Learning how to handle obnoxious hecklers is as much a part of the art of standup comedy as is perfecting proper set-ups and punchlines. Especially now, it seems that the distraction of audience members unable to break their gaze with cellphones is one that will be difficult for comics to avoid.
Brooklyn-based comic Adam Newman is no newcomer to comedy. Yet, while he was on stage for a headlining performance in Atlanta’s Laughing Skull Lounge on Saturday, Nov. 24 he was put in a situation by a heckler that he will not soon forget.
Immediately after taking the stage for his set, Newman noticed that a man who had been heckling performers all night had disappeared from the club, but left his jacket at a table near the stage. Newman could not help but see if he could make something of this opportunity.
“It should have been like, I put on his coat, he comes back and I’m wearing his coat, we all have a laugh, I give the coat back, we all have a big laugh and it’s done,” recalled Newman, an Atlanta native. “But I just made the dumb move to start going through the coat.”
After being handed the coat by the heckler’s wife and following some encouragement from the audience, Newman searched the pockets to see if he might find anything noteworthy.
What he found was a bag of cocaine.
“I’ve had some pretty crazy moments on stage before but this is definitely the most memorable heckler story I have.”
Immediately removing the coat and returning it to the heckler’s wife, Newman did his best to focus on simply finishing his set. Understandably, this proved to be quite difficult.
“After that whole thing I had to do 40 to 45 [more] minutes and it was kind of a tricky transition back into material after that” said Newman. “The thing that saved me was that I gave the coat back to the wife and she put it on his chair before he even got back from the bathroom. He never even knew that I went through his coat for the whole show. I don’t think he knew I went through his coat until the car ride home.”
After his set, Newman found himself being approached by club owner asking if he wanted his own copy of the event. As it turns out, Roof Top Comedy has a camera placed in the back of Laughing Skull Lounge, along with several other comedy clubs across the nation, with hopes of being able to capture funny material for their website. Seizing the opportunity to better tell his bizarre story with visual accompaniment, Newman brought the video to a storytelling show later in the week.
“I told the story, and then I showed the video, and the reaction was insane. It’s so strange to tell a story and then show a video of exactly what you just told and still get that same reaction. I did it there and then to make sure it wasn’t a fluke I did it at another show and then I just decided to put it online.”
The result: over 1.6 million views in less than one week.
“I didn’t put it online because I thought I was hilarious or that I handled it amazingly well in the moment; I put it online because it’s just such a crazy thing that happened on stage that I thought people would enjoy it or think it’s funny.”
Several skeptics have emerged following the video’s burst in popularity, claiming it was a planned stunt, especially considering the wife handed him the coat.
“The wife handed me the coat, but I don’t think she knew; there’s no way that she was so dumb that she’d hand me the coat knowing there was cocaine in it. There’s no way. But, she handed me the coat, and then I’m going through the pockets and you hear someone on the video say that there’s another pocket but that was just some lady in the crowd who wanted me to keep going with the bit. There wasn’t the wife going, ‘There’s the pocket with the cocaine in it.’”
Though the event provided Newman with one of the most memorable and perhaps most terrifying moments of his career thus far, he has no qualms with the heckler.
“He stayed for the whole set. I must say that he was a very awake and alert audience member for the rest of the show.”