“Heckler”: This Could Get Interesting

_I am far from a film critic. In fact, the only two areas I feel completely qualified to critique are speaking and parenting; I am not perfect in either I just know the subject matter really well. In regards to film I know what I like and I know what I don’t like—yet I am absolutely unqualified to adequately explain why, as I have no training or knowledge of the filmmaking process. I know I tend to like character driven movies (The Big Lebowski, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Next, The Truman Show) over plot driven movies (The Matrix….yuck), as I would rather watch interesting people doing nothing particularly interesting over watching uninteresting people doing something interesting; which probably explains why I could watch Steve Buscemi eat cereal for 90 minutes.

But that’s just me. Interesting and strange people strangely interest me. (Why do I feel a Doors song coming on?)

Thus when I was inspired today to write my thoughts on the documentary, “Heckler” which can be found on Netflix, I feared being a bit presumptuous.  Again, I am not a film critic and have no foundation to critique an art form about which I know so little.  Yet, frequently, perhaps as the result of my position, I am asked my opinion of certain films, books, or, in this case, a documentary. And, I rationalize, documentaries are an entirely different type of film making rendering them much more critique-able. So, in the spirit of sharing with each other something interesting, here ya go.  I think you might find this one doc interesting as well.


Ironically, “Heckler,” produced and directed by Jaime Kennedy (Malibu’s Most Wanted) is a doc about both the hecklers of stand up comedians and, secondly, the nature of critics in general. Essentially, the first half of the documentary is about the evil and subversive nature of hecklers and how all comedians disdain their very existence. We watch poor stand up comedians complain about their strenuous and back-breaking vocations for about an hour as they explain their loathing of hecklers.  The second half of the documentary is about critics in general and how our society has evolved into a culture of opinionated and entitled audiences. Consumers of media today (which would include all of us) are evolving into a collection of vocal and mean-spirited critics who are wholly unqualified to be so.

As someone once told me long ago as I was in the middle of a lovely critical rant, “they never built a monument for a critic.” I get it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this documentary if, for nothing else, the raw footage of hecklers in audiences and the live verbal -and frequently physical encounters- during live shows. It reminds viewers how the live stand-up comedy scene has changed into an often cruel and biting environment. As a budding sociologist, it also lends insight into group behaviors, ethics and social expectations. In addition, if you like interesting people like Joe Rogan, Nick Swardson, Craig Ferguson, Jon Lovitz, and Dave Attell among many others, they all share some interesting opinions, even if they all sound a tad whiny -interesting whiny however.

In regards to the second half of the film, I must say that I agree with the premise, as too many unqualified, untrained people have a medium now to voice their criticism over something (you’re reading one right now).  In addition, the documentary poignantly addresses that people not only now have the means to share their opinions, but also how cruel and hateful their ignorant opinions can be.

It was that great critic Socrates who first pointed out that the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing. The problem with the critics is they think they know something. And then talk as if they do.

The tension I found in the documentary is some of the great hypocrisy of these entertainers. When you have Bill Maher complaining that all performers are by nature sensitive people and today the critics are so mean and insensitive…really? Bill Maher? Is he not one of the meanest and most insensitive comics of all? I do find him smart and entertaining though he is doing NOTHING to promote a culture of civil and kind dialogue.

In my experience with stand up comedy, it seems that often the comic is the instigator of the heckling environment. It was not that long ago that I was standing outside a comedy show and a woman who was in the audience was outside crying because the comic picked on her so badly.

“What the hell did I ever do to him?” she sobbed.

Civility must always be a two way street.

Kennedy, the film’s producer, reads some of the awful -and quite funny- reviews for his “Malibu’s Most Wanted” movie and interviews people after his live shows that did not think he was funny. These people, who you would guess could barely write their own name, have the balls to look him in the eye and explain (even occasionally using verbs and some words with more than one syllable) why he is not funny and should not be in show business.

That Socrates guy may have been on to something when he philosophized that the only true evil is ignorance. Maybe by “evil” Socrates really meant chutzpah.

So if you want to see a bunch of interesting people talk about some interesting stuff with some very interesting footage, pull up a strange and interesting chair and enjoy “Hecklers.” Then tell me what you think.

This could get interesting.