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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Danger of not knowing culture of audience -student walk out example (9 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

FrankFindley
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First, I would like to state this is not meant to be a criticism of the magician involved. When one is touring it can be difficult to understand the nuances of culture. This is just to discuss how missing such can have bad consequences.

Recently Magician Andy Gross performed a routine he had been refining in comedy clubs at a college freshman orientation. One segment of the show was very negatively recieved resulting in a student walk out. Here is a news story on it with a link to another story giving more details: https://amp.indystar.com/amp/1049942002

I feel I am somewhat qualified to give a perspective on this. I attended this university and paid my way through by performing there. This consisted of over 120 shows both on campus and in the West Lafayette/Lafayette community.

Purdue tends to have a larger, more religiously diverse body than most colleges. It is near the population center of the country and attracts Southern Baptists from the South, Catholics from the North, etc. So even mild risque type jokes are difficult to pull off without insulting someone. In addition, having a heavy STEM focuss, Purdue has historically had a minority female population. Even now while 60% of the national student population is female, Purdue is 40%. So there is a very strong emphasis placed on protecting women from harrassment. This is not to say Andy harrassed the volunteer but rather that the "flirting" boundary is much narrower than in other places so some may perceive it as such. Add to this that a portion of the Freshman population are gifted students under 18, and you can see how innuendo humor can fall flat or even worse.

Do any of you have similar stories or advice on this?
WitchDocChris
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This isn't innuendo or flirting. Innuendo implies a certain degree of subtlety - this was not subtle. Flirting implies a certain degree of consent on both sides - she was clearly uncomfortable with the situation. There is a phrase that describes this kind of humor though - rape culture.

He brought a girl on stage, told her in front of a large audience that he has an erection because of her, made said erection "talk", and then goaded her into touching his body. She's clearly uncomfortable with the entire process and only going along with it because otherwise it's very rude in front of her entire peer base. He got called out and he deserved it.

This isn't just not understanding Purdue University students - it's not understanding that we are past the age where it is funny, cute, or even acceptable for a middle-aged dude to make sex jokes about a college student.

This is gross humor. Even predatory.

I'm sure there are venues where this would play just fine - probably filled mostly with other middle aged and older white dudes. A college campus is not going to be one of those venues.

Good on the students for walking out. More and more I'm seeing the younger generation claim their power and letting the older generation know what they will and will not stand for any longer. Baby boomers keep trying to say they're just too sensitive but really - they're just not talking Boomers' crap any more.
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Dick Oslund
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I was never a full time college performer, but, the school assembly bureaus would occasionally book me in a college. They were always a joy to do!

I also would book colleges directly. I played many Job Corps Centers.

I played many reform schools (all boys, and, all girls) I played state prisons. In California, I played a teen age boys prison. (They weren't hub cap thieves, these were kids who had murdered their parents!)

The assembly bureau even booked me in a college for a family matinee. It was definitely a FAMILY audience.

Even if I had been booked in an all male student college, I would have presented a program that would be acceptable to an audience of nuns!!!

I know what a standing ovation looks like! --It really gets your adrenaline flowing!
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danaruns
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Quote:
On Sep 2, 2018, WitchDocChris wrote:
This isn't innuendo or flirting. Innuendo implies a certain degree of subtlety - this was not subtle. Flirting implies a certain degree of consent on both sides - she was clearly uncomfortable with the situation. There is a phrase that describes this kind of humor though - rape culture.

He brought a girl on stage, told her in front of a large audience that he has an erection because of her, made said erection "talk", and then goaded her into touching his body. She's clearly uncomfortable with the entire process and only going along with it because otherwise it's very rude in front of her entire peer base. He got called out and he deserved it.

This isn't just not understanding Purdue University students - it's not understanding that we are past the age where it is funny, cute, or even acceptable for a middle-aged dude to make sex jokes about a college student.

This is gross humor. Even predatory.

I'm sure there are venues where this would play just fine - probably filled mostly with other middle aged and older white dudes. A college campus is not going to be one of those venues.

Good on the students for walking out. More and more I'm seeing the younger generation claim their power and letting the older generation know what they will and will not stand for any longer. Baby boomers keep trying to say they're just too sensitive but really - they're just not talking Boomers' crap any more.


Bravo, Chris! Well said! Smile <3
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
FrankFindley
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Dick, my acts have also been "clean", primarily having worked birthday shows, critter clubs, and malls. But twice ran into cultural issues while performing there. One was with a group containing Jehovah's Witness students who complained that my mental epic routine was occult practice. I wish I had then an opening patter like you do with the boomerang's and What's Next. Could have saved me a lot of headache. The second was with an "exchange of rings" line in my kids (boy and girl) linking ring routine. It got a good response like normal but afterwards a complaint was filed that the act would be what is now called anti-LGBT (there was different language back then). Same sex marriage was in the news at the time and the student group lodging the complaint was trying to get marriage banned as a solution. So they took offense at that bit. I could have been thrown out of the university if it hadnt been rejected.

Chris and Dana, you bring up excellent points on the ethical treatment of volunteers, especially consent and respect. I wasn't there to observe it and, as per above, understand how students can react given heavily media covered current events. So I am reluctant to classify this as "predatory". There are times where I can see a routine like this being ethical. Clearly this wasnt the propper venue, audience or volunteer, hence the post. But we live in a world where there are magicians who specialize in bachelor/bachelorette parties and full nudity cabaret acts (e.g. Ursula Martinez). It is definitely not my cup of tea but they and their audiences love it.
Mindpro
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I too have performed at Purdue several times over the years as well as Layfayette's PAC which draws heavily from Purdue students. This has always been a great concern for comics, as for years (decades) the college market was always considered, cool, hip, trendy, cutting edge, and very contemporary. Artistic freedom could prevail on campus for performers. Leno, Seinfeld, Carrot Top, Daniel Toss, and so many others found their initial success on the college market.

Today and in recent years the college market has changed. Not just at Purdue, with issues such as date rare, me-too, and other hot-button topics/issues on campus, colleges today are much more PC and conservative than ever before.

As performers, we must create, target and execute everything we do for our performance market(s). There are either of two ways 99% of most entertainers operate. 1.) They create the performance, material and execution as to what they (they performer wants, thinks and believes, or 2.) they create their performance, personal and material based on what the market wants, thinks or believes. It is a chose. Most performers create what they want, but this is a great example of, if you want to prevail in the college market, you must operate to their interests, mentalities, and beliefs. Most, of course, don't, or try to push the line.

Evidently, Andy seems to have not gotten the memo. A comedy club is much different these days than the college circuit. As someone who has booked the college circuit with comedians, mentalists, hypnotists, game shows, magic and other acts, I have been explaining this concern for the last 10 years and most performers either don't care - "they're/you're not going to tell me how to do my act" or are disbelief or denial that this exists. Yet I hear it from college buyers practically each week we do college bookings.

Thsi is a great lesson in who do we perform for - ourselves, or our market and their audiences?
Senor Fabuloso
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BALANCE AND CONSIDERATION. Are we not told to "know our audience"? A more adult audience at a strip club might have been fine with such an act so to project a rape innuendo onto the performer in my opinion, is way off base. That said, colleges these days are not the place for risque humor. Hell, you can't even practice free speech on campuses these days. Be careful.
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Mary Mowder
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I think the word rape may sound a little inflammatory but I certainly agree with the sentiment!

I can't tell you how sick I am of seeing Women expected to be good sports while jerks ask them to listen to crude innuendo, touch them, take spit covered cards from their mouths, drink from a bottle the Magician has just drunk from, etc...

I've actually seen a performer say "that's so gay" to a volunteer for a choice made in the performance. This seemed like it would have been the response to whatever the answer might have been. The Magician seemed like a pathetic Guy trying to look current at the expense of a downtrodden minority.

If People just started walking away in the middle of a performance instead of smiling and putting up with it, perhaps things would change.

I know from experience that these performers are unwilling to believe that anyone who matters is offended by this stuff. If you tell them later that their material is offensive they are full of reasons why the way they are doing it is fine. As another Magician, I have to let them make thir own call. When I am the offended volunteer, I have to think my opinion does matter.

-Mary Mowder
Dannydoyle
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I will say I agree with a caveat. I would like to SEE what he did, not go on a description of what he did. There are many who are looking to be offended.

So while he bowed to pressure and quit we do not see what the offense was.

For example is this offensive?
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2wJRxu_lDds&t=160s

Not far from the description really. Not far from the innuendo. Slippery slope.

I am NOT saying crude humor to unsuspecting young adults is at all appreciate. I am saying I personally will reserve judgement (At a time when judgement is rampant.) until I see the offense. Then we need to define it properly and make sure we don't shift goal posts, which has been happening lately.

If this is to be discussed, and it is LONG overdue to be, I would like to have it done rationally. This way it is meaningful and change is lasting. It needs to change though. Women do not deserve the treatment Mary described. It is well past time to fix this.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Senor Fabuloso
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Agree with both Mary and Danny with the caveat that there are environments where a risque performance, would be appropriate. To consider "sexy magic" offensive in those venues would be as inappropriate as mentalism for toddlers. I'm not advocating for embarrassing a participant but in good fun and where EXPECTED consent is granted via attendance. I, (when the man was alive) might have gone to see a Red Fox performance. I knew that there will be a tons of f bombs thrown and a very dirty act. If that's not my cup of tea, I don't go. Simply condemning a performer for his or her STYLE is in my opinion unfair and as inappropriate as those who try to shock the audience with risque humor. "Different strokes for different folks" and "if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen." (non gender specific reference) When we hyper sensitize to any speech, we limit speech. Freedom of speech protects offensive speech, not speech we like. That's my point in general but specifically in entertainment we have to be open minded to differences in artistic style.

I recently saw the movie "antichrist". I thought if would be a biblical rendition of the last days and the apocalypse? Boy was I wrong. Graphic sexual scenes, gender mutilation, even child abuse were the themes running through this film. I was disgusted. But was it the fault of the movie or mine for not researching the movie prior to my attendance? The public has a responsibility, to know what they are getting into when seeking those things they consider entertaining. Personal responsibility isn't contingent on a performers style.

On the other hand, the performer IS responsible to his or her audience in knowing what they would find acceptable and if they choose to cross the line should expect pushback. There to is a danger however that creativity might be stifled if we as the public don't make room for the things we find offensive. To mind comes the late Andy Kaufman, who pushed may boundaries and is considered by some to be one of the most original comedians of the 20th century. Regardless of what we might think of his humor, his peers and those charged with the task of critiquing such things, have come to this conclusion.

I'm not advocating sexy magic or defending risque performances. I'm advocating the RIGHT to perform them. The public has the RIGHT to answer such performances with non attendance. Eventually, if enough people stop going to such shows, they will die for lack of revenue. Supply and demand is a powerful motivator and the general public calls the shots. Oh yeah one can choose to live the bohemian lifestyle and confine themselves to the underground but that's not how I want live my life. But I will defend the right of anyone who chooses to do so.
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Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On Sep 4, 2018, Senor Fabuloso wrote:
... Supply and demand is a powerful motivator and the general public calls the shots. Oh yeah one can choose to live the bohemian lifestyle and confine themselves to the underground but that's not how I want live my life. But I will defend the right of anyone who chooses to do so.


It's also efficient distinguish personal tastes from those of the intended audience. For example entertaining the very wealthy bohemians - and in shows suited to their tastes make suitable adjustments to ones costume, manner, and digressions. Smile

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danaruns
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Two really good points were made above. First, consent. You can do anything you want, as long as your audience consents in advance. The consent can be explicit, implicit, or situational. But if you don't get it, you can be in for trouble. And if you do get it, everything is fair game. Nothing is out of bounds if the audience knows it's coming and is okay with it. I can do an incredibly risque and otherwise offensive show for, for example, a lesbian travel company (which books entire cruise ships and resorts with 1500 lesbian women) that I could never get away with doing for a college audience, for instance, and would never try. Why? Consent. The lesbians expect and want the outrageous material. If I tried that same act for an audience that didn't consent in advance, I'd never get booked again anywhere.

Second is the marketplace. I'm not sure people carving out an edgy niche are necessarily relegating themselves to the bohemian lifestyle (though, frankly, most working magicians are relegated to that lifestyle anyway). I always think of Dan Sperry in this context. By his persona and choice of material (horror or gross magic), he has cut himself off from a LOT of work. But that work wasn't his, anyway. And he has opened up a whole world of work that generalists or "pablum magicians" (as I think of them) could never get. Dan Sperry doesn't work when someone wants "a magician." He works when someone wants "Dan Sperry." Carving out a niche is actually a great marketing move. Creating an audience for yourself is a solid career path. I'll bet a risque magician could make a great career of that material, so long as it was done with purpose, thought and intent. You wouldn't book that magician at a college or a kid's birthday party. You'd have to create other opportunities. And I'll bet you could fill 2,000-seat theaters on a regular basis if you were good enough at it.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
longhaired1
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I was going to start a separate thread on a subject but I think it dovetails with this one so here goes.

I have one routine that I have been doing for years that is not sexual, risque, inappropriate or anything else of that nature, but it has taken on a different connotation in the post MeToo era. The first time I noticed this was in front of an adult audience that had "made it dirty", and fortunately I was able to joke with the audience about how they had taken a perfectly innocent bit and made it dirty. Risque material would have been appropriate in front of this audience, but eyebrows raised in front of another audience as well (though this was not the reaction every time I performed the bit).

I discussed the situation with the person who handles my bookings and I made the decision to drop the bit from the act as the laughs I was receiving was not worth the possibility of offending people, especially given that it was a non-risque, non-sexual bit. It's worth noting that it was the culture shift that we have been through that changed. The bit itself was never sexual, risque or offensive.

Without going into detail it was a bit surrounding an audience volunteer sealing an envelope. Specifically, licking the envelope.
FrankFindley
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Longhaired1, thanks for bringing up another, non-risque, example. A friend yesterday pointed out two for him. He temporarily dropped his chopper when terrorist incidents were in the news. Now he is wrestling with whether or not to pull his flag routine because of sensitivity around the Kaepernick protest. It is his favorite. These are very tough calls.

My wife pointed out that the Harry and Leslie Anderson's dueling escape act in the past was seen as pro-woman as it showed a female magician more than besting a male one. But in today's environment could likely garner complaints of spouse abuse. So even with clear consent some could have very different takeaways. See here at 3 minutes: https://youtu.be/lMY5RguBWnk
FrankFindley
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Part of this topic was touched on in the latest Wizard Product Review and they are asking for comments: https://youtu.be/rtsjfGNvS8A?t=6m38s

Net, this is something with which many magicians are grappling.
gomerel
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Quote:
On Sep 2, 2018, WitchDocChris wrote:
This isn't innuendo or flirting. Innuendo implies a certain degree of subtlety - this was not subtle. Flirting implies a certain degree of consent on both sides - she was clearly uncomfortable with the situation. There is a phrase that describes this kind of humor though - rape culture.

He brought a girl on stage, told her in front of a large audience that he has an erection because of her, made said erection "talk", and then goaded her into touching his body. She's clearly uncomfortable with the entire process and only going along with it because otherwise it's very rude in front of her entire peer base. He got called out and he deserved it.

This isn't just not understanding Purdue University students - it's not understanding that we are past the age where it is funny, cute, or even acceptable for a middle-aged dude to make sex jokes about a college student.

This is gross humor. Even predatory.

I'm sure there are venues where this would play just fine - probably filled mostly with other middle aged and older white dudes. A college campus is not going to be one of those venues.

Good on the students for walking out. More and more I'm seeing the younger generation claim their power and letting the older generation know what they will and will not stand for any longer. Baby boomers keep trying to say they're just too sensitive but really - they're just not talking Boomers' crap any more.

Thank you. I am a very open minded person but I would have walked out, in any venue.
Senor Fabuloso
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Just wondering if some of Mr. Anderson's act would be inappropriate today? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlthbJTv39U&t=214s
No matter how many times you say the wrong thing, it will NEVER be right.

If I'm not responding to you? It's because you're a TROLL!
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