With the recent wave of very public incidents involving audience members getting out of hand at comedy shows – from Daniel Tosh’s vocal heckler to Tammy Pescatelli & Eddie Griffin’s assaults – comedian Adam Ray realized there was an epidemic of disrespect toward the artist on stage at a comedy show. And he was a little annoyed. So he did what comes naturally to all comedians; he made a joke out of it.
Adam has a popular YouTube channel filled with videos he produces and stars in that often skewer current events to satirize the frustration and humor in events like these. He created an animated video in which fictional comedian Harvey Sims is teaching an etiquette class to people who have never been to a comedy club before. The students ask ludicrous questions that are all too real for most comedians, including the classic, “What if the comedian makes a joke about a colored person and I’m sitting next to one, is it okay to laugh?”
AmericasComedy.com spoke with Adam Ray about what inspired the video.
“The Tammy Pescatelli incident is really what got to me. She’s not as high profile as Tosh, but certainly is well known in the comedy world… and the way she handled it… and the cops just basically said ‘You’re a comedian, that’s par for the course. You f–ing clown, this is what you deal with.’”
Adam continued, “I feel like these situations happen a lot and they don’t get made into [big] deals because even people in the audience think ‘OK, you should be able to deal with this.’ And it made me think ‘God, there really is just a level of lack of respect for what we do’ and it just bugged me. So I wanted to highlight the idiocy of… not all audience members, because there’s a giant swath of people who go and know what they’re coming to see and who come to the show and are respectful. And then there are some people who feel entitled because they bought a ticket. I just wanted to grab a little piece of respect back from these incidences.”
Adam acknowledges that dealing with hecklers is part of the job because comedians inherently have to break the fourth wall, and almost invite response because comedy takes place in a unique environment that almost encourages rowdiness. “I wanted to brush on the topic without taking a giant stance. So I wanted the questions to be ridiculous and obvious and have the people be so naïve to what happens at a comedy show to make it obvious.”
“The point of it was to highlight a little bit of ‘We appreciate that you’re there. Be there, enjoy it.’ It’s about being a part of the show without being the show. That always drives me crazy if one person is effecting the experience of all the other people”
Adam’s also quick to point out that comedians don’t just want audiences to laugh or be quiet. “Express negativity, groan. But that’s it. Talk about why you didn’t like it after with your friends. That’s part of the live experience.”
And if you think you’ve ever been unjustly removed from a comedy club for having too much fun, just remember, “No one’s ever been kicked out for laughing too hard.”
About the Author: Amy Hawthorne is an LA-based stand-up and writer and the founder of ComedyGroupie.com. She is convinced that the food industry is being unduly influenced by Big Avocado.