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If you've been paying any attention to the world of TV, you'll know that Netflix is on top of the game. And aside from its plethora of original programming and movies, the streaming service has quickly become a game changer for the world of stand-up comedy specials. It seems like new fantastic specials are released on Netflix every few weeks, and the most recent comes from the always delightful comedian/actress/writer Sarah Silverman. Her new special A Speck of Dust features a few moments with the comedian interacting with her fans and hecklers, and she recently revealed why she actually finds hecklers fascinating.
I had the privilege to speak with Sarah Silverman about A Speck of Dust during Netflix's spring press junket in New York City. When I asked her about one specific heckling incident from the special, she explained why hecklers are so interesting to her. Silverman said,
A lot of people heckle, and they're well meaning. Hecklers fascinate me because, whatever the words they're saying are, the subtext always is 'I exist!', you know? And to me it's heartbreaking and fascinating and I want to give them what they want.
And give them what they want is certainly what Sarah Silverman does. But any experienced stand up audience member knows that the last thing you want is to gain the negative attention of the comic; it usually results in you being the butt of the joke.
While not all hecklers are well meaning, you certainly see a few in Sarah Silverman's recent Netflix special. In the back half of A Speck of Dust, Sarah actually momentarily stops the set in order to directly address one audience member. While she thanks him for constantly agreeing with her throughout the set, Sarah also tells him the next time he wants to vocally support her, he could just give a thumbs up. There are also a few more brief moments in the special, where Silverman addresses an audience member (something pretty common in stand-up).
Although hecklers can be a distracting and negative aspect of stand-up, audience interaction can sometimes provide moments of magic and improvisation in an otherwise curated set. For instance, Amy Schumer's HBO special Live at the Apollo featured a rather long conversation with an audience member about ridiculous sexual positions. Things only got crazier when it was revealed that he came to the show with his mother, who was seated right next to him. While that entire bit could have been left on the cutting room floor, Schumer's delighted reaction to the situation added a sense of improvisation toe the special as a whole.