It’s not often true friendship and show business combine. No matter how hard you try, you really can’t like everyone. Everyone you like might like you less. Especially when it comes to work or the possibility of future work. Who needs 30 pieces of silver when you have a spot to perform at a pub? Alliances and rivalries come and go at the drop of a hat. Despite all your cynicism, and self doubt, you meet someone and you make a friend.
On a long enough timeline, we all get heckled. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a paid gig, a comedy contest or an open mic. Heckling is an occupational hazard in the ‘world’s greatest job’.
If you’re brave or foolish enough to step onto a stage and string together some jokes to a point of view, heckling is inevitable. Like everyone working on their stand-up craft, I take my lumps of abuse. My attitude towards heckling is to learn from it and move forward. What else can one do? Let the heckler win, cry myself to sleep, quit doing comedy and crawl into a tear-drenched fetal position of defeat.
I assumed I experienced heckling in all its craven forms, then life proved me wrong.
I’ve experience everything from a random punter in the back yelling out ‘You suck!’ to the misguided patron attempting to ‘enhance’ the show; from bottles being thrown at me to an internet troll posting that my act is ‘rubbish’ from a comment card proclaiming, ‘A case of herpes is funnier’ than me to the disc jockey hosting a comedy contest getting an entire audience to boo in unison.
Saturday night, I head to the local supermarket to buy some fried chicken and coffee. When I get back to my truck, I notice a hand written note on my windshield left for me to read.
‘YOU’RE NOT FUNNY!’ proclaims the handwritten note on the back of a receipt with a heart at the end of the exclamation point.
At first I was angry and quite pissed off. Why of all the nerve! I look around and scan the parking lot to see if anyone is watching from afar trying to gauge the impact of their personalised comment.
I flip the receipt over and learn at 11 am they spent $7 for three tacos at El Rey Taqueria, a fast food joint. They spent seven bucks of their own cash for tortillas, cilantro, meat, lettuce and tomatoes. Then I started laughing uncontrollably.
It’s hard for me to take anyone that spends seven bucks for three tacos in Houston, the Tex Mex capital of the world, seriously. That’s like paying £10 for fish and chips in Cardiff. Not only was my heckler afraid heckling me at a proper venue, they are also afraid of real Tex Mex cooked by real Mexicans/Hondurans/Salvadorans. Seriously, what a cowardly douche bag.
Then my mood changed from laughter to pride. I motivated someone. Forget motivated, I moved someone. I actually moved someone to do something beyond yelling ‘Boo!’
They took time out of their lives and noticed my truck. Then they found pen, a scrap of paper and left a personalised handwritten note on my windshield. And they used correct grammar. Great Xerxes’ Ghost! I am motivating people to learn how to read and write!
Instead of funneling their hatred onto something as random as my ethnicity, creed or faith, they took the time to hate me for who I am on stage. I feel like I am living Doctor Martin Luther King’s dream. They say the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference. It feels good to be loathed, loathed by cowards.
“I’m going to punch him!” the drunk fat stripper slurs at me.
“You want no part of this! Now go on and get going!” scolds the grizzled old door guy.
She listens, steps away and stumbles to her truck. Only to turn around, raise her fist at me and slur, “I’m going to punch you!”. Then she almost trips over the chihuahua tied to the chain link fence on the way to her pick up truck.
I take a step toward the strip club’s red door. The door guy takes a step between me and the door, “You don’t want to go in there!”
“I know. I don’t want to go in there. And I know I don’t want to call the cops. I just want my phone. “
“So what happened again?”,he asks me for the third time.
“I was eating wings and your friend grabbed my phone when I wasn’t looking. In fact I was shown video of your friend in the khakis and light plaid shirt doing it.”
“How do you know the phone is here?”
Zack Dickson who’s been standing besides me the entire time pulls out his phone flashes the screen with the GPS signal.
The door guy disappears behind the big red door. “So what now?” Zach asks.
“Now we play the waiting game.”
We then hear the door guy yell at the guy who stole my phone.
“Look he’s got the tracker! And he has video of you taking it! Give it!”
The door guy emerges from the door with my phone in his hands. “Is this it?”
I type in my password, “ Yup!”.
Zach shake his hand and palms the guy some money, ”For your troubles,”.
We then head back to St. Danes to tell jokes.
A week later, I tell another friend what happened. “Al, that wasn’t a strip club. That was a hooker.”