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Topic: Kid Show Audience Management Techniques
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 12, 2003 04:40PM)
[b]So you wanna be a Kid's Show Entertainer?[/b]

You practiced and rehearsed your show. You read and applied the latest marketing skills and now your ready to tackle the kids show and the show falls flat or ends "disastrous"!

A skill equal to knowing the technical part of magic and equal to knowing all the best marketing skills is [b]Audience Management Techniques[/b]

Let us know some of your methods of controlling the kids audience.

[b]I. Magician can Manage the Audience through Laughter[/b]
While they are laughing they are busy watching what you do for the next laugh. Add as much comedy as you can, but stop short of being known as a clown rather than a magician. (Does not apply to Clowns.)
1. Do things that are [b]Physically Funny[/b].
[*] Clumsiness
[*] Facial Expressions
[*] Gestures
[*] Klutz
[*] Movement: Slow Motion, Fast Motion, Freeze, Robotic
[*] Physical Injury: Slapstick
[*] Walking
2. Use things that are [b]Visually Funny[/b].
[b][*] Baby Toys
[*] Butt Stuff
[*] Competition
[*] Costumes
[*] Crying
[*] [url=http://www.greatbigstuff.com/]Extremely Big Things[/url]
[*] Extremely Small Things
[*] [url=http://www.foamprops.com/?source=GreatBigStuff] Foam Objects[/url]
[*] Funny Pictures
[*] Funny Props
[*] Funny Wands
[*] Hats
[*] Magician in Trouble: Trick Breaks
[*] Noisy Makers
[*] Nose Stuff: Boggers (Gross Stuff)
[*] Puppets
[*] Running Gags
[*] Sight Gags
[*] Stinky Stuff
[*] Strange Goofy Props
[*] Underarm Stuff[/b]

3. Say things that are Verbally Funny
[b][*] Bodily Functions Noises: Burping, & Farting
[*] Crying
[*] High Pitch Voice
[*] Loud Voice
[*] Low Pitch Voice
[*] Musical Jokes and Comedy Limericks
[*] One Liners
[*] Puns
[*] Running Gag Lines
[*] Saying Funny Things
[*] Silly Magic Words
[*] Silly Names
[*] Slow Talking
[*] Telling Jokes
[*] Verbal Mistakes, (Blue silk called red)
[*] Whining
4. Use Music or Audio sounds
[*] Funny Songs
[*] Noise Makers
[*] Sound Clips
[*] Squeakers
[*] Fart Machines (use with an appearing rabbit or Rocky Racoon if this is your thing)

[b]II. Use Group Participation by All Kids is an Audience Management technique [/b]
1. Have the kids be Physically Interactive
[*] Body: Standing Up, Sitting Down, Shaking Body, Shaking Hips, Hands on Hips
[*] Face: Making a Funny Face, Making a Sad Face, Making a Happy Face, Making a Goofy Face, Making a Scary Face, Blinking, Nodding
[*] Hands: Wiggling Fingers, Clapping Hands, Waving Hands, Erasing Colors, Throwing Invisible Objects, Pointing, Snapping their Fingers
[*] Mouth: Blowing Knots Away, Sucking in like Vacuum Cleaners, Great Big Smile, Sticking their Tongue Out
[*] Feet: Stopping Feet, Smelly Shoes, Stinky Socks
[/list] [/b]
2. Have the kids Visually notice something wrong
[*] Seeing Something you Don't (Look/Don't See)
[*] Absurd Contrasts: Small Child with Big Object
[/list] [/b]
3. Have the kids Verbally Interact with the magic
[*] Counting
[*] Gibberish
[*] Laughing
[*] Saying it Louder
[*] Saying Tongue Twisters
[*] Silly Magic Words
[*] Silly Sounds
[*] Silly Words
[*] Whispering

[b]III. Empowering the Children with Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities[/b]
1. Physical Involvement: They believe they are magical.
[*] Skills to be a Magician
[/list] [/b]
2. Visual Interaction: They see something you don't
[*] Look, Don't See
3. Verbal Interaction: Draw them into the magic or routine
[*] Asking for Information
[*] Asking Questions
[*] Facts that the Kids Know
[*] Misnaming Items
[*] Mispronouncing Words

[b]IV. Assistant Participation: Use assistants[/b]
1. Physical Interaction: Your Interactions and play routines with the assistant
[*] Hand Shaking
[*] Role Playing
2. Visual Interaction; have them use a prop which is funny but not embarassing or belittling.
[*] Absurd Contrasts: Small Child with Big Object
[*] Breaking Objects: Breakaway Wand, Breakaway Fans, Drooping Flower
[*] Costumes: Big Hats, Absurd Outfits
[*] Glassess
[*] Props:
3. Verbal Interaction: You verbally have a funny conversation with the assistant
[*] Introductions
[*] Playing with their Name
[*] Asking Questions About Opposite Gender
[*] Rhyming their Names
[*] Giving Them Applause Credit

Add as much of the above to each routine to make the routine funny and enjoyable. As long as each routine is designed to interact with the audience there will be little time for them to do something else.
Message: Posted by: Mago Mai (May 12, 2003 05:41PM)
I really like everything you mention but there is one thing it is not funny in our country ... at least in front of an audience or in front of kids, we wouldn't even think of it in front of our family.

It is considered rude manners and disgusting to try to be verbally funny doing Bodily Functions Noises: Burping & Farting.

The only place we are allowed to do those noises is at the bathroom and that, if we are alone and by ourselves, in a private bathroom. We wouldn't even think of doing it at a restaurant's bathroom with a stranger next to us. If we burp in front of a person, we immediately apologize.

I don't know if if is a cultural thing but it works well down here in South America. I wouldn't recommend this kind of humour if you are working at a school show with little children, or at a birthday party in our Latin Countries.

Besides doing my magic shows, I try to help parents to raise kids and learn proper manners too. It is a very difficult job nowadays.

Mago Mai
Message: Posted by: Andy Wonder (May 12, 2003 06:03PM)
I find you do have to be careful with that type of humour. Most parents in New Zealand seem to be okay with it. I would not recommend it for children under 6. In one of Silly Billy's books he says with children aged 7-9 you will win them over instantly using this type of humour. Certainly with older children it is funny for a different reason. I think as an older performer or somone dressed more formally you could get more milage out of fart jokes than say a clown who people expect to be silly anyway.

Your post was so extensive Den. There is some really useful information there. I don’t know what the Magic Café would do without DenDowhy.

The other way to manage children is through use of bribes. You can tell the children they will be rewarded by being polite or that the balloon animals are going to the people that I think deserve them. When you say things like this it is amazing how they suddenly all sit up straight and become attentive. Being used as a helper is also another reward that can work like a bribe for appropriate behaviour. This is perhaps another reason why it is important not to embarrass or belittle your helper. If you give your assistant the glory and make them look good other children will wish they could be helping.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 12, 2003 06:13PM)
The list is an accumulation of suggested things to do or say, NOT a "must use" everything list. It is a check list to see if you can improve your routine by adding a couple of items.

Bodily Functions humor is a common method to get a laugh. Many movies use this— Blazing Saddles, Something about Mary, etc. It is a normal thing to do and in some cultures it is accepted and others, well it is NOT funny.

Andy is right about what Silly Billy says. I learned from foreign travel, it is an insult to touch the top of one's head or sit with legs crossed and many other commonly accepted American practices like this. There is a book on this topic if you're interested.

By the way, in America, certain classes will think "ill of you" if you use this type of humor, however, bar room humor ... well, it is acceptable in that setting, but I doubt it would be at some high class place.
Message: Posted by: flourish dude (May 12, 2003 07:43PM)
Great job Den,
I am glad to see people posting great topics with such insightful infomation as you did.
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (May 12, 2003 09:50PM)
Mago Mai writes that, in his country: "It is considered rude manners and disgusting, to try to be verbally funny doing Bodily Functions Noises: Burping, & Farting."

As it is in most countries!

Den has an excellent post— except for that point.

Sure, the kids may like it— but the kids aren't hiring you! The parents are.

And the parents may have just finished a long process of explaining to the kid why the sounds of various bodily functions are not socially acceptable and what happens? A magician shows up who undermines and destroys the parents' work in a few seconds.

Good manners and civilized behavior have deteriorated enough; we don't need to help them fall apart even more so!
Message: Posted by: Frank Tougas (May 12, 2003 10:03PM)

I take your list in the spirit in which it was given. I can see you have spent some time thinking about this subject and I believe it to be an excellent post. There are always things people can find wrong and the negativity in peoples' posts has gotten to be a little much at times.

I, as most thinking people realize, that what is posted here is only opinion, and taken that way I have the option of taking what fits and building on it. Or, sadly, taking what another has built and tear it down. I prefer the former as the latter tends to stifle creativity. Keep up the good posts. :)
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 12, 2003 10:47PM)
I take no offense in comments from others. We live here on the Internet from a diverse group of magicians from all around the world. This uniqueness of all of us makes for some interesting comments. I love reading what Peter Maurucci writes on this site as well as what he puts into the Linking Ring Mag. We disagree on mouth coils from the mouth, but I won't challange him on it, he has his points and culture which I respect.

When it comes to entertaining children, one must look at all the options and put together an act that fits his style and personality as well as character. I could get away with a few of those noises, such as my pet rabbit making noises from his appearance cage (via electronic fart machine) and pull it off at my annual family picnic. They know me as a crazy funny "outlaw" (not my side of the family). It's a matter of preference and the right audience and the right moment.

How many times have we seen a dove act poop on the magician? Kohl & Company makes a good living at comedy and this stuff. It's not for everyone. I wouldn't do it at a school assembly program.

Again, use what you think will work for you. Get opinions from those who you trust to give you a correct response, then make a decision what to keep and what to dump. The Vanishing Bandana is a gross effect but I love it and do it as often as I can.

I see no negatives here, just honest opinions from people around the world.
Message: Posted by: Emazdad (May 12, 2003 11:13PM)
Toilet humour has always been a corner stone of British comedy, and as long as you don't go over the top it's OK. Kids love it. There is a line in the sand that devides funny and rude and a good pro won't cross it.

I restrict it to a couple of fart jokes during the show, when I make the balloons and I vent a little air out before I start modelling it makes a noise. The kids always laughed and made the jokes themselves so I expand it by looking at the helper as if they've done it. Before someone accuses me of showing them up. It's not done in that sort of way, and they laugh as loud as the others.

<<<<Sure, the kids may like it— but the kids aren't hiring you! The parents are. >>>>>

True Peter and they continue to hire me because I do exactly what I'm paid to do, entertain the kids. My show is aimed 100% at the kids and they love their kids to be happy, and the shrieks of laughter etc. from the kids last the full hour. As a parent I have strict rules on what I allow my kids to see and do, and I'd do nothing in my show that I wouldn't allow my own kids to see.

I won't bother saying any of my control techniques as Dennis has put them all in his post. You did it again mate, asked the question and gave all the answers. I wish you'd been my teacher at school. :)
Message: Posted by: flourish dude (May 13, 2003 11:14AM)
[quote]Toilet humour has always been a corner stone of British comedy, and as long as you don't go over the top it's OK. Kids love it. There is a line in the sand that devides funny and rude and a good pro won't cross it.[/quote]
Hay Emazdad, If you do go over the top ... use a plunger.

I myself would never use a gas joke ... not for me. I do use the plunger wand, but the sound with the balloon, nope. I know the kids think it's funny, but I don't like using it.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (May 14, 2003 06:49AM)
[b]There is room here for your Opening Techniques and Closing Techniques...[/b]
Message: Posted by: Emazdad (May 14, 2003 07:18AM)
Opening technique— a funny routine where I tell them who I am, show them the large bribery balloon model, explain how they win it by being good etc. Get them to tell me their names all at once, and we get the magic word.

Closing Technique— get them to shout thank you to the birthday parents for working so hard to make the party special, give themselves a big clap as the magic word would not have worked if they hadn't been good, give the best behaved the bribery balloon, occasionally (depending on time) I teach them a song that they have to sing over and over again on the way home:

I tell them if they sing it over and over one of two things will happen. One, their mum may ring me and get me to come and do magic and games at their party, or two, their mum and dad will look up my address in Yellow pages, find out where I live and when I wake up tomorrow morning all the tyres on my car will have been let down.

This gets a laugh from the parents who've just come in to pick up the kids and have seen the last 5 minutes of the show.

Finally if they've enjoyed the show. tell them it's now time to give me a clap.

After that I say, "Right, I'm going to put the music back on while I give you your balloon models. When you've got your balloon go and see the birthday mum and she's got a party bag for you; then if mum, dad, gran, grandad, elephant, lion, tiger or mongoose whatever has come to take you home is here you can go home. If no one's here to get you yet stay in the room."

Music on, balloons given out (they've been made during the food), get paid and go.

The last thing I do before I leave is thank the birthday child for inviting me and tell her how much I enjoyed her/his party.

During the end routine I mention my name several times so if the arriving parents (who come in at the end and see the kids having so much fun) don't read it from the front of my box, they've had plenty of reminders who I am.
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (May 14, 2003 09:16AM)
Emazdad writes: "Toilet humour has always been a cornerstone of British comedy. . ."

Well, THAT certainly explains a great deal! :rotf:

And Frankft, I believe I said that Den's post was "excellent". I hardly considered that I tore it down because I disagreed with one point out of so many (which I considered both very good and very important)!
Message: Posted by: NJJ (May 14, 2003 07:32PM)


Message: Posted by: MagicBus (Nov 4, 2008 04:41PM)
"Seriously Silly" by David Kaye/Silly Billy is a fantastic book. But as he states in the book, not all of his program ideas are appropriate for every kid's performer. I am a 55 year old attorney and occasional kid's performer, but I take my magic for this age group (10 and under) very seriously. My act is filled with silly words, me dropping things, they see what I don't, audience interaction, goofy sight gags, a monkey clanking cymbals, my live appearing rabbit dressed up like a zebra, etc.. But it simply is not "me" to do magic or gags that involves me or a volunteer being hit with an inflatable wand, or to do bodily function jokes or poke fun of a strange child's name. It may work for some personalities, but not for an older man with a white beard. So in all of this, find a style that works for you personally AND is entertaining for the kiddos!
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (Nov 4, 2008 08:29PM)
David is in Clown "Silly" character, and as such is expected to act as such.

At my age, 62, I too don't go as far as David. On the other hand I do clown and goof off, but as fun not as a silly character.
Message: Posted by: jackturk (Nov 5, 2008 11:11AM)
Dennis, you gave an awesome list of ideas!

If they're not everyone's cup of tea, that's
okay... the fact you laid them out so well and
completely is extremely useful. Thank you!

One thing I took from Dave Risley is the notion
of a warm-up to get the show rolling. How you
open is really important with kids. You need to
set the stage to make clear that YOU ARE IN CHARGE.

My warm-up/opening admittedly uses a combination of
techniques I've learned over the years from Risley,
Dee, and others.

I start off with a doofy old joke, "Okay... is everyone
here? Everyone who's not here, raise their hand!"

Then, when at least one or more raise their hands (quite
often a few of the parents), I shake my head sadly and
say, "Yeah, that figures."

What this does, right from the start, is subtly establish:

a) That I'm the one giving commands

b) I expect audience participation

c) If you do as I say it's going to be fun

These are very important messages to get across right
from the very beginning. And I keep promoting them
all throughout my program in different ways... some
of which Dennis mentioned.