Jamie Kennedy’s Heckler: If You Can’t Say Something Nasty…

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While it sounds like a documentary about stand-up, Jamie Kennedy’s Heckler focuses on criticism in general and ties it with what’s becoming an ubiquitous desire of everyone to be in the spotlight. At 75 minutes, it’s far too short to cover the subject, but there’s a fair amount of threads of the phenomena explored.

There are two inspirations for Kennedy in making the documentary:

  • the heckler as the seeming inescapable part of being a stand-up
  • the reviews of his film Son of the Mask, which aren’t just artistically stinging but also personally derogatory even calling for his death.

Stand-up, because of its intimate nature, is naturally the perfect place to examine why people want to aggressively overshadow others’ talent. There’s no other medium where direct resistance and rejection of an artist’s ideas is possible. And when the jokes are rejected, it feels like a personal rejection and often intended as one.

There’s a lot of videos of infamous heckling here and If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, you might recognize much of it. Included are the video where a comic gets punched by a politically correct patron, the one where the comic hits a heckler with a guitar and, of course, the Michael Richards meltdown of last year. There’s also more than a little joy to be had in hearing comics talk their experiences with hecklers and even some surprising confessions of hecklers’ effects – such as David Cross admitting he considered quitting stand-up for a time.

However, a good deal of the film focuses on Jamie Kennedy’s sit-down with critics of his films. Jamie does have a good point here… so much of criticism is now an excuse for a writer to shit all not so much the work, but the creator. If it’s criticism, it should be an honest assessment of the work without getting into whether the artist deserves to draw breath.

But in Kennedy’s confrontations with critics that thought gets lost, mostly because Kennedy trying to discount the destractor’s credibility by demonstrating their nerdiness or lack of sexual experience. He repeats the same error: knocking down the man, not the work. Anyone can have an opinion about a film, but can he justify why a critic can say that Kennedy should never been born?

At Friday’s premiere screening, Kennedy mentioned that he doesn’t think the film he seems to be defending is that good. I think this admission would be great to have in the film in some way, because it would help put the focus back on the point at hand: why call me a rape baby?

The man who called Kennedy that is probably the best illustration of what most criticism is and why it probably shouldn’t be taken personally. His name is Peter Grumbine and in his confrontation with Kennedy he’s unrepentant – at one point while Kennedy reads a part of Grumbine’s review that mentions he should be dragged behind a truck, Grumbine nonchalantly nods his head in agreement. Grumbine revels in playing the villain for Kennedy here, eagerly telling him that he enjoys pissing off celebs like Jamie. He even has the appropriate facial hair for the role.

I’m actually friendly with Peter Grumbine and what the film doesn’t mention, and perhaps should, is the Peter is a stand-up himself. Letting people in on that would illustrate that criticism has become entertainment itself, following many of the same rhythms a stand-up comic has when he’s making fun of Paris Hilton or George Bush on stage. In a world where anyone could be star, everything we write is an audition for the spotlight.

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Posted by Mike on 05/02  at  02:16 AM

I don’t really know anything about Jamie Kennedy except he’s known to be in some bad movies (I haven’t seen any of them).

It sounds like from your review there are two distinct movies here.  One is an objective take on heckling, and the other is a personal confrontation with his critics.  I don’t quite see how they’re related; heckling and critical reviews exist in separate universes to me.  Heckling involves a more-or-less random citizen seeking attention (usually alcohol-induced) at a live public performance, while reviews are generally made by people who critique comedy/films for a living.  I guess they both involve bad-mouthing, but it seems a tenuous connection on which to base a documentary.  I don’t know, maybe it’ll make more sense after I see it.

Posted by Andrew Madrid on 05/02  at  03:07 AM

I have this recurring dream where it’s this place has open mic night for hecklers to test out their material.  This guy is up there just randomly shouting things like ‘get off, you suck’ and ‘your comedy blows’.  But in the back of this room full of other hecklers is one really funny comic and he starts randomly shouting out punchlines to through the guy off.  And when it’s all said and done’ the heckler who can’t get any angrier, just starts telling jokes out of frustration.  The thing is, they’re pretty decent jokes, and the whole room turns on him and someone shoots him in the neck.

Meanwhile the comic takes a drag on a cigarette and walks out without being seen. 

People are always saying ‘Hecklers and Comics they can’t live without each other.’  That makes absolutely no fucking sense. 

I think the point of the dream is, those people should be shot in the neck.

Counterpoint: If we didn’t have hecklers it might become even more difficult to make it in this industry.

Damned if you do…

Posted by AJ Thomas on 05/03  at  12:22 PM

Ah, comedians. They can dish it out…

Regarding all the “kill Jamie”/“rapebaby” stuff: do people really need to have the concept of hyperbole/exaggeration to illustrate a point explained to them still?

Posted by Humor Blogg on 05/07  at  04:07 PM

Holy shit this actually looks like it could be good. I usually refrain from using “Jamie Kennedy” and “Good” in the same sentence.

Posted by Ross on 05/08  at  05:32 AM

I think this could have been great, except for Jamie Kennedy extending the definition of heckler so he can satisfy his own personal vendetta with movie critics.

Posted by Maddy Mud on 09/09  at  01:15 PM

Rob Lowe was on the tonight show once, and he was asked by Jay Leno about his sensitive performance of a retarded man in “Square Dance.”  Lowe said “If you can’t play retard, you shouldn’t be an actor.”

The same goes for heckling.  While on the surface—it seems so painful and intrusive—it’s not that big a deal to any comedian who’s been a round a while.  Heckling follows a very predictable arc—at first the audience finds it a bit exciting that someone is heckling.  Then, they get bored with it, and want the comedian to destroy the heckler.  That’s the truth.  Despite all of our protestations that we are different creatures who won’t conform—the audience wants the comfort of the performer-audience relationship returned. 

As a comedian, everything is tilted towards you to win.  You have a mic, the heckler doesn’t.  That’s a huge advantage.  Everything you said is AMPLIFIED and has REVERB on it.  You’re the voice of God, the other person is just shouting.  You can interpret his dialogue to the people who can’t hear it for comedic effect. 

Second—a comedian is not an improv person.  He has to find a way to make the same material fresh, night in and night out.  He often WELCOMES a little change.  It livens things up.

Third—as I said, the audience is waiting for you to finish off the heckler.

A hack comedian will often just wait for the heckling so he can vent spleen.  There’s plenty of comedians with acts so crappy, you would think they were designed to entice heckling.  I tried that once as an experiment.  To see if I could willingly encourage heckling.  But not to just do a bunch of tired old comedian put-downs, but to really have an odd dialogue with the audience, to make people uncomfortable.  I was not going to return order with a snappy comeback.  It was a lot of fun.  I have to admit, though, in the end, I would sometimes acede to the audience desire and do a putdown to finish. 

Eddie Izzard handles heckling the best I’ve ever seen, but his audiences are usually smart and on his side.  Izzard lets the heckler either hang himself or be a hero.  Given the nature of the equation stated above, it’s usually the noose, but every now and then a hero does pop out.

Then you have Seinfeld and his tortured analogy—“I don’t come to your cubicle and make fun of your work”—which shows a surprising amount of insecurity for someone who should be miles beyond heckling hate.

Posted by Peter Grumbine is a fag woman on 11/16  at  09:08 PM

I just watched Heckler and really enjoyed it.

That guy you mentioned though, Peter Grumbine… he was a world class douche. And now he’s immortalised on screen as the movie’s only trembling glistening cock top.

Posted by slappy magoo on 02/23  at  02:29 PM

Actually, what the film doesn’t mention, and what is all-too-apparent, is that most of Kennedy’s “confrontations” are staged, and staged poorly at that. At no point is it believeable that Kennedy is hurt by critics of his films or heckles of his standup. The end-of-the-movie beatdowns at the end of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back are more realistic than Kennedy’s lame attempts to put critics in their place. What’s unfortunate is that a simple documentary/nostalgia trip of comics and film makers talking about the abuse they’ve endured in their careers is a great idea. Hearing comedians who I admire recall their experiences with hecklers was really entertaining. And then, every so often, along comes Kennedy wondering why people mocked him so mercilessly for movies like “Son of the Mask” or “Malibu’s Most Wanted.” Most of Kennedy’s antics in Heckler come across like half-baked Andy Kaufman-isms. It feels like the hecklers in his standup are plants, the critics he confronts are in on the joke, and Kennedy thinks coming across as stunned into silence makes him seem sympathetic. It doesn’t. It makes the whole production come across as illegitimate.

Posted by Phillip Wiese on 04/09  at  12:50 AM

I like Jamie Kennedy, I think he is talented. I enjoy most of what he’s done, and this documentery just shows he has additional range.  I think i’ll put him on my list of 10 people i’d like to party with.

Posted by Kija Persson on 04/12  at  07:05 PM

I watched 2/3rds of the movie before shutting it off in disgust. There is enough to maintain my interest in the section on hecklers, though much of it is self-referential ranting from comics who obviously can’t stand the heat.

However, the reason the film is unwatchable is because Jamie Kennedy doesn’t understand what industry he is in. The telling moment is when he whines that no one complains about how accountants write their numbers, with no recognition of the extraordinary rewards meted out to actors in terms of celebrity, salary and social power. Moreover, the work product is completely different, one is subject to objective evaluation…does it balance, is there documentation? The other is essentially subjective and open to evaluation and opinion. Its worth is dependent upon subjective evaluation.

Whatever limitations or skills Jamie Kennedy may have as an actor, this documentary reveals he is in the wrong occupation for someone with his frail and delicate sensibilities and would really be better off pursuing a career more suited to his personality, such as paper shredder.

Posted by Melody on 05/23  at  02:21 PM

I just watched Heckler and the only person who came off worse than Jamie Kennedy was Peter Grumbine. Jamie Kennedy called him an evil person, and I have to agree. He’s also none to bright or creative. What kind of monster thinks that rape babies are fodder for comedy? The same brand of narcissistic beast who believes that they are the first person to coin the term ‘rape baby’.

And, since Grumbine believes that personal attacks are acceptable, I would like to add that his faux-hipster beard makes him look like a wanna-be douchebag. Grumbine’s teeth are so yellow that they could be used to rate dehydrated urine samples. Has he ever heard of brushing?
Grumbine is a sadistic, hurtful bastard who makes Eric Cartman look like a loving, caring, and empathic human being in comparison.

Newsflash, Grumbine, being cruel and pedestrian doesn’t make you funny or clever. It just means you probably have a personality disorder or need psychiatric care. I hope for the future of humanity that Grumbine has never reproduced and has been neutered.

Posted by Shredder on 04/07  at  12:26 AM

Grumbine wtf?! That ugly motherfucker will piss off the wrong person sometime and get curb stomped in eternity. Now that would be funny. He looks like a stinking hippie version of Jon Gosselin. Beady rat like eyes, yellow teeth, cheeeeeze wiz hipster douchestache and beard combo. Again, WTF?!

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