Thursday, 28 April 2005

Raising Heckles

The Graun has a shortish article on hecklers and how to deal with them, in response, apparently, to a program on BBC 3.

David McKie, the article's author, is right when he says "What on earth does the shouting of these prearranged slogans have to do with the art of heckling? This isn't heckling: it is simply abuse, heckling's meagre and impoverished second cousin." Heckling is about more than being heard it's about being right or, at least, being witty. To follow up one of my own posts, shouting "Freebird" at a concert isn't heckling it's just mindless and often just abuse (it's abuse when I shout it, definitely, it's just a shade more subtle than shouting "you suck").

McKie's Harold Wilson story is pleasantly witty, though:

Perhaps the most famous heckle of the last 50 years was uttered by some anonymous hero in the dockyard town of Chatham, where Harold Wilson was making a speech. Having hymned the nation's maritime glories, Wilson asked what he meant to be a purely rhetorical question: "And why am I saying all this?" To which a voice from the back of the hall replied, "Because you are in Chatham" - thus teasing, if not yanking, out the essential truth that Wilson was simply buttering them up because he wanted their votes.

This led me to wonder if there was a classic heckle archive on the 'Net. Putting heckling in Google doesn't bring up doesn't bring one up exactly but it does show some comment worthy stuff. It seems split half and half between rules of heckling and dealing with hecklers. The rules I certainly don't get. They seem to be aimed at sports hecklers and a sample collection of rules goes like this:
1. No profanity.
2. Nothing purely personal.
3. Keep pouring it on.
4. Know your players.
5. Don't be shouted down.
6. Take it as well as give it.
7. Give the old-timer a chance - he was a rookie once.

Now, unless I've misunderstood heckling, rules 2, 6 and 7 are just about the opposite of a good heckle. The problem here it seems to me that a sports heckle should really be a chant and one bloke shouting at a team is futile -- unless you're trying to rile up Gary Neville and his big, full moustache.

The other problem is having rules seems to play into the self-importance of the heckler. He may well be a brainless dimwit, but he has a code. And thereby hangs another problem, most heckles aren't that good and the object of your heckle has had years honing his comeback skills. The comebacks, then, are often better than anything the heckler could have thought up. This page has some classics:
"That's okay pal, I remember when I had *my* first beer."
"It's all done with wires"
"look, I've only got 20 minutes to make a fool out of myself and you have the rest of your life, so shut up."
"Do I come to your work & tell you how to sweep up?" -- Billy Connoly

It also links to a canonical list of just about every prepared put down you could think of.

Then, though, there's the famous incident in Chicago where Bill Hicks finally has enough with the woman telling him he sucks and the guys shouting "Freebird" (whoda thunk it) and totally loses it. Search around it's on the 'Net somewhere.


Pope Benedict XVI said...

Good links. I have plenty of hecklers to deal with.

Paul said...

Thank you, your holiness, for your kind words.

Will it be OK if I don't kiss your ring?