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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Table hoppers & party strollers » » Heckler Stoppers When You Can't Walk Away (41 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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chosen1
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I just had a thought that I don't believe I've read on this forum yet.

Before I get into this (unproven) idea my usual tactic is to bring them to my side literally. I say something like "You seem to have a handle on all this stuff do you mind helping me?" And then I actually pull them in so that they are standing shoulder to shoulder with me. I have a coins across routine heavily inspired by Eric Jones and let that heckler "do the magic." Because of the amount of micro managing that routine requires and the fact that they are not "on stage" in front of everyone they find themselves continually doing as you request which puts them into a state of compliance. And now that they are part of the show they really don't want to mess up. So they acquiesce, and it makes them look great. Now it's really hard for them to heckle without looking and feeling like a jerk. You've given them a chance in the spotlight. You've been polite, so if they continue it's all on them and most people are better than that.

The new idea is this. Why not just ask for them to explain themselves? There is semi viral idea of the best way to deal with people making inappropriate jokes is to pretend like you don't understand and ask them to explain it to you. Most people will be embarrassed and stop in their tracks. What about using that same methodology in this context. After some heckling type behavior you just ask. "Hey, is anything wrong? Are you not enjoying this?" I think the bluntness and putting them on the spot will at least get them to consider their behavior.

What do you all think?

Best,
Brandon
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Dannydoyle
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So you give them control of your show.

That is one way to do it.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
chosen1
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Good Afternoon Mr. Doyle.

I don't quite see it as giving control. In fact, with how specific the instructions get my coins across is one of the most "control" heavy pieces that I do. I place the spectator where I want them, direct where their hands go, manage their pacing. It's an illusion of bringing them onto my side of the show, but it's still my show. Really it's how I present the routine anyway. the only difference is the opening line, "You seem to have this stuff figured out." Other than that I proceed exactly I normally would. Everyone kind of gets what they want. I get to continue my show with a more complacent heckler (hopefully), they get some spotlight, the rest of the audience gets magic.

As far as the question tactic. My guess is that it will clam them up immediately. So I don't think it would give up any control, but admittedly it's just a theory. It might open up a can of worms that would be better left alone. When audiences exist I'll give it a try and report my findings.

Thank you Mr. Doyle for your vast knowledge and the kindness you show in sharing it with us.

Best,
Brandon
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Dannydoyle
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I had a dog a long time ago. He was half Siberian Husky and half Wolf. Great dog, friendly dog and loved other dogs.

We used to take him to the dog park and most of the dogs just wanted to play with him. All except one. For some reason THAT was the dog he wanted to play with! I used to wonder why with all the other dogs lining up to run with him he HAD to fixate on the one dog who didn't want too.

In life and when performing close up magic I try to be smarter than my dog was.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
chosen1
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That is a really good point, Mr. Doyle, one I believe we'd all do well to remember. And one I'm sure I've forgotten my fair share of times when my friend's eyes have long ago glazed over, but I just can't bother to notice. LOL.

I do agree that if someone is just completely not interested in magic I don't see a need to perform for them and won't. That isn't often the case that I find though. Now granted, I'm 5'6 have the softest voice a human can have, and look maybe 16 years old so it's extremely rare that I get truly heckled. Usually when someone is being disruptive to one of my performances it's more just a misunderstanding of roles. They feel like it's banter, or just don't know how to act while magic is happening. It's a pretty rare experience for most people. So usually by bringing them to my side and step by step controlling their actions for the next piece they start to realize the kind of back and forth I'm encouraging and any disruptive behavior stops. Like I said though my experience with heckling is pretty limited; my personality and appearance just, as my friends often say, "make it like trying to yell at a puppy." So as soon as I make someone aware that I'm not a fan of how they are acting it almost immediately ends. Unless, of course, alcohol is involved. LOL. But that's a completely separate thread.

Since we have you here, and your advice and experience is always so welcome, I'd love to ask a few question about the psychology of hecklers as you see them. What do you think is their most common motivation for acting the way they do? Have you found a certain demographic to be more likely to heckle than others, is there a certain venue that seems to bring out more hecklers than others?

A lot of really thought provoking advice on here. It's been a joy to read.

Best,
Brandon
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Dannydoyle
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My experience is not universal. Not by any means. I am 6'5" and 285 pounds. I have hands the approximate size of Rhode Island. (I can literally hide an entire poker size card in the palm portion of my hand.)

All that aside here is my view on hecklers. What causes most of them? BEING BORED! It is really that simple. If they are being engaged or entertained with the performance they are seeing, they won't heckle. It really is that simple if you think about it.

Now mind you I am talking ONLY about performance in which you are actually engaged to be there. If you are just showing magic to whoever will watch then all bets are off. I have no experience in that so I am not speaking about that.

Take a look at some of the ridiculous plots and inane patter magicians use. It is crazy to expect adults to sit through it! Magicians take themselves SO seriously it is pathetic on many levels. It is shocking MOST don't get heckled more than they do. (I take what I DO very seriously, I do not take myself seriously. There is a huge difference.) So many get so caught up in the technique and all that and most people don't care. They want to have fun. Also people don't mind being fooled, they don't want to be made a fool of. Magicians that do puzzle magic often have trouble with hecklers.

I take the heat off of me and my size immediately and am a little self deprecating. Showing I take what I do seriously but not myself. So right away it is more like "I am just a guy who knows a couple of cool things you may want to see" as opposed to "look how cool and clever I am". It makes all the difference for me.

But all that aside I think a primary reason for hecklers is simply that they are bored. Magicians scripting is SO horrible and they have SO many holes in it that there is an opportunity, and they person takes it. They are trying to have FUN. If you tightly scripted, not much time to heckle is there? If you have an engaging presentation or personality there is no room to be bored or heckle now is there?

Now the other part is that not everyone who interrupts is a "heckler". Often the opposite is the case. They ARE having fun and want to be part of it! Too often magicians can't see the difference. BUT if you have an actual heckler and you want him to stop the behavior the WORST thing you can do is put him in the spotlight. Why is that? Because he is LOOKING for the spotlight, and you have just shown him that the way to get into the spotlight even brighter is to misbehave. (Not unlike a dog being trained is it?) It goes like this in his head. He just acted like a jerk, you then bring him in and make him part of what you are doing and rewarded his behavior. Do you really think it will stop? If you want behavior to stop then don't reward it.

If it is just a guy having fun let him have fun. Who are we to tell people how to have fun? Just control it with tight scripting.

Don Alan used to handle hecklers with silence. (So do I.) It is really great. I mean if someone says something, then you say something, then they say something where does it end? It escalates, and before you know it you are WAY past what the show is intended to be. It is just not your best show. Silence simply can not be answered. There is NOWHERE for them to go. He was on the Tonight Show with Henny Youngman. Henny being a comedian thought the spotlight was always his. Don was there to do magic and he knew the spotlight was his. So when Henny just started blathering Don shut him down with silence. Just let him go and looked at him. Then Henny shut up and Don did his thing. It is brilliant. It can't escalate. It can't go anywhere. All that can happen is that your show goes where you want it, and keeps you in control. If it keeps happening it might be a scripting problem. But when you simply stop what you are doing OTHERS will tell him to shut up. (Provided it is not a boredom problem or a problem with inane patter.) Because the REAL problem is no matter what you are an outsider. So if you attack one of theirs, even if they deserve it, YOU are the bad guy. You run a very real possibility of losing the rest of the crowd, just to satisfy your own ego need to get the best of him.

That is my experience anyhow. It is not universal, it is not necessarily "right" or even right for anyone but me. It is how I think of it and anyone else can think of it completely opposite of this and be correct! It is all opinion in reality. So take it with a grain of salt.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
252life
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That says it all. Couldn’t agree more.
Look for all the world like you're counting the brain cells in his cranium.

-Theodore Annemann
chosen1
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You're wonderful Mr. Doyle.

Thank you so much for that gold rush of information. And if you're interested I think you and me could star in a remake of Twins. LOL.

At the risk of pushing things too far. I'd like to ask one more question if you don't mind. How did you reach this conclusion of how to do deal with hecklers and how is it different from how approached them when you were just starting out? Was there one major turn that you saw or experienced or was it just bits and bobs in the course of the thousands of shows you've done?

Your time is greatly appreciated and I know for sure many are getting a lot out of what you are sharing.

Best,
Brandon.
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Dannydoyle
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It wasn't a shift at all. Being non confrontational is really common sense.

Also I did not learn from YouTube. I was taught to do magic at Schuliens. I learned from Charlie Schulien, from Don Alan, Jim Ryan, Jay Marshal and so on. These things were taught to me from the time I started when I was 19. So it wasn't a revelation or anything. It was how I was taught. And again I reiterate it is nothing but one persons OPINION and offered as nothing more. If someone has a different EXPERIENCE it is 100% valid and is just as correct. There is no one right answer. There is room for a lot of styles, actually that is a GOOD thing!

I think that is what is missing from how many learn to perform today. The "mentor" system is just gone. Everyone thinks they can learn everything they need from YouTube and buy the latest big thing from Elusionist. It simply is not true.

You can't theorize your way though live performance. Just like any great chef must cook at least one edible mean, a performer must be in front of an audience for their opinions to really mean anything.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
warren
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Wise words as ever Danny you were lucky to have such great mentors.
Nikodemus
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I suspect people who heckle magicians mistakenly assume it is all a legitimate part of the fun. You need to somehow correct that misconception, without alienating them or the rest of the audience.
Nikodemus
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I just delved into Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz. He has a whole chapter on the subject of hecklers. He says they just want attention - so the best thing is to totally ignore them. If you respond with a witty put-down you will only encourage them. I think this is excellent advice.

He ALSO says their goal is to wreck your performance. I'm really not sure I agree with that. I suspect that some at least think a magic performance is a "game" where you try to deceive the audience and they try to catch you out.

I can only think of one type of performance where heckling is generally regarded as acceptable. Stand-up comedy. But there is still an "etiquette". A certain amount of good-nature banter with the audience is seen as a test of the comic's ability to improvise. But it mustn't go on too long, and the performer always has the last word.
I was once at the Comedy Store years ago, and one guy in the audience was very drunk, and being a bit of a pain in the neck, but all the professionals could handle him. Then they had an open-mic amateur spot. A young woman came up who had great material but was very nervous. The drunk started heckling her and his friends shut him down IMMEDIATELY - before he got lynched.
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