How to deal with internet trolling and other nonsense…

A couple years ago a comic who’s now a good buddy of mine had a misunderstanding about something I wrote/said. We really didn’t know each other, but after a ten minute talk we were 100% okay with each other. Weeks before our chat while he was mad at me, he wrote an angry email to his hero, Marc Maron, about me who tweeted “Who is @RobDurhamComedy to tell comics how to do comedy?” to over 100,000 followers. I was finishing up a school day and had no idea that it had happened until a few hours later. Within moments I had a tweet ready to reply but then thought about it. I had 65 followers, he had 100K+ and people I knew were already piling on. I called some more experienced friends in the business and they advised that I handle it directly with Marc instead of in front of thousands of his disciples. So I did. (They also explained to me that Maron gets mad at things like sandwiches that are the wrong kind of BBQ.) Remember that I had no idea at this time why Marc Maron, who is ALWAYS arguing with people on twitter, picked me out. I figured, “Wow, he got my book somehow!” Nope, it was just a random letter. A buddy of his told me he said, “I try to defend all these nutjobs who write because they’re fans.” The good news is that day this blog had a record high of 854 hits and over 3,000 that week. I sold quite a few books in the next week and it gave me something to talk about on podcasts (Otherwise I’m very dull). The irony was that someone like Marc who is always trolled, ending up kinda trolling me? (That’s like, an honor, right?)

When you’re a comic with a social media presence and a webpage you’re going to get that. I used to have to remove obnoxious comments on my webpage 3 times a day the first month it was up (I finally figured out that screening option). The thing was, I knew who was doing it (eventually). He was a fellow Columbus comic who I worked with a lot and was actually a buddy of mine. I messed with him a little and we both wasted each other’s time. We’ve grown out of those things as we’re both adults and realize we have better ways to use our time (earning money by working). Incidents seem to happen every few years.

Still, there are people out there who still continue trolling. Usually they’re cowards so they’ll create a fake Facebook/Youtube/Twitter profile and post something about you like the bitch internet heckler they are (usually comics are against snipe heckling, aren’t we?). They don’t know you, but are probably jealous of your success (How dare he encourage reading and educating other comics!). They’ll spend hours designing fake profiles, adding fake friends, and photoshopping instead of doing something productive like writing material, booking gigs, and making money. The best thing to do is to just ignore them or talk to them directly if they have the balls to at least own it. In the previous situation, I ended up sending Maron a letter along with a book. I explained that my book was inspired by the fact that I was sick of seeing new comics make the same mistakes week after week at open mic night. I was a high school teacher who didn’t work the road as much (that’s explained in my book) and didn’t understand his out-of-the-blue animosity. He never wrote back and that was that. I ignored the tweets that followed from others who thought that it would hurt my feelings 140 characters at a time. I didn’t respond to the disrespectful and somewhat ridiculous article that the RFT wrote asking me to reply and all of the comments that followed, (oddly enough, written by the same guy who wrote a nice article about it just weeks before).

The problem is that comedy doesn’t keep some people busy enough. They get bored. They get jealous (we’ve all been jealous of someone in this business…I’m very guilty of that).

I remember the first time some classmates were jealous of my success when I was little. It was 3rd grade math. The people who still feel that way and act out on it are the intellectual equals of those 9-year-olds. Ignore them and feel flattered that your success has bothered someone so much that they waste hours of their life trying to upset you.

There’s a reason they troll from a hidden identity 99% of the time. They know you could cut down their pathetic career life very easily. Don’t waste your time. Go write some new jokes (or a book–those seem to sell). How about a new t-shirt design? Maybe a day job so you can afford to have a comedy career. The list goes on…

And yes, I fully expect obnoxious comments on this entry… (please disappoint me)

What if the heckler gets the crowd to laugh?

I’ve only written one or two entries on here about hecklers, but Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage gives plenty of tips. This week I had something rare happen though.  A heckler actually got a laugh from the crowd.  Uh oh!  Here’s what happened..

I was doing my sales pitch about my book and saying that I would sign them and the headliner would be signing autographs. I then mentioned that the previous night we had signed a girl’s boob.  An older man, stage right, who had been piping up here and there yelled out, “What was his name?”  The crowd laughed.  In retrospect I could’ve responded with something cheap and easy like, “I don’t know, what do you call your boy?” but didn’t have anything at the time.  It’s better to just let him get his laugh than to try and respond and fail miserably.  What if I stumbled or the comeback didn’t make sense?  This can happen, so like I said, I let his joke breathe.  After that died down I went into my own premeditated heckler material that I’ve used before.  It didn’t relate to his comment, but it got a lot of laughs and I had the audience back on my side.  Most importantly he shut up.

So what happens if you can’t think of anything to say? I’ve heard a few comics say, “It was your joke, but I still get credit for all laughs while I’m on stage,” or “Keep doing my job, but I’m the one who gets paid.”  Sure these don’t have the mean comeback pop you want to destroy a heckler with, but they will get laughs from the audience.  If the heckler continues you can cut him off with, “OK, shut it down… etc.”

By then hopefully a doorman or someone at the club has become aware of the situation. If it’s a one-nighter bar, you’ll have to defend yourself, but then again your limitations on what you can say are removed too.

For more tips on odd little situations like these as well as everything else you could possibly ask about comedy, order Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.

5 Things to bring to a one-nighter…

The best kind of one-nighter gigs are the ones you can drive home from after the show (anything within four hours is my rule).  The problem is that you don’t have to “pack” for this type of gig, so you may be likely to forget to bring something.

Here is a quick list of things you might forget to take to a one-nighter…

1.  An extra shirt that won’t wrinkle:  Eating in the car?  You’re going to spill on yourself.  Grab a shirt that will still match but won’t wrinkle.

2.  “Square Reader” and cash:  If you sell merch you should be using the Square App for those customers who don’t have cash.  Leaving this behind could cost you gas money for the whole trip.  Also, be sure to have small bills (fives) for change if you sell something for $15.  A few ones to tip should help too.

3.  Contact’s phone number:  In case you’re late or lost, you should always let them know.  This way you can avoid calling your booker and ruining your reputation.  Just call the bar and let them know so they don’t get nervous.

4.  Charger:  Sometimes in the middle of nowhere your phone dies much sooner than it normally would (you already knew that), so be sure you can keep it charged because you don’t want to lose merch sales because you can’t access your Square App.  I also use my phone as a timer in my pocket for while I’m on stage.

5.  Mic Stand:  This one is optional, but if you’re a guitar act or need both hands free for some reason, it would be a wise investment to keep one of these in your trunk.  Some bars just don’t have mic stands which makes for an awkward mic exchange with the emcee.  If you absolutely need one, buy and bring your own.

These are just a few of the many things you should remember.  Find the rest of them by reading Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.