I bought Heckler (2007) on a whim because the documentary, which was an examination of hecklers and how comedians deal with them, sounded interesting … and it was three bucks and 99 cents. I liked a lot of the comedians (Lewis Black, David Cross, Bill Hicks, Bill Maher to name a select few) in the film, too, and I appreciate some of star Jamie Kennedy’s comedy. I figured I couldn’t go wrong. What I got was so much more than I anticipated, however.
I’ve written about this film before. What seems like a simple look at the role of hecklers in a comedian’s life actually becomes a much deeper exploration of the role of the critic versus the role of the artist or entertainer. As I’ve worn both shoes, I found the film to be equally fascinating and depressing, and it caused me to examine some of what I had written in the past about certain performers. The film was as surprising as it was vexing … and it was only vexing because it was right.
Heckler went straight to DVD, and critics and their criticisms were as to be expected. I think some critics took the film a bit personally, however, while others did some awkward backhanded compliments, almost as if they could not give a decent review to anything starring Jamie Kennedy. I also think many of those critics not only missed the point, but inadvertently ended up proving it.
As a documentary on heckling, it may have seemed like it fell kind of flat because it appeared that its focus shifted. If you believe that, though, you aren’t paying attention. When Kennedy takes on the critics, he is pointing out that what they are doing is just another form of heckling … only they are safe behind a keyboard. It also shows that Kennedy is perhaps deeper than anyone cared to credit him with, and those things are what make this film worth viewing.
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