What The Film!? – Heckler

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What The Film?! is a weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the general fuckery Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try and pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.

If you know a film with major plot holes or those that make you scratch your eyes out, tell us! Email utgjames@gmail.com with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.

This Week’s Movie: 2007’s Heckler

Back in High School and College, I worked a lot with sketch comedy groups and improv groups. Hell, that ability to be on stage and take a bad situation with an audience and turn it around is the reason why I was hired to wait tables when I had no prior experience. With going on stage, writing online, and even waiting tables, you experience a lot of negative people trying to get to you. It’s one of those accepted evils that you can’t let it bother you, like how Steve Carell will never win an Emmy for his work on The Office.

I remember once our group was writing and practicing for weeks for an event we were scheduled to do. We walked out on stage, did our first scripted sketch and it bombed. There were no laughs at all. One guy in the audience actually yelled at us “You suck and I hate your face”, which has become a go-to insult for our group of friends now. We all went back stage, scrapped everything we had prepared, and started again. You just have to roll with the punches.

This does bother me. It bothers me a lot.

Heckler is a documentary produced and hosted by Jamie Kennedy. Filmed over a three year period, arranging interviews with several comedians, musicians, critics, and even directors as they dive into the mind of hecklers and compare them with critics. If you want to see a documentary about the act of being heckled complete with clips and interviews with comedians, this is absolutely it. It’s great and it’s very entertaining, but there’s a darker side to this movie.

The unnecessary ellipses for dramatic effect is always a good sign, right?

They break the hecklers down into two categories; those that think they’re adding to the show, helping out, and participating in a helpful manner; and those that are there to be the real life version of internet trolls, disrupting and trying to break momentum. I’ve had a drunk teenager come up on stage once and take the microphone out of my hand to try and do an a cappella karaoke of some pop-punk song with the audience while I was mid-joke. Ironically, he fit into the first category because he felt he was making the place more fun. (He was very drunk and ultimately tried to start a fight with the venue’s owner and got his cheekbone fractured as a result).

Throughout the movie, we see many different theories and ideas of why people heckle, one being that a heckler is like a horse; if you can’t control the horse, it will buck you; if you can’t control the audience, they will respond. Another (delusional) one being that comedians get heckled by female audience members in an attempt to flirt with her. After these theories, it cuts to host/producer Jamie Kennedy at a venue being booed and having every possible thing in the club being thrown at him on stage. That’s not being heckled, that’s bombing. They don’t show the “joke” he did to receive this reaction, but one assumes it must have been something awful.

You sure did.

Eventually we get to a point where Jamie Kennedy starts taking hecklers back stage and interviewing them to see what they disliked about his show, trying to see why they heckle. The irony is that there are plenty of clips in the movie and online that prove that Jamie Kennedy can respond to hecklers pretty damn well. His responses to heckling are better than his actual stand up. This isn’t Jamie exclusive, because a lot of great comedians heckler reactions are better than their written bits. If how you deal with tragedy and loss defines you as a person, then how a comedian deals with a heckler defines them.

In this case, Michael Richards is now defined as a punchline.

This is where the movie starts to get dark and weird because Jamie Kennedy does not react appropriately at all times. Hell, this whole documentary is proof of him not dealing with it well. You see Jamie Kennedy interview his hecklers and his movie critics and asks them why they don’t like what he’s doing. There are significant chunks of this movie dedicated to showing Jamie Kennedy Googling himself and reading reviews. He even states that the internet is “like a bathroom wall” and “anyone can put anything out there”. Despite pointing out that the internet is an anonymous wall of insults, he still seeks out himself. A friend of mine tweeted something positive about him a few months ago and Jamie retweeted it immediately

Yes, the internet is evil. Yes, anonymous people talk shit. That’s what happens. The fact is that this movie keeps playing this off as something to feel bad about. To have Jamie look sympathetic. It’s less a woman in a bad neighborhood getting attacked (where the attackers are clearly the one to be blamed) and more of having someone punch a bee hive and blame the bees for fighting back. The biggest problem Jamie has with this is himself. To go on stage and be heckled is one thing, it’s almost a right of passage for comedians; to deliberately seek these people out is another. He finds them and interviews them, trying to understand why people aren’t liking his stand up or movies. It’s like the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back except it’s for real and not a joke.

The conflict in this movie isn’t man versus man, despite trying very hard to make it look that way. It’s man versus self. It’s like someone made a mockumentary about the Charlie Kaufman half of Adaption except somehow much more sad. In a way, you do feel bad for Jamie, you feel sorry for him. But you realize he’s brought it on himself. If you don’t want to see hostility, don’t seek it out online. Don’t want to hear bad reviews? Don’t read reviews. Don’t want to get get burned? Don’t step into fire. This isn’t a heckler seeking you out for the negativity, this is you seeking out that negativity yourself.

There’s my Nicolas Cage reference for the day.

Earlier in the movie, there is an interview with Carrot Top (who doesn’t read his reviews) where Jamie Kennedy reads the hostility to him out loud (which seems kind of evil). When asked about hecklers, he states “You’re never going to be able to please everybody ever. There’s always going to be that one guy that fucking hates your guts and there is nothing you can do about it”. It’s the healthiest reaction to hecklers and critics in the entire movie. They could have ended the movie with this segment; it would have worked much better than the real ended where Jamie prints out a stack of internet comments and reviews and burns them while his critics watch. Instead we have an extra hour of Jamie asking his critics how often they have sex, how much richer he is, and that they are “nerds.”

I’ve seen this movie multiple times. It’s funny, it’s engaging, it’s absolutely worth watching. It’s made me question a lot of how I write this column. I never call a movie bad for the sake of it being bad or attack an actor or director personally (except for when I made fun of a director because he’s a convicted pedophile). The difference here is that this is a documentary. This is Jamie Kennedy in the real world and he put that out for us to experience. Unless this is a mockumentary where Jamie is playing a sad hermit who spends his free time Googles himself, which if that were the case then he’s pretty awesome.

It’s some weird Andy Kaufman type prank. We’ve been X’d!

Dane doesn’t Google himself because he isn’t a fourteen year old kid who is obsessed with what people think of him. You can follow him on Twitter and Tumblr!

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