I got heckled for the first time in a while last week.
There was a group of people who had taken full advantage of the open bar and were being loud and obnoxious all night long.
The event was an exclusive night of mystery with a lineup of four of the finest performers in the city, including myself. One hundred guests, four entertainers, and non-stop amazement.
It’s held once a month at a luxury hotel downtown, complete with fully catered hors d'oeuvres, live music, and some of the most mind-blowing acts you’ve ever seen. Plus, a national magazine was interviewing us that night for a feature article coming out later this year.
So yeah, it was kind of a big deal.
Which made it even stranger when those six guests started being so rude. They started yelling things out during the other performers’ shows. Not clever things, not helpful things….just disruptive, rude comments that were distracting the other guests and making it hard for the performers to concentrate.
My fellow entertainers were doing their best to be polite and stay in control of the situation, but word got out and other guests were quick to alert me of “the people in the other room who think the show is all about them.”
Honestly, I’m not sure you can even count these people as hecklers. They were in a world of their own. They were having loud conversations without a care in the world for anyone else in their general vicinity. They weren’t trying to disrupt the show on purpose and they weren’t trying to outsmart the performers. They were just a bunch of a**holes.
Ordinarily I would be patient with a heckler. I would kindly ask them to repeat their comment and make a simple joke along the lines of “Settle down, this is my show!” or something similar. It would get a laugh, win everyone over, and get the heckler on board.
But last week was different.
I’d been watching these people be rude for several hours. I’d seen them yell across the room, interrupt the shows, and refuse to stop talking while my friends were performing. And by the time I got onstage it was really starting to piss me off.
So I took control of the room and began my opening mind reading demonstration.
“You’re an Aquarius, aren’t you? Born in February…February 10th?”
Everyone oohed and ahhed and applauded loudly as I read each person’s mind in turn. Then, as I continued with my act, I heard a group of people talking in the second row. They were at it again.
So I dropped everything. I stopped what I was doing, walked towards the group, and waited for the room to get quiet.
“You have the wrong idea,” I said.
“I do 150 shows a year and I chose to make one of those shows this one. So when I’m onstage I demand your respect. A lot of people in this room paid a lot of money to see me do this. And now I’m up here working and you are disrespecting me while I’m at work. So, yes, this is an interactive performance but it’s participatory on my terms, NOT yours. Understood?”
The ringleader of the group looked at me in horror, shocked that she was being reprimanded in front of other adults. Then, she shut up and didn’t speak again for the rest of my time onstage. They may have left at some point but I can’t be sure, because I was worried about the other 94 people who wanted to see a good show.
I can’t stand people who disrespect me during a show and I refuse to put up with it. I honed my skills doing difficult gigs in tough rooms for little pay and now I realize that while I was struggling to find my voice and learn my craft, I was slowly building up a confidence that can’t be shaken.
I have a confidence in myself now that is only born out of doing a thousand shows. I know when I walk onstage that I am good at what I do. I’m positive that what I do is worth watching and worthy of someone else’s respect. And so, I don’t have to put up with anyone’s bullsh*t any more because I already spent years doing that.
What I’ve learned is that if you value your time and respect your craft then you don’t have to put up with a heckler.
Your family will tell you to have a backup plan or a teacher will tell you to get a real job. People will act like they know what’s best for you, without taking the time to really listen to your plan. And time and time and time again people will shut the door to your dreams in your face.
Those are the hecklers on the journey towards your chosen destination. Those are the people who want to tell you what you should be doing, even though they don’t want to work as hard as you do. They’ll always be there, eager to disrupt and disrespect, and it’s up to you to shut them up.
You have to demand their respect.