Comedian Slade Ham has a complicated relationship with hecklers. He hates that they interrupt his stand-up act; he loves shutting them up when they do. Ham, who spends 200 days out of the year on the road, is a Houstonian; he frequently entertains the troops overseas. He found that while there aren't many hecklers in a military crowd, there are some other things to look out for.
"The troops actually make for the best audiences in the world," Ham tells us. "They are, especially in some more remote deployments, so starved for entertainment that you couldn't possibly fail. It can be distracting when an IED goes off somewhere outside the base walls, though, and you still have to perform. That happened in Sadr City in Iraq while [a] comic was onstage. She -- the comic -- froze, like you should when a bomb goes off, I suppose."
Ham and the other members of the show also froze. "My friend Sam looked at me and said, 'What was that?' One of the soldiers leaned back to me and [said], 'Relax. It wasn't close enough to matter.' Those guys are animals."
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Ham says that for the most part, audiences are accommodating, eager to see the show. "People are people," he says. "Whether it's Houston or Toronto or Seoul, people just want to laugh. Crowds are usually 95 percent awesome and 5 percent disruptive."
It was here in Houston that he had his most epic encounter with a heckler. One that resulted in an all-out brawl.
"I was doing a show the day after Christmas," he tells us. "I was the fifth comic out of six, and this fat woman yelled things out through the first four acts. She had something to say after every joke. She interrupted, she booed, she talked over setups. The comics hated her. The crowd hated her. She was a vile creature sent here from the hottest of hells."
"I have a bit of a reputation for shutting hecklers down, and I was just pacing the room waiting for my turn. The club wasn't stopping her -- for some unknown reason -- and I not only expected her to take a shot at me, I was craving it. When I finally got introduced, I tried to go into my first joke and she rattled off something from her seat. I turned to her and said, 'Okay, you really...' and this soccer mom in the front row turned around and yelled, 'Shut the [fuck up], lady!' It was beautiful."
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Ham continues: "The heckler lost it. She managed to haul her girth out of her chair and started walking towards the poor soccer mom. This human beluga whale, just waddling forward, I don't know if she was going to hit the woman or not, but I stopped her. I said, 'Look, I realize this is the most exercise you've had in your life, but we all wish you would sit down.'"
The woman changed course and started heading for Ham onstage. "It was like watching a planet walk. She moved like an eclipse, just a hateful, angry sack of mattresses. And as she's screaming at me, I just unloaded. I called her every fat name in the book and about ten that aren't, and I finished by yelling, 'And we'll listen to you after you give the Little Mermaid her voice back!' That's when her boyfriend stood up and charged, knocking over another customer's table and sparking what turned into a 25-person barroom brawl during my set. It took the staff and all the comics and several customers awhile to sort it out...and the worst part was I still had ten more minutes to fill."
See Slade Ham at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 26. The Joke Joint Comedy Showcase, 11460 Fuqua. For information, call 281‑481‑1188 or visit jokejointcomedyshowcase.com. $16.