Every serious poet should get heckled now and then. It helps to cut through the deadly pretension and solipsism of the form. Here’s a helpful guide to the joyful art, from a master who’s put in his time on both sides of the heckle.
15 Rules For Hecklers
by Bob Holman
1. Be fearless, be bold!
2. You are part of the show.
3. All art is interactive. The Heisenberg principal covers “observing” and says one cannot observe without affecting that which is being observed. In other words, looking at something is heckling!
4. That doesn’t make sense? Then try the Evolution of Orality. Heckling is nothing more than Call & Response where the Response is as creative (or more) than the Call.
5. You gotta listen, deep and hard, soulfully connecting with the artist. Great heckling is a George and Gracie skit where the heckler is Gracie, Costello to Abbott, Lewis to Martin, Smothers to Smothers.
6. Be in tune with the audience. You are their voice, you are the Chorus.
7. Or not! Sometimes you have to go where no one has ventured before and lead the audience to undiscovered dimensions of understanding. Have a good lawyer.
8. There is a place for sophomoric curses and responses. Like after a 12-pack.
9. Speed is essential; timing is all. You gotta drop in the heckle with rhythmic integrity.
10. Be heard. Bellowing may be in order.
11. Have the audience at your back or get the hell outta Dodge.
12. If this is a one-shot heckle, when people turn to look for the source, you crane and look too, or grow a halo. Heckling is an art of words, not an ego ploy. No matter what the polite ones think or say!
13. Politeness. Heckling is not polite. Heckling means the world has standards to live up to, and when artists fail, they thank you for pointing that out to them.
14. If your heckle isn’t better than the art, pack it in. A good heckle is, as Bob Dylan says, a corkscrew to the heart.
15. Practice on easy targets first, like politicians. On second thought, that might be too easy, like heckling a balloon.