs included ‘One’, ‘Four to the Floor’ and ‘Knock Three Times’. They really enjoyed the challenge as some songs were way harder to pick than others.

I don’t know what it is but a crowd on holidays on a ship is something really special. They’re not necessarily comedy experts but they just love to laugh and so make a really honest, committed crowd. Not to mention a large crowd. I tried to count the Versailles Lounge capacity and got lost around 350ish. The mad rush to get in the lounge helps with the sense of anticipation. Especially when there’s up to 1500 upstairs in the main theatre with only a small percentage of the most athletic getting in to my show.

My last cruise from Vanuatu to Sydney had a great group of passengers including lots of large groups; 50 from Sydney, 14 from Adelaide and a whole bunch from QLD. These guys were in great spirits considering many of them didn’t know what they were to find on returning home after the floods.

I had some ripper shows in the Punchliners Comedy Club, especially my late adult shows. Thanks to the crew and my fellow performers Hung Le (see below) and Ben Murphy. Great Fellas!



Hung Le and friends

Hung Le at Melb Airport with 2 lovely girls off the ship!

It’s been a much busier January than I’m used to. Generally the city slows down and so do I but this year I’ve been on the ship to Noumea then back for some gigs and I’m off again near the end of the month. Feb will be much the same with the Carnival Spirit heading on a new route to New Zealand. The international crew are very excited with many counting the days. I filled a few of them in on Milford Sound and they can’t wait. Actually either can I. Last time I was there was 3 years ago with my brother. We drove for ages only to find it totally fogged in. We snapped a pic of a post card and framed it so it looked real. I can’t wait to be in the middle of it on a 300m long ship! This is the Sapphire Princess not the Carnival Spirit but you get the idea.



Imagine working all day in the galley and missing this view outside. Lucky our stand up shows are at night! Ahh go comedy!