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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The May 2011 entrée: Mark Lewis » » Performance » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

RiffRaff
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Reverend:
You mentioned that the Performance chapter in Expert Card Technique is the best writing regarding character in magic (I'm paraphrasing).
How do you feel about Fitzkee & Nelms?
*Mark Lewis*
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I really hate the Nelms book. I am trying to like the Fitzkee book but can't quite manage it. However, his foreword amuses me where he explains that the classic retort when critising a bad magician is "Well, he's working" doesn't mean a thing because there are many reasons a person may be "working" and his talent may well not be one of them. For example he works cheap, or he is good at marketing, or his uncle is a bit time showbusiness connection or he is sleeping with a powerful agent. He doesn't quite phrase it in those words but the meaning is approximately the same.

Somehow I am not keen on his book and I don't know why. I get the same feeling from the much lauded Ken Weber book, "Maximum Entertainment" I try to like the book but can't quite manage it and I have no idea why. There is something I don't like about the book but I can't put my finger on it. And because of this I cannot put up a good argument against it. It is more of a gut instinct kind of thing.

However, in Fitzkee's case I can forgive him anything because of what he wrote on pages 47 and 48. If you can absorb those two pages you will have gotten your money's worth even if you don't read another page.
RiffRaff
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How do you feel about the other philosophical writings regarding magic (Tamariz, Ortiz, Wonder, etc.)?
*Mark Lewis*
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I have only read Ortiz. I think his reasoning is excellent except for his advice on hecklers which consists of ignoring them completely and if that doesn't work say "That is what happens when cousins marry"

Dearie me no. There are far better systems for handling hecklers and if I were not in a bad mood at the moment I would pontificate about them. James Munton is giving me very bad advice about adding a signature to my posts. I did exactly what he said and I found the scoundrel made me put a link to his own products instead. I am not pleased.

Once I have figured out this signature thing I may advise on hecklers. I think the best thing to do with them is do what I am about to do with Munton in a moment. Put a bloody psychic curse on them.
James Munton
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It is not my fault you are so useless with computers. I sent you an email. If you want further tech support, call India.
*Mark Lewis*
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It is certainly your fault that you are a greedy money grabber trying to use my position as a distinguished guest of honour to promote your own products in such a disgraceful way. You and Roger are both a disgrace with the constant hustling of your products. You would never see me do that. I really think you should visit the gospel section here immediately and learn from all the distinguished holy people there that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Anyway I think I have fixed it now so I shall remove the psychic curse.
RiffRaff
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I suppose you are now free to discuss hecklers?
*Mark Lewis*
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No. I am still in a bad mood. Maybe later.
RiffRaff
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Bad mood???
Did one of your customers ask for a refund?
*Mark Lewis*
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They wouldn't get one if they did. I am not one of those hot shot marketing types who offer money back guarantees. Once I have your money you will never see it again.
RiffRaff
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The sun is up and there's the smell of coffee in the air.
Aren't you in a great mood to discuss hecklers?
*Mark Lewis*
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No. I am a bad mood again because I posted a long thing about hecklers and the bloody thing disappeared into cyberspace for some odd reason. I shall try again. My Wit and Wisdom e-book describes how to handle it from the stage but here I am talking about close up impromptu magic only. The stage has different rules.
I am taking this from a book I wrote about 35 years ago for beginners on card tricks. The book was never finished. I shall have to do this in two parts because I was just as long winded 35 years ago as I am now. No wonder I was attracted to mentalism for a while. Here it is. And bear in mind that I haven't changed my mind about the philosophy here even decades later.
............................................................................................................
First of all, hecklers. Unfortunately, in this sad world there are those unenlightened souls whose only pleasure in life is to wreck the magician’s performance. The will insist on loudly proclaiming that they know how the trick is done (they very rarely do) and that all magicians are fakes. The will insist on shuffling the pack at inopportune times, they will spot the palmed card in your hand and will brag that they once had a magic set.

There are three solutions to the above problem:-

1. Curl up and die (for the timid among you).
2. Punch your tormentor on the nose (for the not so timid among you).
3. Read on and peruse my advice.

Now let’s see. We do not recommend the first solution on the grounds of bad showmanship. Neither do we particularly get excited over the second option. It will distract from the performance and besides, our heckler friend (?) may be bigger than you.

That leaves us with the third solution. Read on, dear reader, read on.

You must first realise that you are there to entertain people, even the nasty heckler. Tempting though it is to retaliate and be rude right back it is wise not to lose your temper. If you are quick witted and have a little bit of cunning about you it is possible to turn the pest into an asset, or at least quieten him down.

If, on the other hand, you try to answer him back the performance could easily deteriorate into a slanging match which is not quite what you originally intended. Besides, the more you argue the more he’ll persist in wrecking the show. You will also find that by resisting him you may alienate the rest of the audience because you are attacking one of their number. We find that people are perverse and although some of the spectators will be annoyed by the pest, others for some psychological reason will tend to side with him, especially if he is not TOO obnoxious. This is probably because people have a subconscious resentment against being fooled. They feel somehow inferior to this sharp trickster who is deceiving them so convincingly and they react with delight when the clever so and so runs into trouble. This being so, they may identify with the heckler especially if the magician has a smart alec see-how-clever-I-am air about him.

One other reason not to trade words with the bore is that if destroys what actors call the “suspension of disbelief”. To explain this, when you watch a movie or theatre play you are absorbed completely; you know in your heart of hearts that the actors are only playing a part, that what is going on is not real, but for the moment while you are watching you SUSPEND your disbelief momentarily reveling in the illusion that everything is really happening. However, if a piece of scenery drops backstage or the movie projector breaks down you are quickly brought back to reality and the “suspension of disbelieve” starts to disintegrate. Similarly with our magician; he creates the illusion that what he does is magic; of course, at the back of their minds the spectators (unless they are extremely gullible) know that it is not magic, but for the moment while they are enjoying the performance they are willing to “suspend disbelief”. However, let the performer start arguing with the heckler or tell him to shut up and the whole process will disintegrate very rapidly. Our magician is no longer superman; he actually does mundane things like get annoyed. This maker of miracles is just an ordinary mortal after all,-well, what an anti-climax! Our hero who was dazzling everyone a moment ago with feats of astonishment now shows himself to be just a normal human being who demeans himself by arguing with the lower orders. After all, if he was a real magician, he wouldn’t waste time in conversation-he would simply make the heckler disappear!
*Mark Lewis*
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I think you all need to digest the above post. Tell me when you are all ready and I will post the second part.
RiffRaff
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Ready.
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Urp
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
*Mark Lewis*
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Very well. Here is the second part.
...........................................................................................................
No, answering back is not the solution to our problem. A better plan is to try and be nice to the nuisance. This will take the wind out of his sails and might make him feel guilty! Of course you might say, “Love thine enemy” is easier said than done. Well, persevere, persevere. Try and get on his side, even flatter him a tiny bit. You can even let him bully you a little for you have a trump card. We’ll tell you about it soon.

Here’s more advice: try and make capital out of the situation, look for some amusing remark that won’t give offence (do NOT say, “We all make mistakes, your mother made one”) humour him, laugh with him and try to turn things to your advantage. Oh, and don’t worry-we have a trump card. Patience, patience-I’ll tell you about it eventually.

More advice: if he says, I know how that’s done!” you reply, “That’s strange, I know how it’s done too!” If he then tells everyone the secret and he is right you deflate him by asking, “What do you want, --magic?” If his antics become TOO irritating I suggest you threaten to turn him into a frog. NO doubt this will make him quail with fear and he will immediately go as quiet as a mouse and treat you with the respect you deserve. If for some reason even this maser stroke doesn’t completely succeed, well, you have the trump card to fall back on. All right, all right. We’re coming to it, I promise. But first, a little more advice on this subject.

Probably the best protection against the heckler is your own competence. After all, if you do your stuff well there is less opportunity for interruption. If you perform fluently and as if you know what you are doing it will tend to dissuade the pest from tormenting you. Everyone likes to watch a master at work, even the heckler. If you are exciting and entertaining this will often be enough to quell mutinous spectators. On the other hand, if you are ill at ease and awkward, not only will you cause the audience to experience the same feelings, you will be inviting trouble, as sure as the sun rises in the east. Your attitude is all-important; if you are humble you will tend to make people like you, and the more people like you the less heckling you will experience. Conversely, if you are arrogant and superior when you work, you will attract confrontation like a magnet, and well you will deserve it. Contrary to what you might expect, a little heckling is good for you. It keeps you alert, on your toes and teaches you not to be too complacent. It will encourage you to practice; when the loudmouth says, “I saw you switch that card!” he’s actually doing you a favour. Maybe you’ll practice so hard that next time he won’t see you switch it.

Oh, I completely forgot-the trump card! Well, dear reader, it’s called a SUCKER TRICK. There are a number of them in this book and using any one of them at the right time is the surest way not only to deflate your tormentor but often to make him your biggest booster. These are tricks which look as if they’ve gone badly wrong, but at the last minute the poor magician extricates himself from his dilemna, and turns the table son everybody by amazing them after all! This type of trick is especially effective for hecklers because they fall into a trap; at first they are delighted that the magician has had his comeuppance, they are flushed with triumph and often loudly mock the performer for his incompetence. However, when suddenly everything turns out right in the end, the gales of laughter from the crowd are usually directed against the heckler who then after his initial surprise and embarrassment, usually admits defeat and nurses his bruised ego by strangely praising you to the skies and becoming one of your biggest fans. In my experience, I have often found these former opponents have spread my reputation far and wide, they get their feelings of importance now, not by heckling but by bragging that they know me, and most incredible of all, get loudly indignant if anyone else dares to heckle me if they happen to be watching!

That’s my advice on hecklers; it’s taken up more space than I intended but I think it’s useful advice since beginners probably get more heckling, especially from family and friends than anyone else.

One word of warning, though. If you should happen to see a professional magician deal with hecklers you may be confused since he will probably use a different approach to the one outlined above. He may utilize what are known the trade as “heckler stoppers”, that is one-line gags, usually derogatory and personal that attack the heckler. Well, don’t feel confused; these people work under different conditions to you. They often perform in sleazy places, to inebriated audiences and they have to keep the pace of their act going without wasting too much time on the perpetrators of drunken interruptions. And they have one big advantage you don’t have-a microphone. No heckler can compete against a microphone-his insults are heard indistinctly whereas the performer’s remarks cutting him to ribbons come out crystal clear.

As I said before, this book is not for the professional magician. If you perform close up intimate card magic in social and business situations, all you need to know about handling hecklers is the advice we’ve given you and the knowledge you’ll get from experience.
...........................................................................................................

There. I wrote all that 35 years ago. How come nobody recognised my genius then and are only just waking up to it now? Still, better late than never, I suppose.
RiffRaff
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Thank you for the comprehensive answer.
You mention that handling a heckler from the stage is a different matter. How so?
*Mark Lewis*
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It is different, believe me. There is no time to use the cleverness above. In a close up situation you have some leeway and flexibility. From the stage you have to hit them hard and fast and nip them in the bud before they get worse. You do have to know the difference between heckling and interaction though. If they are just having fun with you that isn't heckling and in fact it can be made beneficial because you can make gentle fun back at them with a little MILD insult here and there which they will lap up.

Real heckling is more vicious and is usually caused through the demon drink. You have to fight back in this case. My biggest regret when I was working the rough clubs and nightclubs when I was young was to be too nice. I should have fought back in the same way I did when grafting where I took no prisoners.

In the UK years and years and years and years ago I worked some pretty rough places and must
have died a death every night. The shows were in London night clubs and were very late at night.
Sometimes 1am in the morning. Drunks galore. In fact I don't think I ever did a single show where the
majority of the audience was sober.
I was young and inexperienced and couldn't handle the hecklers. I was trying to be too nice and
wasn't aggressive enough. Nowadays I would have been a lot more asssertive with them.

One of the best cabaret perfomers of all time was Paul Daniels. In his younger days he worked his way up through the rough, tough working men's club circuit and he handled the problems a hell of a lot better than I did.

I do remember him giving advice on this matter years ago. He was at a convention seated in the lobby of a hotel and giving valuable advice to people.He drew quite a crowd. Ali Bongo was walking up and down on the outside of the crowd getting upset saying, "Why is he giving these people this valuable information?" Poor Ali was acting like a demented hen seemingly forgetting there was a time once in his youth when he would probably have welcomed the advice of a top pro.

Daniels said words to this effect "The books say that you should not answer the hecklers back. They
say that you should let them have a little go at you and you ignore them. Then they have a bigger go
and you answer them back a little. It is only when they get too far that you really use the big guns
with heckler stoppers.
Well the books are wrong. If you show weakness they will descend on you like a pack of wolves and tear you apart. At the
first sign of heckling put them down straight away. They have to know from the very beginning that
you are in charge"

This is what I should have done when I worked to those awful drunks years ago.
Paul Daniels has a very funny though nasty line to use on hecklers when he is doing the Chop Cup.
He says that often some fool will shout out "you have two balls" Daniels stares right back at them and
says "Well, how many do you have, SUPERMAN?" I have put the word "superman" in block capitals
since it is really emphasised in the delivery.

I am a very proper person and do not approve of this sort of vulgar retort. However for those of you who are not able to come up to my high standards I rather
suspect you may find this line useful if you do the chop cup and come up against hecklers.
Lliam
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Thanks for the great post mark! It's helped me a lot! I especially liked the chop cup line Smile Though that's probably cause I have an inappropriate mind Smile
Anyways thanks again!
Lliam
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