Film Review: Heckler

Coproducer and oft-mocked comedian Jamie Kennedy talks brickbats with Arsenio Hall, Carrot Top, and other heckled celebs in a look at pop culture from the factory floor.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Coarse, crass, and surprisingly smart, Heckler has a chip on its shoulder, but also has a lot on its mind. Inspired by coproducer Jamie Kennedy’s experience as an oft-mocked comedian, it’s a brisk overview of the state of critical conversation in the Internet age, a raucous look at popular culture from the factory floor, and an occasionally uncivilized call for civility.

Still reeling from terrible reviews of his roles in Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask, Kennedy talks to stand-up comics, athletes, and Hollywood creators about how they deal with the barrage of brickbats not just from hecklers but faceless online flamers and professional critics. More than simply a celebrity pity party, the interviews build into a critique of how the combination of anonymity and an audience allows people to say things online that they might not if they had to put their name and face to the words. Heckler also looks at the corresponding shift in mainstream criticism from the analytical to the personal. Performers, it seems, don’t mind if you judge them so long as you do it constructively. As comedian Patton Oswalt advises, “If you’re just sitting in the darkness and yelling ‘You suck!’…Okay—show me why I suck.”

Heckler has its bizarre, blunt moments, such as the late comic Bill Hicks chasing a heckler out of a performance with a torrent of profanity, and a struggling actress who reveals (literally) why her fans have suggested that she surgically enhance her breasts. Some of Kennedy’s interview subjects are surprisingly astute (Arsenio Hall and Carrot Top—who knew?) and some are predictably self-serving (Roseanne Barr and director Joel Schumacher). Though spotty at times, Heckler is a compelling inside look at the widening gulf between insightful cultural conversation and insults shouted from the dark.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate