Standup comedy is more than just a few laughs, it’s an age-old pact between comedian and audience to accept the performance as improvised and unrehearsed.
You don’t have to scratch that deep to discover those seemingly spontaneous riffs are actually well-oiled scripts. Visiting a comedian on consecutive nights will demonstrate the minuscule amount of ad-libbing.
In a way, audience participation is compulsory. We sit compliantly, self-blindfolded, being spoon-fed the comedians heavily processed skits, all wilfully gulped down as off-the-cuff brilliance. Those clever anecdotes are in fact meticulously memorised theatre. Theatre… ironically something comedians often mock as pompous and accessorised when compared to their acute minimalism. The solitary mic and glass of water – efficiency personified. No need for props, supporting actors or music. This is the very essence of entertainment, distilled to raw essentials.
Learn some jokes – master your delivery – recite on a daily basis. The formula sounds simplistic. Yet, something lurks in the shadows, something ready to test the comedian and throw a spanner in their nightly monologue. An unwanted guest, one that interrupts, dishevels and spoils. The Heckler.
Widely regarded as a pest, and vilified from both sides of the stage, The Heckler often appears in a drunken malaise, shouting inane and inebriated insults. Easy prey, even for the most brittle act. But occasionally a Heckler appears in a different form – lucid and dexterous, a ninja that strikes with impeccable timing and wit.
A rare and invaluable breed, one that polices the terrain of laughter by weeding out those inauthentic actors, those charlatans unable to be funny on their feet, unable to go off-script with a sharp counter-rant. Good hecklers are the ombudsmen of stand-up, impervious to hatred and unperturbed by their actions.
But not everyone has this piercing ability. Most hecklers are lambs to the slaughter, residing in the humourless middle-ground of misfired banter and fumbled interjections.
To ensure against this type of humiliation and help thick skulled interrupters to cut through the dullness of their own minds, The Heckler Companion App has been developed.
It works by recording some of the comedian’s banter, decoding it, then outputting the perfect one-liner to shout at the most inopportune moment. The algorithm has access to every joke ever written, with the backend processing ability of eight Richard Pryor brains, connected by fizzing electricity and intravenous crack tubes.
It provides the ultimate test of comedic ability.
Comedy has been conspicuously omitted in the great AI debate, but The Heckler Companion App represents a dark omen. Hacking into perfect put-downs and wrong-footing the slickest minds might signal another obsolescing industry – comedy the next Uber, the AI comedian retiring organic humour with the cold and heartless precision of Machine Wit.