Op-ed: How to Handle a Heckler From The Future
"Sooo, you're a comic?" he says, looking me up and down, from head to toe. He appears to not believe the answer as he presses his pint of beer against his mouth, smiling into it instead of drinking it. He pauses there for three seconds. Let's call him "Craig."
"Yeah!" I shrug. And glance past him toward the barkeep. Small talk is fun! Where's the barkeep? Just need a drink.
Craig holds his eyes on mine and he gulps down his IPA. I can hear the stickiness in his mouth as he swallows and lets out a refreshing, "tssaaaahh." His beer tastes good, you guys, but it's not going to distract him from processing that I'm a girl and a comic because he can do two things at once, right? Bro!
"A girl... comic," he slowly says, out loud like he's sounding out a word in a foreign language. A girl comic! Out of nowhere, my breasts suddenly rejoice. They're getting the limelight they've always desired in my comedy. My breasts are attention-seekers that way. They actually perk up at his identification. They designed their own choreography to Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," even after I told them not to. Trust me, they are so dumb.
I respond cordially again, after silencing my percolating and unruly comedy breasts. "Yeah! So I'm a comic."
"Are you funny?" He asks this question more as a statement, without understanding that thinking oneself is funny is far from a standard for good comedy.
"Ya know, I'm grateful that people laugh," I reply.
I glance past Craig at the barkeep, "G&T!" I yell. "PLEASE!" I yell. "A double!" I yell. "Like my breasts!" I don't yell that last part — I'm just kidding.
I look over to see Craig still standing near. He leans back. "So, tell me a joke."
"Come to a set," I reply, inviting him with a time and date of my next show.
See, comics understand this. And I think most people understand this, too — that comedy isn't just telling a joke. It's timing, it's place, it's syntax, set up; it's replacing one-syllable words with three-syllable words because it sounds different, it's honesty and authenticity and working and reworking a set. It's also your mom.
Asking a comic that you meet on the street to "tell you a joke" is another way of saying I'd really like you to minimize the maximum potential of comedy in 30 seconds or less, so that I may approve your worth in being a part of it. Don't be that guy.
But today, it sounds more like grunting. "Commeee onnnnn," Craig grunts.
"Seriously, come to a show."
"Hey guys! There's a girl comic here who won't tell a joke!" he sneers. "OK then, I am going to come to your show and heckle the shit out of you. Just to see if you can handle it. Your fault," he says, assuring me and high-fiving his buddies. It is then that I realize that I have inadvertently landed myself in a real life circle-jerk, and I have been caught with only this little girly dildo in this very amazing dick fight, and oh no, what will I do?
I grin. No teeth. "Yeah dude, yeah." I dig deep. See, this isn't just comic versus asshole heckler, this is every day not asshole comic versus asshole future heckler.
As the night progressed, each time I'd walk past their group I'd hear his taunts. And each time, I'd hide my growing annoyance with a "See ya there!" Comics loathe hecklers for a variety of reasons, but we don't fear them. And for whatever reason, it felt important for this guy to make sure I was afraid.
At the end of the night when it was time to go, I stopped at the coat check. And as I'm putting back on the sexiest pantsuit blazer you have ever mother-effin' seen, I walk over to Craig, look him square in the eyes and say, "Do you mind if I do something right now?"
And I reached and held him close and gave him the biggest and longest hug, and I waited long after it got awkward, and I waited until he melted in my arms like a little boy who is seeing his mother for the first time after he was kidnapped for 16 years when he was 4. I waited for his chest to slowly rise with relief and fall with trust right into my little lesbian arms and let his guard down. He whispers vulnerably with his head against mine: "Wow, thanks, I really needed that."
I hold him tighter and deadpan into his soul, "Fucking come to my show and heckle me and see what happens."
"OK so you are a comic." He paused, before adding "I have an idea for a joke you could use."
"Trust me, you've given me plenty." I smiled into the last sip of my rocks glass with a gulp and walked out the door, thankful for my comedy and the tits that go with it.
LIANNA CARRERA is a stand up comedian in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter.