Saturday, September 20, 2008

Heckler: Grade C

Heckler (2007)
Jamie Kennedy, Bill Maher, Arsenio Hall, Louie Anderson, Leonard Maltin, Howie Mandel, & many others. Director Michael Addis.

In this documentary, comedic actor and television producer Jamie Kennedy interviews stand-ups about hecklers in the audience: how they feel about them and how they handle them. There are some film clips showing disruptive hecklers, but mostly it is the comics talking, and they uniformly despise hecklers, considering them no more than drunken baboons. But surprisingly, most comics also seem genuinely disturbed by them, even if they handle the situation well with a snappy retort or by calling security. Bill Maher explains, you need a thin skin to be a good comic.

Most of the movie, however, is given over to criticism of film critics, who are lumped into the same category as performance hecklers, which is an error. There are some funny bits as Kennedy confronts some critics of his own work “Why do you hate me, man?” Some critics are only vicious egotists, true, but Kennedy does not have a clue about the social function of a critic, which would imply that he also has little understanding of the social function of performer.

The critic translates artistic expression into propositions that can be discussed. That articulation does deprive the artistic product of its pristine facticity, but in exchange, embellishes its communicative power. A stone, even a jewel, does not mean as much as it can until somebody comments on it.

The documentary did not get to the bottom of the heckler phenomenon either. Most hecklers probably are drunken baboons, but that is not enough of an explanation. They are also commenting (inarticulately) on the artificiality of the standup format: you (the comic) act personal, folksy, and intersubjective with me to get a laugh (at my expense) but I am excluded from the conversation. I heckle to be included. Kennedy produced this film, so in a small way, he may be trying to close the circle of that conversation, but if so, he should have spent more time interviewing hecklers and critics and less time whining. Despite its internal conflicts, the documentary has a few laughs and can be thought-provoking.

No comments:

Post a Comment