This Heckler Rattled Jerry Seinfeld for 30 Years With Just Two Words

In 1993, a bored Bostonian shouted a roast so brief and so hurtful that Seinfeld still can’t forget the shame
This Heckler Rattled Jerry Seinfeld for 30 Years With Just Two Words

A disastrous stand-up set from 1993 still sticks with Jerry Seinfeld all these many years later — if only he wore a different shirt.

Anyone who has been performing stand-up comedy for as long as Seinfeld has seen their share of hecklers and likely has an arsenal of stock come-backs and shut-downs for the usual interruptions from the rabble. Since Seinfeld entered the comedy industry, the art of the heckler clapback has spawned its own entire genre, and, in the social media age, some comedians make their big breaks just off of a particularly bold or witty retort to a rude and disorderly audience member, and the “heckler destroyed!” genre of viral comedy clip is one of the most popular forms of comedy content on the internet. 

Seeing how the heckler rebuttal has become such a staple of the amateur comedy scene, you’d think that a seasoned pro such as Seinfeld would be adept at thwarting audience aggression and that there’s nothing anyone could shout at the Seinfeld star and co-creator that could possibly phase him. You’d be wrong.

During an interview with In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Seinfeld explained how one unamused audience member at a stand-up set in Boston 31 years ago rattled him so badly that he’ll never forget the hilariously curt heckle. “Heard it,” said Seinfeld’s nemesis.

“I had this amazing bit about weddings,” Seinfeld remembered of the Beantown routine that became one of the most memorably negative sets he ever performed in his near-50-year career. “It was fantastic. It was so long. It covered everything. And I worked on it and worked on it and worked on it. It takes me forever.” 

As Seinfeld noted, no comedian is able to produce completely bespoke material in every individual set, and the best bits often take dozens of performances and multiple years to truly master if the comic is “obsessive and perfectionist” like Seinfeld. This wedding joke was one such story, and it led to the two most piercing words Seinfeld's ever heard from an audience member. Or as he put it, “I start into the bit and somebody yells, ‘Heard it!’ And that was a tough one. I still think about it. It was mean. It was true.” 

Anyone who has ever attempted to tell a story only to be interrupted by one of their a-hole friends with the same line can relate to Seinfelds pain.

However, Seinfeld says that modern audiences better understand the technique of stand-up comedy, so he wouldnt expect to hear such a heckle if a similar situation happened today. “I think now audiences are a little more sophisticated. These are pieces that we work on for months and months and months. you dont do it once and it works. Every scene you see in a movie, they did that 18 times — one time it was good. Thats what’s in the movie, you dont see the other 17 times,” Seinfeld explained, “Same with comedy. Ive done it 100 times, now I finally got it.”

Its a shame he couldnt have given one of his fellow funnymen a bit more time to workshop their own material — after all, Tim Whatley had only been Jewish a few days!


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