We can all agree that there is no place for heckling in a
comedy club. Just because you’re drunk, or because you want to hear a
particular joke, or even because you think you’re "helping" the comedian, well,
you’re not helping. You’re interrupting the performance that everyone else
gladly paid to see and hear. You’re making a fool of yourself. And no one likes
So why do people still heckle?
That’s what Jamie Kennedy wanted to find out when he
confronted his own real-life hecklers in the 2007 documentary, Heckler, which Kennedy will screen live
at Comix on Saturday. He’ll also perform later this month at The Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Is this the longest movie screening tour ever? Kennedy laughs. "It’s going. People still want to see it," he told me. "People really like it when its in a comedy club. They like to watch it and ask questions. The director and me have a really good rapport. We show it, and it gets confrontational at times. It’s a good way to show the movie. Like if you were watching Mission: Impossible and Tom Cruise was there.
Except it’s Heckler, and it’s me."
Does he worry that his movie will only feed into the
delusional ego of hecklers by putting them on film for everyone to see – one
young heckler even says as much in the movie, when confronted by Kennedy, by
saying, "Well, I get to be on TV now"?! Let’s roll a clip of hecklers getting on film for heckling. It is bleeped:
"It definitely will add to that, yes," Kennedy said. "Sam
Jackson told me that, and that’s why he didn’t want to do the movie…He doesn’t
want to give hecklers that validity. Nick Swardson is my buddy. He performs
with me. And he says the same thing."
How often do you get heckled these days? You got heckled during your own TV taping (before making the documentary) and decided to leave that in the special. Why?
"I don’t really get that heckled. It’s more like I get drunkled. It’s drunk women. It’s always a white woman. Usually drunk. That heckles. It’s like whhaaa are you doing!? They just connect random things. It’s really bizarre," Kennedy said. "Literally I walked onstage on Saturday and a woman shouted: ‘I
can see your fly!’…I hadn’t said one thing…it’s funny."
As for the heckler in his TV stand-up special: "Because I thought that was funny. It’s on YouTube and it took off and it was like basically, this lady, I’m sitting there. I went to a restaurant and it had interesting waitresses and this lady yelled SERVER!….and then we find out she wasn’t even a waitress but a nanny and she wanted me to know the politically correct term for it…they’re watching something and they say they want to correct that. It’s not a two-way conversation." Hey, let’s roll that clip!
"I just left it in because it was funny, it was different.
That was people…things happen. And the same with the cameraman, he got caught up
in the middle of my show. I like to use what’s really going on…if you shut it
down in a funny way the audience loves you. It was different than just basic
stand-up jokes, stand-up jokes…it kind of shows people who I am, what I’m
about. If I have a persona."
But this was, well, another grand Jamie Kennedy Experiment,
as it were.
"I just wanted to show the world the other side of stand-up
comedy," he said. "I wanted to show who these people are and expose them, what
that’s all about."
Kennedy also takes on the increasingly crowded world of
online criticism in the movie, and how they’re purposefully meaner than
necessary to get attention for themselves. "I feel the whole criticism and the blogosphere has become heckling," Kennedy said. "It’s
just completely random drunken heckling."
But what about professional critics?
Isn’t there a place for that, too? "Yeah. Some of you guys do" have a place and a role, he said. He focuses on the bloggers and online critics who "say snarky angry things to get attention," he said. "There are
people who are legitimate."
How do you feel about Simon Cowell, who most Americans feel
is the only honest critic on American
Idol, until they’re auditioning for Cowell?
"I would say Simon is pretty brilliant at what he does. The
main reason that show got that life in the beginning is because of him,"
Kennedy said. "We had never seen someone rip people apart like that. In Britain,
they’ll say they do that all the time. And I don’t think he was acting. I believe
he says in his heart what he feels about those people. It’s hard. I would say
for the most part, I would totally hate to be one of the singers being ripped
apart. It would kill me, so I empathize with them. I hate to be a hypocrite
because he is dead on. You tend to agree with him. It’s his business. He’s been
in it for 25 years."
And if Kennedy auditioned for Cowell?
"I’d hate to be under his scourge, but he is pretty
brilliant," Kennedy said. "I think he’s a pro at what he does. If someone rips
me beautifully, in a great way, I give them props. I do."
Well, the difference in the past couple of years, really, is that the mainstream media is laying off or otherwise getting rid of professional critics, while at the same time, more and more amateurs are sharing their opinions with the masses online. Isn’t that really the problem?
"It’s going away, man," Kennedy said.
"It’s peer-to-peer. What I love about Amazon.com is you go on and you see 110
comments and reviews and maybe they’ll expose you to something or a movie that
you hadn’t seen before. But the dark side is everyone thinks their opinion is
"Someone who has a Website can reach 2 million people a
week. That can be more than newspapers. It’s a different breed. I don’t know.
But I do like good thoughtful criticism," he said.
Ultimately, then, what do you hope to gain from Heckler?
"I just want people to see it and laugh. That’s the number
one thing. Come and laugh. And also show them another side of what it is we
do," he said.
And also dispel people’s misconceptions of him in the
"Some people will go, ‘I thought Jamie Kennedy was a rapper
and lives in Malibu.’ People
actually believe that. But the main thing is to laugh," he said.
Has it changed your stage act?
"It just made me much more, I can say
stronger, but I’m also vulnerable at times, too. I’m not a robot. It’s just made
me informed. And so, I know, what the mindset of the people are. What they’re
doing. What they’re bringing. So by going through that fire, I’ve learned from
that…I know their motives. So I don’t go, why do they do that? And by the way,
people can heckle," he said. "If people buy a toaster and it doesn’t work, they can write
the company and complain about it."
So what will you be bringing to The Comedy Festival in Vegas? "I just want to go in there and it’s going to be, Mitch Fatel, Danny Bhoy. It’s going to be stand-up. I have some new material. I have some
stuff that my fans might know, too. It’s my third year in a row. So I love it," he said. "I’d like to show a little bit of the movie, too, but I don’t
know if I can do that, because it’s a tight show."
What do you get out of participating in comedy fests? "It’s just another way of being part of the community," he said. "I’ll
probably go down to Australia
next year and do their festival. It gets your name out there more. I know this
is TBS’ first year dong it alone and TBS is really getting into comedy in a big
way. It’s just fun. And all the big names are going to be there. It’s just nice
to be a part of that."
For more information about Jamie Kennedy’s screening of Heckler at Comix, click here.
And for info about Kennedy’s show in Las Vegas and the rest of The Comedy Festival, click here.