Review: Koechner A ‘Champ’ Despite Rowdy Yankton Audience

I wrote a column in today’s Press & Dakotan about comedian David Koechner’s show in Yankton last weekend. I present it here for your thoughts, dear readers.


When I emerged from comedian David Koechner’s show in Yankton last Friday, I felt like I had witnessed a very bad joke — but it didn’t come from the stage.

It involved all those stereotypes about rural Midwesterners that basically boils down to the idea that they are simple-minded drunks.

The sad thing was, that was exactly the kind of behavior I had seen unfold before my eyes during the previous two hours.

I had gone in expecting to emerge from the show with a smile on my face.

Instead, I came out angry, embarrassed and asking myself, “Does Yankton deserve grade-A entertainment? Is it anywhere mature enough to handle it?”

What exactly happened?

Let me explain.

First of all, many of you know David Koechner, whether you realize it or not. He is Champ Kind from “Anchorman” (and the upcoming “Anchorman 2”). He is Todd Packer from “The Office.” Koechner has also had roles in many other films and television shows.

When he took the stage at Yankton’s Minervas Grill and Bar Friday, Koechner did not ignore the material that had made him famous. He recited some of his best-known lines and took requests. The crowd clearly enjoyed hearing the material recited by Koechner in the flesh, and many joined him in singing a portion of “Afternoon Delight” from “Anchorman.”

That free-flowing approach early on would eventually come back to haunt Koechner. Elements of the crowd were well aware that it was past 10 on a Friday night, and they had imbibed enough liquids to get their spirits plenty high for the occasion.

These lively audience members took full advantage of expressing themselves during Koechner’s interactive portion of the show. But when it came time to quiet down during his character pieces (which happened to involve fake hair pieces, by the way), those individuals weren’t ready to sit respectfully and laugh at the appropriate moments.

One woman insisted on making random “Whoots!” and people were carrying on full conversations at their tables.

The underlying hum of human voices was distracting to audience members who came to listen and to Koechner himself. He made repeated, good-natured attempts to quiet the crowd.

“I love you,” he told them. “But if you want to talk to your friend, please go to the pool (across the hall).”

The disrespect being shown to this guest, who people had paid good money to watch, made those at my table and myself increasingly uncomfortable.

And then a new low was reached: Koechner made a reference to the bad economy and a heckler responded, “That’s why you’re here!”

The crowd called on that individual to be booted but Koechner was gracious, saying he could stay.

It wasn’t long after that when “Whoot! girl” needed attention again, and Koechner broke out of his sketch to call on her to be quiet. This time, her male companion “valiantly” defended her inexcusable behavior and began to chastise Koechner. It was a variation of, “I’m surprised you made it in showbiz. You suck. You can’t finish a bit. How do you act when there is talking on the set?”

Koechner deftly responded that there is no talking on the set, and then agreed with the crowd to have the two ejected. Applause followed.

Even after all of that, a low-level hum of conversation could still be registered.

Soon, however, Koechner had some musicians on stage and if there was still talking, the music overpowered it.

Several times as all of the above played out, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Koechner had walked off stage and ended the show prematurely. I certainly would have forgiven him.

But he was a total professional and soldiered on through the adversity.

The show didn’t have to play out the way it did.

Speaking with Minervas’ staff, the early show had gone really well and the audience loved it. With a bigger crowd expected for the late show, they were very excited to see the response Koechner would receive.

As a small portion of the audience began to poison the energy of the room, the staff joined me in becoming sad and embarrassed.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to apologize to Koechner about the crowd after the show, but his response was, “Don’t worry about it. This is every late Friday night show across the country.”

I’ve been to my share of late Friday night comedy, music and other entertainment shows, and I don’t recall ever seeing anything like I saw in Yankton.

I hardly ever feel like I’m the adult in the room, but this time I think I’m up for the role.

Here goes: “Yankton, grow up.”

9 thoughts on “Review: Koechner A ‘Champ’ Despite Rowdy Yankton Audience

  1. Absolutely wonderful column Nathan (as usual). I think there is an expectation from those sho do comedy of some heckling, but not to that extent, although Guy Fieri went through the same thing in Sioux City when he brought his road show to the Orpheum.
    For big money you could get tables on stage and eat his food and drink is cocktails and such. He had such a rude group up there he had to repeatedly ask them to be quiet and ask his staff to not interact with them or give them cocktails. A guy from the group came up and took a pitcher of margs off the table. Guy told him repeatedly to stay back and sit down. He didn’t and Guy had him removed.
    Just because you pay for a ticket doesn’t mean you get to be an ass, people need to remember that.

  2. Here, Here, Nathan! Wonder how those people would feel in David came to their work place and heckled them? I also agree with Shane, nowhere on the ticket does it say, “You can act like an ass; talk out loud all you want; and in general, disrupt the show for the person doing the show and the rest of the audience.” My daughter was at the show, and her account matches yours — what idiots.

  3. I just don’t understand the logic here. It looks like that comedians/entertainers – people you would not see in this area – WANT to come down to the Midwest and run a few smaller shows so they can expand their audience. I think a more rural area would WANT that, right?

    Somewhat related, but is there some sort of self-loathing complex in rural areas about how awful their living conditions are? The heckler concerning the “bad economy” joke, um…dude – you’re not helping this area. You should be happy national comedians want to come down here at all with that sort of attitude/stereotype! (Rural areas are poor, right? Dur!)

    Shame I missed the show, as it didn’t match my hours, but if any other national comedians come around the area I’ll be sure to show up and give my respect. Sounded like a blast outside of the hecklers.

  4. I think your last two posts point to a relatively large local problem. There seems to be an attitude that paying for admission means that one now has the right to behave as boorishly as one desires.

    I have not had the manure experience but I have been places where it becomes impossible to have a conversation because three or four people at a booth believe that paying for their food means they have the innate right to make sure their conversations are heard throughout the entire restaurant.

    I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie. I get frustrated that people believe that they need to talk every time dialogue on screen ceases for a second, God forbid there’s silence for two seconds.

    Thanks for taking this issue on.

    • LK,
      Usually the only movies I see locally are big blow outs, so talking usually isn’t a problem. The sound is too loud!
      If I’m seeing something quiet, it’s usually at Film Streams or the Dundee Theatre in Omaha, where you generally get film enthusiasts who just might smack you if you even so much as try to text, much less talk, during the film.

  5. Well done story! SO embarassing!! I hope this wont affect the ability to get other comedians to come to yankton. I also heard that the guy they kicked out waited after the show and got into Davids face trying to pick a fight with him. He should have been arrested!! Or at least had a police escorte off the property.

  6. Hit and miss on the story. I was at that show and was one of the ones to apologize later. “As a small portion of the audience began to poison the energy of the room, the staff joined me in becoming sad and embarrassed.” Many of us in the audience were as well. What would you have us do? In a small personal setting such as that, as in most night clubs around the country, there is always a background hum that doesn’t exist in settings more like a theater. But on this night there were SIX people out of the bunch that essentially ruined it. To lump all of Yankton into your final statement is rather arrogant.

    What happened was a number of small town young people saw an opportunity to attract some attention to themselves and they did just that. That’s what happens when tickets are only $20, everyone in town can afford them, it’s unlike anything else that happens in a year, and the target audience thinks Anchorman was actually a good movie. Don’t blame Yankton for that.

    Here’s what we should be doing: Recognizing that the valiant male companion of Woot Girl, though not big himself, was twice the size of both the male and female staff members that came to remove him (Bouncer recommended for next event this size. I was very near and actually had to consider whether or not to intervene if the guy became violent rather than just agitated, just out of concern for those two staff members), and recognizing that “Woot Girl” is a college-educated member of the local health care industry (this is who we graduate, hire, and receive medical services from?).

    So again, blame the individuals, blame their parents if you want, but keep Yankton out of it. On a side note, our job growth is outpacing our labor force growth by a significant margin. Economy’s looking good!

    • you recieve health care from a file clerk for a clinic? Also doubt that requires a college education. What happened was one drunk girl wouldnt shut up, got kicked out, and her man felt obligated to stand up for her. Who cares, not worth a discussion? Heckling or not, Champ was not funny! Stand ups have to deal with that everywhere they go and in way worse fasion.

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