LA JOLLA -- The charged atmosphere coming out of the close election and impending inauguration of Donald Trump is leading to a rise in heckling at comedy clubs across the country.
While the Presidential race and transition has been a gold mine for political satire on television, it’s actually creating a tougher atmosphere for comedians to ply their trade.
10News spent a recent Saturday night visiting San Diego’s longest-running comedy club, the iconic “Comedy Store” in La Jolla. Of the four comedians who took the stage, not one spent a significant amount of time touching on politics.
“It’s brought out the ugly in a lot of people,” says Comedy Store Promotions Manager Mike Vinn, a stand-up comedian himself.
He tells 10News that hecklers are disruptive of the show people have paid their hard-earned money to see.
“There’s a place and a time for everything and coming out to a live show is not a place to force your opinions on people that don’t want to hear you. They want to hear the person they paid to see,” says Vinn.
A recent article in the Huffington Post listed several recent incidents of heckling related to the emotionally-heightened political atmosphere. An improviser at the famous Second City troupe in Chicago quit, saying he was tired of the increasing number of racist heckles.
A video went viral when 200 people walked out of a show by comedian Amy Schumer after she expressed her preference for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Other comics have said they’ve been interrupted and verbally attacked by people on the opposite end of the political spectrum, accusing them of being inappropriate or offensive for making jokes touching on controversial topics such as religion and race.
The headliner for the show at the Comedy Store, Jimmy Shubert, says he mostly avoids political humor in his act.
“I don’t really do political humor because you’re asking for it if you do, especially in this election," he said.
Shubert, a long-time club comic who has toured the country and was a finalist on the reality competition “Last Comic Standing,” says the only political jokes he’ll do are “right down the middle, attacking both sides equally.”
Shubert would rather focus on entertaining the whole crowd and giving them a relief from politics, instead of doing material which could divide the audience.
Vinn says the Comedy Store has a “zero-tolerance” policy toward hecklers, explaining that he would rather have a heckler removed from the club than allow that person to prevent the rest of the crowd from enjoying the show.
Shubert says “You’re going to embarrass your date, you’re going to get thrown out of the club, you’re not going to get your money back. You mess with the comedian, you’re going to ruin some other people’s evening of entertainment.”