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Heckler Gets Destroyed: Open Mic Gets Nasty After Heckler Takes Stage (UPDATED)

Posted: 04/ 3/2012 1:05 pm Updated: 04/ 6/2012 12:55 pm

UPDATE:
The original video of the comedian being heckled has since been removed from YouTube. However, in the short time it was up, it inspired a heated discussion in the comedy community, one that touched upon everything from sexism to privacy to basic consideration.

Comedian Carolyn Castiglia noted on her blog, "...one person heckling one other person seems a benign act compared to a room full of mostly men attacking a woman who was clearly so nervous to do comedy that she had to get drunk first." You can read the rest of Castiglia's thoughtful analysis here.

The woman in question, Emily Niland, attended another open mic a few days after the initial incident to apologize. That video is available below. Make sure to watch through to the end for another comedian's humorous take on why an apology was unnecessary.

PREVIOUSLY:
There's a video of a comedian being mercilessly heckled at a New York City open mic that's been making the viral rounds over the last couple of days. When we first saw it, we were convinced that it had to be an April Fools' Day prank. No crowd could possibly be that mean to one performer, we thought; especially since open mic audiences tend to be filled with other comics who, while they may not be the quickest to laugh, are generally quite respectful of their fellow performers.

The clip begins with an explanation of what happened before; apparently the woman on stage had been sitting in the front row throughout the show, talking and heckling the other performers, even as she prepared to eventually take the stage herself. Heckling is considered bad form for any audience member, but when a comedian does it, their peers consider it tantamount to a betrayal of the craft.

We spoke to Adam Cozens, the comedian who shot and uploaded the footage about what happened that night and why he wanted to post the clip.

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HuffPost Comedy: First of all, is this real?

Adam Cozens: Haha. Yea, its real. Pretty incredible too. It did coincidentally happen on April Fool's day, but no one there was taking it like a joke.

HPC: What were you doing at the show?

AC: I'm just a comedian who came by the open mic to work out a few new jokes during the short 3 minute set. Lots of very talented, incredibly funny comics come to the mic so it is a great place to get quality feedback from your peers.

HPC: What was the woman doing prior to what we see in the video?

AC: Prior to this incident, she and her friends talked and heckled and yelled all throughout the host's opening time, being repeatedly told by the host, as well as comics sitting around her to be quiet (in not always those kind of words). Of the 15 or so comics that went on prior to her, she talked during each and every one of them. Which is annoying anywhere, but when you are in the front row, it's incredibly distracting. We were all there with the sole purpose of working out some new jokes and getting better at what we were doing so for her to be so distracting and rude was maddening and comics were becoming livid.

Almost everyone who performs stand up in New York moved here to follow their dream, sacrificing money, a normal life and other basic human comforts for the opportunity to grow and succeed at something they care about. When someone sits in the crowd and heckles you after you waited all night to get on stage, it destroys you. It's one of the most cowardly and selfish things you can do to a fellow person.

HPC: Did you know the heckler was a comic?

AC: I had never met or seen her before. I just thought she and her friends were some standard run-of-the-mill hecklers sitting in the front row of a late night open mic. When my friend told me she was actually a comedian and she had planned on doing a set as well, I was in shock.

HPC: Normally, if someone is heckling relentlessly, they're thrown out. Why didn't that happen?

AC: It was discussed, but for some reason it didn't happen. Around the time that it was all coming to a head and it was make or break time in regards to giving her the boot, it was decided to just put her on stage and handle it the way we did. I was personally of the belief that everyone should just be completely silent and let her toil in the silence of bombing, but that quickly turned into yelling and heckling her back, which I was more than happy to join in on, as she had heckled me during my set as well.

Some comics at the mic knew her, and that was what was so shocking. She had been to open mics before. She knew better than to do this.

HPC: What happened after her set was over?

AC: After her set, she sat back down in the front row (breaking a glass in the process) and then, as if nothing happened, proceeded to keep heckling the next few comics. As if she was proud of herself and pleased with all the attention she got. When she got up to use the bathroom, people running the mic told her not to come back down, which she obeyed. I left shortly after this point, running into her briefly outside. Other comics who left after me said she tried explaining that "she was from Boston."

HPC: Outside of the comedy scene the whole thing may not seem like such a big deal, but forming relationships and being part of a community is a big part of developing as a comedian. Do you think the she'll be given a second chance by her peers?

AC: I think that she got drunk and made a mistake. It happens. Nobodys perfect and I forgive her. She reached out to myself and other comics from the show and attempted to explain herself. I don't think this tape needs to ruin her life or dreams and I am all for giving her another chance to redeem herself.

HPC: What has the reaction been to the video?

AC: Most comics are very much on board, but some have been very harsh towards me about posting it. Not surprisingly, everyone telling me what a bad person I am wasn't there. It's easy to defend her because without the context of how awful she was being, it just looks like a bunch of bullies picking on one comedian.

HPC: Why ultimately did you post the video?

AC: I think that this tape teaches a lesson to both comics and audience members to be respectful to performers. What we are doing is difficult.

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Take a look at the video above and weigh in on it in the comments. Have you ever heckled or been heckled by someone? Do you think this performer was treated unfairly or did she simply get a taste of her own medicine? Should she have been kicked out rather than invited on stage? What would you have done in this situation?

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