Once upon a time a heckler had only two weapons – their voice and a basket full of over-ripe tomatoes. Both might come arching out of the darkness to disrupt a speech, play, poetry reading, or political speech, and it was as well to have a washable costume as a resilient mind. Both of these forms of heckling were possible only if the person being bothered had no way of retaliation.
But time and again, the heckler may have found out they bit off more than they could chew. Ragging a first-time open mike comic at a pub might send them off in tears, but trying the same thing on a first-line comic in a closed venue – particularly if it was in a crowd of fans – could prove costly. In some cases the comic was well enough in with the staff – or owned the club themselves – and could have a portable spot turned on the loudmouth. And then let fly with whatever would best shut them up.
Heckling at a political rally might even do more good than harm for the candidate. Several presidential candidates and many parliamentary ones have benefitted from being quicker-witted than their detractors and with the benefit of national press coverage have spurted ahead in popularity on the basis of a put-down.
Note: Heckling in a courtroom is technically known as contempt of court and is generally rewarded with time in the Coldwater Hotel. Shout if you must, but you will get thrown into the street or a cell…
Well, that’s the old days – now we have the internet, the social media site, and the fake news phenomenon to play with. Heckling can be referred to as trolling, pranking, and any number of other fashionable words – and can be indulged in from the comfort of Mom’s basement. No need to go out in the cold and be unpleasant when you can do so from home. You can also do so from someone else’s home or home-site if you are clever enough. It almost seems that the possibilities are endless. Who can stop you?
a. The police: You leave a finger, foot, or other part of the body print every time you hit a keyboard. If you are illegally obnoxious, they are sometimes forced to become legally so.
b. The FBI/KGB/ ASIO/ Mossad/Deuxieme Bureau/MI5,6,7,and 8: They have minds even more devious than the local cops and a bigger budget. Piss on them and they have the resources to wring you out like a dishcloth.
c. The faceless Facebook: If you cost them money, they will stop you from costing them money. They can do it by pressing a switch.
d. Mrs. Mulcahey: Donny’s mother. If you give Donny a bad time she also has a switch. It is about a half-inch thick and made of hickory and she’ll apply it to your ass until she gets tired of hitting you…and Mrs. Mulcahey is a woman of stamina…