WATCH | At a New York City comedy club known for nurturing emerging talent, comedians at a new show called Mob Rule subject themselves to an audience that's encouraged not only to heckle, but also to hurl stuff at comics while they perform.
Launched in March at The Creek and The Cave, the laugh-riot created by Teresa Sheffield and co-produced by Gregory W. Hall has left a mark: After one show, it was promoted from late-night Thursday to prime time on the first Friday of every month.
"The audience really does think like a mob," said Sheffield, who hosts the show with Hall. "It's amazing how one person will make a reaction, and it'll affect the rest of the crowd. ... It's a little frightening, but if you do a good job, it's also great."
Mob Rule's April audience received bags full of quirky projectiles, including slippers, Nerf balls, toy soldiers, oversized plastic crayons, and "dollar-store panties, which is disgusting even if they're not worn," Hall said.
Not every hurled object makes an encore. "We cut out the water balloons," Hall added. "I was going up to the stage to bring up the next comic, and somebody threw a water balloon and it hit the back of my neck. ... and I didn't have an extra shirt."
'It's a comedy-show-slash-party'
Audience interaction isn't limited to target practice. At the most recent show, a game of musical chairs awarded the winner with an airhorn that, when pressed, cued the entire audience to throw sanctioned items onto the stage for five straight seconds. The winner had to make it count, though, as that privilege was limited to one air-horn press per show.
"We wanted to make a show that was like a party," Hall said. "It's much more than a comedy show. It's a comedy-show-slash-party."
Comics have some power, too
Mob Rule comics do exact revenge on audience members who demonstrate careless aim and deliver subpar comebacks: At the end of every show, comedians spurn inferior trolls and crown the night's best heckler, whose antics are rewarded with a cash prize.
While other audience members at the most recent show hurled props and insults with reckless abandon, Rich Gray, offered a laid-back approach to his interactions. Perhaps for that reason, he emerged from the theater $100 richer.
"It was fun," Gray told Circa moments after collecting his winnings. "It was something different. I'm not used to, you know, having that type of opportunity to throw something back at the comedian, so it was fun."
The whole show was kind of like a bachelor party, but with no one having anything to celebrate.
After the show, comedian Dave Sirus sized up what had just transpired onstage.
Sheffield can see the appeal from both sides. "Everyone wants to throw things at comedians," she said. "Everyone thinks they're as funny as the comedian on the stage, which is so infuriating, because you work so hard to hone your craft."
No pain, no gain?
Although Hall admitted it's a tough crowd (perhaps the toughest, by default), he also offered an optimistic perspective.
"If you can [perform in] this show, and do a set having stuff thrown at you," he said, "you can do any show."
WATCH | Can't get enough comedy with a twist? Check out Circa's coverage of Open Bark Night, a New York stand-up comedy show geared toward humans and dogs alike.