Eddie Izzard Can School a Heckler with a Single Word
Heckling wasn’t invented in 2022, although sometimes it felt like it. But you only have to look to comedians like Eddie Izzard to see how comics have swatted down audience pests for years. A-hole outbursts simply come with the territory (and two-drink minimums). But an even more important comic weapon than snappy comebacks is self-assurance. With the right amount of bravado, a single word is enough to shut up an obnoxious loudmouth.
“I knew I was getting good when somebody heckled me once and said, ‘Say something funny,’” Izzard told Seth Meyers this week. “And I went ‘No,’ and then just carried on. And I thought, whoa, my confidence is high.”
Izzard needed that backbone to face British comedy audiences, who could be so brutal that they’d order comics a cab to get them offstage. But Izzard had other strategies besides her one-word retorts, like assigning elaborate characters to hecklers and making them part of the show. A boorish patron, for example, would become “Kenny.”
Kenny “is having a lot of problems at the moment,” Izzard would explain to the audience. “His doctor said ‘come along and shout things out.’ Well done, Kenny!” If the heckler resumed his heckling later in the act, that was just “Kenny,” now part of the show and working out his issues on the advice of his therapist. “We’re with you!” Izzard would shout, encouraging Kenny to try again in complete sentences. Rather than letting the heckler take over the show, Izzard imposed scenarios on him, making him the butt of the joke rather than the joker. “It’s a lovely little technique to use.”