Much Ado: If you can’t take the boos, don’t get on the stage

Published 3:22 pm Monday, May 1, 2017

As much as I hate to be on stage, I would really hate to be booed off stage. I don’t think I could take it. I guess that is one reason why I never, ever go on stage and prefer to hide behind the written word.

It is often reported that the number one personal fear in America is the fear of public speaking. I believe it, and I can relate. Actually, I cannot relate, because I absolutely refuse to do it. This can be a problem in a person’s professional career, especially when his job is to communicate. That’s why I claim to be a writer. Just leave me alone in my little cluttered office, and let me crank out words for other people to read.

Whenever I witness someone on a stage getting booed, I cringe. I usually agree with the crowd that the person should be booed, but I still feel my gut twist when I see the target of the disapproval stand there at a loss for words. What more can he say? He has already said the wrong thing, and recovering from being booed is about as likely as the Republican party controlling the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of federal government.

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Sometimes a booed speaker will try to defend himself, but, really, the audience is telling him en masse they don’t like what he is saying or worse, they just don’t like the person. It takes a public speaker extraordinaire to salvage that moment in the spotlight. I can only imagine the personal horror that person must feel when a crowd of people is publicly disapproving of who he is or what he has to say. My gut reaction would be to tuck my tail and get off the stage ASAP.

Until recently, I associated booing with bad entertainers. Oh, the poor stand-up comedian who is having an off night and just cannot click with the audience, no matter how many four-letter words he drops on them. Now, I take notice of our lawmakers who get booed. Oh, the poor House or Senate member who is having a bad town meeting and just cannot get an approving “amen,” no matter how many made-up words he drops on them. I feel sort of bad for the comedian who is off his game; I feel empowered over the politician who is being gamed by his own constituents. I can get over paying a $10 cover charge to hear bad jokes; I refuse to get over politicians who are bad jokes.

It has gotten to the point that some politicians have declined to publicly press the flesh for fear of being booed. Others are claiming the angry voters are “professional protesters,” paid to boo them. Sounds like a good gig to me, and I work cheap. I wonder if “booing for a cause” is a good resume bullet point?

There are many reasons why lawmakers are elected to represent the people, one of which is their ability to speak well before large crowds of people, to deliver the right message at the right time. Speaking well is a gift and talent that some people develop to its highest level. Others are born with the gift of gab. Either way, I admire them. They have something to say, and they say it well.

Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I have a dream” speech come to mind. There were no boos when he delivered those words, not because he said what people wanted to hear, but because he had something worth hearing even if they were painfully inspiring words. People want to hear funny jokes from comedians and words of wisdom from political leaders. When they don’t hear what is good and wise, they boo. Can anything be more humiliating than for the people who voted you to be good and wise to tell you loudly and publicly you have failed?

I firmly believe that nearly all boos are justly deserved. I believe we the people have the right to expect our comedians and politicians to deliver the goods — be they funny jokes or democratic representation. I guess I’ll never be booed off stage because in addition to not being a public speaker, I can’t tell a joke, and my politics are as scrambled as Sunday morning breakfast eggs.

Steve Wong is a writer, living in the peach orchards of Upstate South Carolina. His columns are usually all about himself, written with the hope that others will find insight about themselves in his words. Contact him at