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Topic: How to prevent spectators from grabbing cups and balls
Message: Posted by: cafeinst (May 7, 2014 10:26AM)
I was doing a close-up show in which the spectators were seated very close to me. I was doing the cups and balls and the kid next to me grabbed one of the cups, revealing the extra ball. I told them I had to stop at that point with the trick. So I went on to another trick.

Is there anything I could have done to prevent this? Is this common?
Message: Posted by: BCS (May 7, 2014 10:46AM)
Caféinst... I will qualify my comments by saying that I am not a working pro, but amateur.

When presenting magic I try to manage as best that I can my props to be out of reach and while performing (this can even be where people are seated... placing kids head on rather than the sides... telling them they can see better there), everything is within my reach and I can block grabby hands. That being said, I find that if magic is presented as magic (or a nod nod wink wink) rather than a puzzle or challenge your are less likely to have unruly spectators.

I look forward to hearing comments from working magi... this is a good question.

Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (May 7, 2014 11:36AM)
Pick up the extra ball and vanish it. Then go on. Could you talk to him about it. Was this a formal paid show? How big was the total audience? :gunfighter:
Message: Posted by: cafeinst (May 7, 2014 12:55PM)
It wasn't a formal paid show. It was a free practice show about 15-20 kids and 8 adults. The show went very well other than that.

I think cups and balls should be done close-up for maximum effect. The first time I saw it was close-up.
Message: Posted by: AaronSterling (May 7, 2014 03:28PM)
[quote]On May 7, 2014, Caféinst wrote:
I was doing a close-up show in which the spectators were seated very close to me. I was doing the cups and balls and the kid next to me grabbed one of the cups, revealing the extra ball. I told them I had to stop at that point with the trick. So I went on to another trick.

Is there anything I could have done to prevent this? Is this common? [/quote]
Audience control is a skill that takes a lifetime to develop, and it's very, very hard. A lot of magicians pay less attention to it than they should, because a lot of people come into magic more as move-wonks than as people-focused entertainers.

My advice is:

1. Read Magic and Showmanship by Henning Nelms, and
2. Find a guide, and try to emulate that person.

Either the guide is someone in your real life, like a drama teacher, or a performer whose videotapes of live performances you can study repeatedly. Different audience control techniques work better for different people, and your age, gender, and personality all affect this. To provide two examples of very different audience control techniques: Ricky Jay adapts a lecturing, I'm the PhD and you're back in school style, where he makes historical references and uses high-falutin vocabulary to make points. By contrast, Avner the Eccentric does not speak at all, and right away gets the audience on his side, wanting to take care of him, and rooting for him to succeed.

Develop a sense for helpful vs. unhelpful audience members. If soemone is rambunctious and hard to control, don't seat him/her right next to your props. Even adults reach for things, knowing it's rude. If you blow someone's mind, they might not be able to help themselves.

I wasn't in your situation, so I don't know for sure what I would have done. But I probably would have said, "Ah ha! You found a secret!" and continued on with the trick. Remember that Penn and Teller do cups and balls with clear plastic cups and get lots of applause and money. Fooling the audience isn't the point: providing a magical experience is.
Message: Posted by: Nate The Magician (May 7, 2014 04:01PM)
Whenever anyone tries to pick up a cup, I tend to just tap the top of the cup with my wand. That way, they either don't pick up the cup or I can say that the ball "materialized".
Message: Posted by: leomagnus (May 7, 2014 04:16PM)
If people are grabbing stuff than quite simply you're not in control of your audience. Now I don't know you, I haven't seen you perform, so I can't tell you exactly how to fix this. One tip is that the way you start your show sets the tone for the rest of the performance. If you give the correct impression/attitude in your opening routine, people will be much less likely to give you trouble the rest of the show. For example, when I perform I want the audience to really be a part of the show. So in my opening routine(a multiple selection routine) I ask people questions, I get a lot of different audience members involved. This encourages a dialogue throughout the show. Maybe you could use a similar technique to discourage grabbing.

One old bit of business that I've heard from several people as it pertains to the cups and balls, is that the wand can be used to keep "busy fingers" away. If you're hitting the cups with the wand, you can subtly repel any "handsy" spectators.

Good Luck!

Message: Posted by: MGordonB (May 7, 2014 06:00PM)
Have you thought of making a child spectator part of your routine? There's a video of Bob Sheets doing a C&B that involves a lot of kids helping out.,they seem to be having a lot fun and none of them are doing anything they aren't supposed to be doing. I wonder if involving a child spectator in your routine might signal to the other kids to stay away until it's their turn?
Message: Posted by: Ray Haining (May 8, 2014 12:11AM)
It happened to me once. I wouldn't worry about it. Just be alert to the possibility.
Message: Posted by: ROBERT BLAKE (May 8, 2014 04:31AM)
Doing cups and balls close is not always good. why do people grap the cups? first they are to close. second when you com to thier table and put thing on it that means they can pick it up and look. why? because the table is thiers. the street performers do the trick on the street and the audience is always further away from the cups then at the table. that is why it is good on the street.

teh solution that mr. Biro said was the best option. basically because you stopt the audience realised something went wrong. crowd control is also an issue. but understanding why people do things is half the battle. that is why tommy wonder did the cups and balls with 2 cups. see 2 cups 2 hands 2 balls.
Message: Posted by: David Fillary (May 8, 2014 08:42AM)
I perform for kids in my school all the time (I'm a teacher). They sometimes break the barriers of performance because they're kids. If I make a coin vanish, they might grab at my sleeve etc. Most don't, but they're kids - it will happen. All the advice above is good, but I don't think that it necessarily means you lack audience control. Anyone who says that should try teaching - some kids can just be *** unruly regardless!
Message: Posted by: tomsk192 (May 8, 2014 08:53AM)
I'd say that stopping the trick at that point was a bad move. It seems a bit petulant, to me, although I think I understand why you did it.

As Pete said, you could vanish the ball and move on. There will always be people who claim that with 'good audience management' that these things will 'never happen'. Firstly, I don't agree. Secondly, it is a crucial skill to be able to improvise when something goes wrong. It might be that a sleight goes wrong, or a gimmick fails, or whatever. Some routines are 'bomb proof', so to speak, but the Cups & Balls, as most approach it, is not one of those routines.
Message: Posted by: cafeinst (May 8, 2014 10:42AM)
Robert Blake gave the solution I think - do what street performers do. I'll do it on my own table. That sets up a clear boundary. The first time I saw it done was from a street performer.

The kid who grabbed the cup was around 3 years old. (I think another kid around 2 years old followed him and grabbed the other cup.) I didn't continue the trick because I wanted to signal the parents to control their kids. This wasn't a paid show; if it were a paid show, none of this would have happenned. I would have done it on my own table :-)
Message: Posted by: pepka (May 9, 2014 01:26AM)
Yep, Pete said it best. Many parts of cups routines can be "jazzed" and therefore to vanish the extra ball and load it back under any cup should not be that difficult. My normal routine is close to the Vernon routine. The only parts set in stone are the opening with the tip over load, and the final load sequence. In between, the ability to improvise can be VERY helpful.
Message: Posted by: Motley Mage (May 9, 2014 08:14AM)
I really like Pete's idea to vanish the ball and move on; that's the voice of experience telling us how to improvise through a difficult moment. I also like the deterrent factor of whacking the cups at the appropriate moment, which could be done fairly aggressively (ala Gazzo) or with a degree of sublety, depending on your character. Thanks for the post & thanks to all who replied. I have learned a bit today.
Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (May 9, 2014 07:28PM)
I once dropped the hand dye tube used in Color Changing silk. When it hit the floor I looked up, then picked the gimmick up, saying, "Where did this come from?" [b]Then I did a vanish move, tossing (nothing) up in the air, then continued on with the routine.[/b] :banana:
Message: Posted by: 55Hudson (May 9, 2014 07:37PM)
I was doing a chop cup routine with some friends and one reached over and picked up the cup, revealing a ball prematurely. The friend-nature of our relationship made the spec think it was okay ... Not!

I went straight to the two-ball final load. Got a great reaction.

I guess sooner or later just about everything happens during a performance. You've just got to be prepared for everything and keep on moving on.

Message: Posted by: cafeinst (May 12, 2014 02:38PM)
Another solution is to just do the chop cup routine when people are close and cups and balls when people are far away.
Message: Posted by: cafeinst (May 20, 2014 02:19PM)
I did the chop cup routine yesterday for kids. One of the kids, about 7 years old, grabbed the cup. So my solution to just do the chop cup routine doesn't work. The trick was done on a picnic table, not my table.

Wow, kids must think I'm a pushover :-)
Message: Posted by: David French (May 20, 2014 02:30PM)
I agree with David Fillary. You can be the best but there will be kids that are just out of control. And parents that don't care. I have been doing my chop cup for thirty years. The other night a kid grabbed the bag that holds an extra ball. He shouted "he has two balls" I could not resist...came back and said "As it should be"...

I should have known NOT to do the chop cup as a I saw this young man being obnoxious during my first trick. That was my mistake, not recognizing it for what it was, but there was a request for the lemon and lime trick (chop cup)

Bottom line, it will happen, no matter what you try to control...hopefully not too often however!
Message: Posted by: cafeinst (May 21, 2014 08:53AM)
David French,

Did you do it on your own table? I'm wondering if this sets a natural boundary which reduces the chances of this happening.

However, I did a holiday party last year and after I did the first stage of the Tricky Turvy bottles, a senior citizen lady walked up to me and looked right into the tube. She was shocked that the bottle turned upside-down and I was shocked that she did that. That's never happened before. But the trick went on very well, as she didn't ruin it for anyone else, only herself :-)
Message: Posted by: ROBERT BLAKE (May 21, 2014 04:08PM)
One day I did the c'n b and a guy was trying toy grap my cups. I showed the audience my magic wand and asked them if they knew for what the wand is used for. they did not knew. I told them that is for people who touch or grap my stuff. a moment later agy did grap the cup and I hit his hand with my wand. he I told you so.
Message: Posted by: David French (May 21, 2014 06:22PM)

No this was performed in a restaurant on one of the existing tables. I agree, if this was my table they may not try to touch things. My point is that this particular kid was already out of control before I got to the table. There are kids that just are like that...You can do all you wish to try to control them, but from time to time you will run into someone like this.

Message: Posted by: cafeinst (May 21, 2014 07:55PM)
David French,

I agree. We magicians sometimes believe we have magic powers to control people, but we don't.

Robert Blake,

I would love to be able to hit a guy who grabs my props with my magic wand. But unfortunately, where I live, in America, that would never fly. I could get sued. Where you are in the Netherlands, you can get away with that? I've never been to Europe.
Message: Posted by: Faulkner (May 21, 2014 09:46PM)
I live in America and I have hit someone with my wand, told him I didn't want someone stealing my stuff. Turn it on them, "Hey, someone is stealing"...
Message: Posted by: cafeinst (May 21, 2014 10:54PM)
That's a good point. I am very protective of my props. I have had many of them for over 30 years.
Message: Posted by: ROBERT BLAKE (May 21, 2014 11:58PM)
[quote]On May 21, 2014, Caféinst wrote:
David French,

I agree. We magicians sometimes believe we have magic powers to control people, but we don't.

Robert Blake,

I would love to be able to hit a guy who grabs my props with my magic wand. But unfortunately, where I live, in America, that would never fly. I could get sued. Where you are in the Netherlands, you can get away with that? I've never been to Europe. [/quote]

it is the way that you make the music. I understand that in the usa you get sued for everything. for us here in europe it sometimes looks very ridiculus. all I di is tap on his hand. I sayr that remarke when somebody is messing up the routine. thereby I look him in his eye. so he knows that I mean him. but for me doing the cups and balss on a table is asking for trouble. the street situation is the best.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (May 22, 2014 07:23AM)
I don't do cups and balls--or Al Wheatley's "chop" cup either!!! (There! I said it!!!!!)
I think the c & b's -or chop cup)are both great tricks. But, neither of them ever fit into my work.

Bob Blake is a very experienced professional. I would note his comment just above (..."asking for trouble"...)

Pete Biro has the "other answer".

Tiny kids are (exceptionally these days) uninhibited. Keep your props in YOUR hands! (Not on a table top) My props are in MY hands, or in my prop case (out of reach). (Maybe you can "tell" that I broke in the business in a side show!--Saturday nights were always a challenge!)

leo magnus (above)has realized one of the key things in performing! AUDIENCE INVOLVEMENT! If the magician is presenting a "watch me do this" show, he does not understand that a magic show (especially these days)must be a "conversation", not a "speech".

I have only watched Bob Blake on video, but, it's evident that he talks WITH, not AT, or TO his audience.
Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (May 22, 2014 11:48AM)
OZ..."You don't do cups and balls?"... Sheesh... then [b]you're not a REAL MAGICIAN.[/b] :thehat:
Message: Posted by: Rainboguy (Jun 28, 2014 12:23PM)
I learned about this "the hard way" and turned it into "an opportunity".

So here's what I do...I'm prepared in advance to take advantage of a spectator who reaches for a cup by gently rapping him or her on the soft part of their hand with my wand and scolding them with this line:...."un un....do that again and I'll turn you into a frog!"

This almost always gets a laugh from the audience, so my next line is "Think that's funny, huh...well...meet Billy from my last show! (At which point I bring out a rubber frog from my pocket or servante, And looking directly at thee spectator who reached out to touch my cup, I say..."Billy didn't listen to me either!"

I know that this sounds ridiculously stupid, but, it works! (At least for me!)
Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (Jun 28, 2014 01:13PM)
Love it. :cups: :cups:
Message: Posted by: Ray Haining (Jun 28, 2014 06:22PM)
Very good.
Message: Posted by: cafeinst (Jun 30, 2014 09:54PM)
Excellent idea!
Message: Posted by: Rainboguy (Jul 1, 2014 09:41AM)
My good friend, Magic Mentor, and all-around nice guy Dick Oslund was over at my house Saturday afternoon for one of our "Kibbutzing Sessions", and this very topic is one of the things we discussed....

The BIG PICTURE here is: You have to MANAGE YOUR AUDIENCES, and for those relatively new magicians, it's a good idea to realize that learning these things take time. I started performing Magic for money in 1956....after you perform for a few decades for civilians for money....you "Pick Up a Few things along the way that work". As I mentioned to Dick..."YOU DON'T LEARN HOW TO MAKE LOVE BY READING A BOOK"......many things in life need practical, hands-on experience in order to get really good at them.

One of the many benefits of being a member of The Magic Café is that there are MANY seasoned and experienced magicians here who are more than happy to share their tips and ideas for performing Magic better....my best advice is to PAY ATTENTION.......it's NEVER too late to learn!!!

I'm 65 and still learning about performing Magic every day....... and, in my opinion, if you're truly serious about performing Magic, that's the only way you will get better....
Message: Posted by: Ray Haining (Jul 1, 2014 10:16AM)
This is very true. Experience trumps theory any day of the week. You can read all the theory you want, read about "creating magical fiction" and other such pie-in-the-sky ideas, and it will get you nowhere until you actually get out there and perform.
Message: Posted by: doug brewer (Jul 1, 2014 03:45PM)
Ditto on getting out and performing it more. That is really where you learn audience management. That said, I will tell you that the cups & balls are my money maker, the one they ask to see over and over again, and where I book more shows from. I do it close-up, at the bar, strolling, stand-up shows - wherever. It is solid, powerful magic.

When you get more seasoned you will find that you really don't care if you get busted. Yes, I care, but I don't. I've had people ask me to open both hands - I simply say "well, then you'll see the extra ball". They laugh, we move on. I've had people prematurely lift the cups - occassionally. But for the most part the routine moves at a clip and there are set points where I allow them to lift the cups (audience involvement). My only heartburn is when people lift the cups when the final loads have been placed. I'm upset not because I got "busted" but because my patter hasn't yet established that something amazing is about to appear in the cups - it steals that strong magical moment from the audience.

Johnny Ace Palmer's strolling cups routine is a great place to start with a routine that can play in very close-up situations. Study it. I was the first person to ask him to teach me it when I was his student (many, many years ago). :)
Message: Posted by: Greg755 (Jul 2, 2014 07:11PM)
I think it has to do with reading your audience first and then following up by managing them. In other words try to avoid trouble before it begins. If I do a couple of tricks and see a wise guy in the crowd then I may not bring out certain effects. If I notice small kids or hyper kids then I may not do some things. If I spot these problems while doing a couple of tricks then I know that if I proceed I need to take steps to manage the situation. I also try to think of things that could go wrong and try to think of things I can do or say when it happens - while you can't predict every mishap you can come up with several replies that will work well with different problems, or you can sometimes get lucky and turn the mishap into a trick on its own. for me it's more about "don't PANIC" than it is about being "caught"
Message: Posted by: EVILDAN (Jul 29, 2014 03:25PM)
This year I was performing at an outdoor festival when, and I don't know how, the 2nd ball dislodged from inside the cup falling next to the ball on the table. The teens in the crowd started laughing. I just looked at them and said, "I don't care. I'm going to fool you anyway." I went on with the routine adding an extra step to set up where I needed to and floored the laughing herd at the end of the routine with a double load.
Message: Posted by: coreyw (Aug 19, 2014 10:04AM)
Great ideas on how to handle this. I have fought it once or twice over the last ten years, both as a magician and as a minister. Whatever the situation, the best way to control a crowd is to never let them see you sweat, even if you're sweating bullets!

Some kids (and even adults) don't get or respect boundaries. Be especially careful if it is an event where alcohol is involved, I learned that one the hard way. During a show for my community's fourth of July festivities, a drunk lady walked right onto the platform and started messing with an escape I do from a 55-gallon drum (a version of Houdini's milk can escape). I just mentioned over my shoulder that if she wasn't 100% sure what she was doing, she'd probably die, and just kept moving with the act. She beat if off the platform pretty quickly.

The first time something like that happened to me, a kid ran up during the zombie ball and tried to grab it. Being newer to public magic performance at the time, I raised the whole thing higher, and glared at the mom until she came and got the kiddo. Today, I'd probably handle it differently.

It happens sooner or later, no matter how good your crowd control techniques. Just roll with it. Don't let them see you sweat!
Message: Posted by: Greg755 (Aug 19, 2014 11:50AM)
Ever heard of whack a mole son? You know the last person that tried that didn't get out of the dungeon for 2 weeks. My pet spider/snake lives here. Careful they (cups) bite. Before you start: I'd like you to meet my little friend, bringing out the finger chopper. - I'm thinking this would be a great time to try out the "electric touch".
Message: Posted by: Rainboguy (Aug 21, 2014 09:30AM)
I may have to re-rehearse using the Jumbo cups shown here:


These are BIG, HEAVY cups and the balls I have to go with them are 1 1/2 inches, Neon Yellow Monkey-Fist Balls......
Message: Posted by: CMT VN (Aug 21, 2014 12:02PM)
Here's my 2 cents....

To avoid the 'touchy' audience, I refer to 'condition' them first. What I mean is I will start my routine with them handling the cups first. The spectator stacks the some of the cups, and the ball falls through. By doing that first, I hope the audience will feel that I have passed the 'test' and will not mess with me again. However, this does not work 100% though.

So I guess the turning to frog thing is something I can adapt. :) in my country, turning into a bird is funnier
Message: Posted by: Mobius303 (Aug 30, 2014 04:26PM)
I had a sparking ring and when someone touched it unexpectedly I would spark the next cup I touched. They backed up and did not touch the cups again the whole show.
It is really all about how you handle it.
I have also done what pete did and made it a running joke through the show. Check the cup....nothing there eh, the show goes on.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Aug 31, 2014 05:29AM)
Balls are toys to kids. To prevent it from happening again I would not recommend performing Cups and Balls for 3 year olds and younger when they are an arm length away. Have a substitute effect ready to replace Cups and Balls.

Yes there is material on how to manage audiences, but there is not a book for each individual child. There is no plan that is going to work 100% on each kid.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 9, 2014 02:47AM)
I was performing my chop cup routine a couple of winters ago in Wisconsin. The room was warm, but the exposure to alternating extremes of temperature had evidently loosened the bottom of the (leather) cup. At one particular point in the routine, the inside bottom of the cup came loose and landed in my hand, along with the ball. Could have been worse -- could have landed on the table. I showed the ball, pretended to place it into my pocket, leaving the loose piece of leather behind, then manipulated it back under the cup. From that point, I cut to the final loads and finished the routine.

When I got back home, I repaired the cup and it works just fine now. But if I hadn't done that routine THOUSANDS of times, I think I would have been flabbergasted.

Sometimes, you just have to think on your feet.
Message: Posted by: Ekuth (Sep 10, 2014 09:31PM)
Audience management. And I'll admit I've whacked hands with my wand on occasion... eventually I figured out what CMT touched on- I reworked my routine to start with the audience examining the balls and cups. Allowing them to handle the props up front (I don't use the standard beginning load) removes the 'wanna touch that/grabby hands' impulse. It also allows for great misdirection so I can set up for the inevitable 4th ball load.

Haven't had trouble with it since doing that.