Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Handling hecklers: Lessons from a comedian

Here's a simple method for finding out whether those shouts are good-natured or not.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS: One of the best lessons I ever learned was that someone who speaks up at a show is not necessarily a heckler. When I first started out, anyone that said anything, I was so rattled by it that I would attack that person and try to shut them down and assert my dominance, you know, over the room. Like I'm in charge, I'm the guy with the microphone. And it took me a while but then I realized oh sometimes people are just – they're forgetting themselves. They're agreeing with the thing that you said. They're trying to add on to an idea that you just put out there. And then I realized anytime anything like that happens this is an opportunity for more fun. So I would always start out – I learned to, when I was confronted with someone saying something to ask in a friendly tone, oh what did you say, you know. To let them know I'm not trying to attack this person because you have to let the audience know because it can turn a room very quickly if you're too aggressive with someone, if you're too upset by it people can sense this. And it's unpleasant and it's uncomfortable for people. And so what I always like to communicate to an audience if someone says something is everything's okay. I'm going to ask this person what they said and maybe we'll have a conversation. But it's all going to be fun the whole time.

It's also a covert defense mechanism because if I let this person talk and then they reveal themselves to be someone who does want to ruin the show, now everybody is on my side because I've been nice so far. So it's also – it's win-win because it's either we're going to have a fun conversation with this strange person who started talking or I will give this jerk enough rope to hang himself and then the audience will be on my side when I do have to shut him down. But more often than not, people are just kind of forgetting themselves or they get wrapped up in it and they want to talk to you because you're talking, you know. And I've had some great fun times talking to people from the audience who just accidentally spoke up.

  • Not every audience member who speaks out during a comedy show is a heckler. But there's a way to test the waters without upsetting your audience, says comedian Paul F. Tompkins.
  • By engaging in a civil way with the person who spoke out, you either give them an opportunity to add more fun to the show, or they'll reveal their true colors.
  • If the person ends up being a heckler after you've attempted including them in the conversation, the audience will be on your side when you shut that person down.


LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
Keep reading Show less

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

Personal Growth
  • We spend 40 percent of our childhoods asleep, a time for cognitive growth and development.
  • A recent study found an association between irregular sleep patterns in childhood and either psychotic experiences or borderline personality disorder during teenage years.
  • The researchers hope their findings can help identify at-risk youth to improve early intervention.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

    Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

    Credit: Neom
    Technology & Innovation
    • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
    • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
    • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

    Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

    Videos
    • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
    • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
    • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

    Quantcast