Advice for Governor Christie
Jimmy “Roundboy” Graham is one of the funniest comedians that I’ve ever worked with. If you went on the New Jersey 101.5 comedy cruise last year you know what I mean.
Jimmy and I teach a comedy class together and one of the subjects that we cover is how to handle a heckler. Jimmy is also a huge fan of Governor Christie and offers in this open letter to give him some advice on how to handle a heckler. If you deal with hecklers in your job, you may get some great advice by reading this..
Dear Governor Christie,
It has come to my attention that you are now having to deal with hecklers. Welcome to my world!
I have been a working stand up comic for over two decades and have had my share of these spineless folks. In truth a heckler is someone that admires you to the point that they feel they need to steal some of your thunder, ride a little on your steam. They are at times your biggest fan whether or not they even know it. I know what you're thinking, “who needs fans like that?” Well, None of us, but we get 'em anyway!
A lot of these frustrated performers actually think they are lending you a hand. I've had them come up to me after a show wanting to meet me and ask how much they HELPED me. Yea! They helped, about as much as the Mayor of Atlantic City helped you during Sandy!!
They secretly wish they were you, yea I know, if they only knew what it was really like they wouldn't, but they don't have the, how should I put it, the stones to do what you do anyway. Not a one of them could have even hung up that fleece you wore tirelessly for two months or spend the countless hours working on stuff we will never even know about.
Its about all the power and prestige they see you command at your town meetings. It intoxicates them to the point where they can't control themselves and blurt out comments hoping to either make an audience laugh at them or get your personal attention. It most certainly does get your attention, not in a good way of course but man do they have it.
All in all, a heckler is no more than a distraction and a nuisance for both the orator and the audience. You should feel a little bit good about having one, it usually means that you are doing something right which will undoubtedly make some people more than a little jealous or angry, because they either want you to fail or they don't want done what you are planning.
The first thing to do with a heckler is to ALWAYS make them repeat themselves. But remember that you control the mic, NEVER let them finish...interrupt them every time they go to open their mouth, even if it sounds a little like Uncle Buck Talking to his Girlfriend, “But...I...you...what...when...but I...” I think you get the gist of it.
Most of the time a heckler wants to be anonymous, so pointing him out will make his already small minded self esteem shutter even more. You are the Gov! The top guy in our state, keep your cool and make them look as small as possible, this is getting harder and harder for you with your weight loss so use the one thing that will never fade in or on you sir your personality and ego...there's a reason you are in charge!
The other thing is to have a few, what we in the business call shut up lines, these are designed to show the heckler you are prepared for him, his best attack is a sneak attack. If you are ready with a quick line, it defuses the situation and shows the perpetrator that you have a quicker and more direct wit that dwarfs his/hers.
A few examples may be:
- "You sir are the reason why I have such a hard time deciding whether or not to legalize marijuana."
- I believe sir you are in the wrong press conference. This is for adults only."
- "I'm sorry sir I couldn't make out what you said, you keep getting drowned out by citizens that actually care."
Being you are in the public eye, its always better to be funny not mean. Well, as best we Jersey guys can be, I liked in your first term how you called out stupid questions and comments. They wouldn't have dared to strike out at you then, because you were quick and truthful...The Guy was a numb-nuts!!
The other thing to remember is where we live, we are all comedians in New Jersey, we carry the brunt of every joke and rib made about America. So many of us feel the urge to express ourselves whenever we feel the need. Sometimes for the right reasons but just as many for the wrong. We handle it, like you handle it, just keep working and improving and pay no attention to the naysayers.