1) They had no idea I was so upset, which is what I figured. I never told them that I felt threatened or that I felt the guy was waiting for me.
2) The scoop on the guy: he’s been to that venue and heckled on at least two other occasions, both were directed at male comedians. He just so happened to walk in during my set (unnoticed by the hosts who’d kicked him out of past shows) and that’s why the heckling started with me. His decision to heckle had nothing to do with me being a woman.
What he was saying was misogynistic and homophobic. Many of his insults were taken from my act, which is apparently how he operates, so maybe if another minority or other comic was on stage he would have targeted them in his own way, regardless of gender. I did not know this person or any of this at the time. I was not “assaulted” as some headlines have put it, but I do think the heckling went above and beyond in this case, and does so in many many other cases - something I’ll get to in a minute.
3) According to the producer I talked to, the guy wasn’t waiting for me at the end of the bar; he’s a regular and that’s where he sits - near the door. The running theory is that he was trying to apologize to me by blocking the door, or wanted to continue our lovely on-stage conversation and that by saying “Byyyye”, he was being an asshole but not a threat. The hosts knew this and they thought I could discern this, (plus I wasn’t letting on that I was upset).
Now here’s the thing - there’s a fine line between a heckler and someone who wants to hurt you. There’s no way to really know what his intentions were. I didn’t have all the information about this guy’s MO, but in many cases, we don’t. We can only go with our gut. From the limited information I had, I reacted the way I did.
This brings up an excellent point about being a woman (anywhere, not just in comedy). Often, it’s an impossible situation: either I’m overreacting and the guy is a kitty when I think he’s a lion (because I don’t know him, don’t know what he’s capable of and am generally at a disadvantage) or I choose to write him off and then he ends up being a kidnapping murderer. It’s always, constantly lose-lose.
Hopefully, everything that happened can be enlightening to both sides - men, who don’t understand how they’re being perceived and women, who are unfortunately consistently put into these scenarios where there’s no “right” way to react except that one that gets you home alive — even if you look silly, are embarrassed, come off weak, get told you can’t assume everyone’s a murderer/rapist, whatever.
Was it an overreaction, now that I know more about the guy? Most likely. At the time, it wasn’t. Did I let pride get in the way of talking to the hosts about how I felt? Yep. Was the guy a homophobic, misogynistic asshole (based on his comments)? Sure. Was he a jerk? Sure. Do we know everything about this guy and am I 100 percent sure he wasn’t a weirdo rapist kidnapper? No. No one can be sure. Even if he came to the show every week there’s no way to know what he does in his spare time. Was he probably just a drunk, hateful idiot? Probably, yes.
5) This is not just a female issue for comedians, though there are two problems I’ve seen in the responses:
a) the cavalier way in which the male comics I’ve talked to have said, “Oh, yeah. I’ve had worse happen.” Since my story was posted, male comics have told me they’ve had knives pulled on them, have done shows in front of the KKK, have been punched, slapped, threatened in the parking lot, etc. This is not okay. Why is this accepted as something that has to happen to you on your job as a - male or female - comedian?
b) Not to mention the other female comics that have come forward and said they’ve faced similar intimidating audience members. All these comments have been made either with a casual “well, this is par for the course” attitude or an embarrassed one because they don’t want to be judged as weaker than male comics for how they handle these situations. These are stories both male and female comedians haven’t shared before.
ALL IN ALL: Comics don’t deserve to be treated like this, regardless of gender, and I think it should be more acceptable to talk openly about when these things happen to us.
THAT BEING SAID: I’m still embarrassed, which I know any victim isn’t supposed to feel the shame because they’re the victim but I still feel it.
I’m embarrassed that I felt I couldn’t go to the show’s hosts for help because of some misguided pride. I’m embarrassed this happened to me. I’m embarrassed my story went everywhere. I’m embarrassed I wrote about it so soon afterward and now everyone wants to talk to me about this thing I’d really rather forget. I’m embarrassed that what I (obviously mistakenly) thought was a rant on my personal blog went so viral. I’m embarrassed that my initial reaction was so widespread. I’m happy it’s more than likely I was just overreacting to an aggressive heckler, but I’m sad this is accepted for comics and I’m sad women have to make split-second decisions based on instinct in these cases.
The post’s popularity is ultimately for a good reason, and I think it’s a reaction people are often too ashamed to bring up and I think that’s why it resonated with people. (So, it’s important, I just wish it wasn’t about me.) The post started an important conversation. I wish I hadn’t felt those feelings and I wish it wasn’t so publicly about me and this specific show because the story is universal. Let’s remember that.