In 2007, not particularly funny nor likable comedian Jamie Kennedy created a documentary called “Heckler,” which examined our increasingly critically-minded modern world and provided a forum for Kennedy to respond to valid (albeit harsh) criticism of his work with sophomoric taunting.
The clip starting around 0:20 pretty well exemplifies Kennedy’s persistent failure to make an intelligent case against overly hostile or personal criticism. And it’s a shame, because there’s an intelligent case to be made.
Kennedy also appears unable to differentiate between professional literary criticism and the drunken hooting of actual hecklers, and this decidedly doesn’t help his case very much. Responding to a scathing review of his film with “Jesus why do you hate me?” just makes him look like an amateur who can’t take criticism. I, for one, felt inclined to side with the critic after viewing this clip.
Without going into too much detail about my job, I will simply say that it is a public-facing position wherein I interact with lots of anonymous people online and show myself on video in front of hundreds or sometimes hundreds of thousands of online viewers. I am mostly not conscious of the sheer number of eyes on me since the response is generally delayed, scattered, or resoundingly ignorant of my role; and since my job isn’t performed in front of a physically present audience, I hardly feel like I’m being “heckled,” at least not in the moment.
Recently, however I was featured in a YouTube video which received an unusually high number of views, and those of us familiar with YouTube know that having a large population of YouTubers gathered in one place is just a setup for cruelty. Indeed, many of the video’s comments were of a harsh tone atypical of my usual viewership. One person called me a “90s dude bro”, another suggested that I stop laughing at my own jokes, another that I stop making jokes, and another simply declared that he hated that fucking announcer, who was, incidentally, me. Also, when checking back on the comments just now for the sake of researching this blog, I discovered that another person had called me “garbage.”
I have a number of observations at this pass.
1) A lot of people are assholes.
2) A lot of people on YouTube and indeed, in the world, don’t jive with my sense of humor.
3) While I enjoy my own sense of humor, it probably is in bad taste to laugh at my own jokes. On the other hand, if I didn’t think they were funny, I wouldn’t have made them.
4) We are finally reaching a larger viewership, including people who are unfamiliar with me and just want to see our product. This is good!
5) The line between fair criticism and brutality is indeed obscured by the internet, but I’m inclined to suspect that YouTube comments are almost entirely comprised of the latter. I, for one, don’t think that I’m garbage, nor do I suppose that anybody could soundly judge such a thing just from viewing that 30-minute segment alone. I will accept, however, that I may be perceived as annoying by many, unfunny by many more.
6) I’m not sure what a “90s dude bro” is, but I’ll take it.
This also seems like a fine time to bring up my stance that it being the internet does not excuse cruelty, nor does my public-facing position justify it. Bill Maher said it best in that very same Jamie Kennedy documentary: “I don’t think any performer of any kind has a thick skin. I don’t think you can do any good work if you do. You have to be sensitive to be good, and if you’re sensitive, you’re also going to sometimes suffer because of that.”
I’ve accepted that this job will entail a great deal of interaction with anonymous purveyors of said suffering. But I’ll never accept the attitude that puts them there. Maybe I should start casting accusations about their pallid sex lives.