Dealing with hecklers

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by ChaseC6, Apr 6, 2020.

  1. Alright, so I have two questions. How do you guys as magicians deal with hecklers. The second question is, if your a mentalist how do you respond to the question: "If you can read minds, what am I thinking?"
  2. You're probably not going to like the answers.

    First question - The first part of this answer is to realize what a heckler really is. I'm betting most magicians haven't actually encountered a 'real' heckler once they get a bit of experience under their proverbial belt. A heckler is someone who is purposely out to ruin the performance. Most mystery performers I see think anyone who speaks up during a show is a heckler.

    Also, most mystery performers create their own 'hecklers' by having scripting that does nothing to engage the audience, but instead simply presents a puzzle for them to solve. On top of that, it tends to come across as, "I'm better than you because I know this secret and you don't" - so the audience is inadvertently highly motivated to guess the method and call it out, so they can equalize the power status between them and the performer.

    In other words - the first thing to do to 'deal with hecklers' is to examine one's own performance and try to find any point where the scripting or trick selection is creating that kind of power dynamic.

    Focus on making the experience of the magic/performance more satisfying than 'calling you out'.

    If someone is actually heckling during a show it's often best to first simply ask them to be quiet and stop interrupting, and then if they continue let the rest of the crowd know that you can't continue while the heckler keeps disrupting their show (Putting the audience against the heckler). If they don't come to your aid, stop performing - and maybe figure out why they didn't care if you continued (ie: make your performance more interesting).

    The second question - The real answer to this question comes down to the performer's character and style. Again, you can generally avoid it completely by structuring your character concept and performance scripting in such a way that it cuts off this sort of challenge-question ahead of time. Personally my character and scripting makes it clear what I am claiming to do, and that claim doesn't invite challenges because it's out in the open already. However, if someone does ask me that question I have two different responses, depending on the situation/my mood.

    Since this question is almost never asked during a show but during a conversation where I've just said, "I'm a mind reader", I can respond with something inspired by a Peter Turner idea and goes like, "You're thinking that I can't actually read minds. And now you're hoping that's true because otherwise it would mean I genuinely know what you're thinking and that is uncomfortable for you."

    During a performance I would respond with something more along the lines of, "That's not what we're doing at the moment but perhaps I'll circle back to you later in the show".
  3. Thanks, your advice is much appreciated.
  4. I had a terrible heckler one time. One must never reply back heatedly or argue with people like this, but in my case, even if I wanted to do that, it wasn't possible since this guy was my Uncle (hence older than me, hence non-insultable to say the least).

    A force took care of everything.

    However, here are some general tips:-

    1) Don't create a heckler. I've often seen magicians actually creating hecklers, either by coming off as a jerk themselves OR by trying to assume power in a gathering of friends where one of the friends or members of the group is clearly the 'alpha' (or they think they are) and holds the 'power' (or they think they do). Magicians also create hecklers by making magic seem like a challenge. Don't do the above three things deliberately at least and you should be fine. Very few people genuinely HATE magic.

    2) Know your boundaries, especially in the guerilla style, hit and run, street-magic variety. Do not try to perform an ACR when the group you're assuming is clearly having a serious discussion or doesn't look cheerful. They'll get annoyed and you do not want an annoyed audience.

    3) Sometimes, we are unlucky and there are hecklers even if we are the best, friendliest, sweetest humans on earth. When the disaster strikes, identify the heckler and make sure you don't perform directly for them or hand them things which are gimmicked, or decks with stacks.

    Trying to win people over to your side and being stupid are two very different things.

    4) Relax, because if you get hot and bothered about that one heckler, it might spoil your entire performance, make you nervous and prone to making mistakes. Take a deep breath and calm down.

    5) Relax also because if you haven't actually created the heckler, the rest of the audience will see how the heckler is deliberately trying to mess you up. The audience is then on your side, remember. In my case, another member from the audience themself told him to shut up. Don't, again, try to pull the heckler down by insulting them or making them look dumb, because that will again, turn the audience AGAINST you.

    As said above, this is a coversational question, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Usually I use the age-old gag of saying something along the lines of “That I'm a fabulous person” but from now on, I'll use @WitchDocIsIn 's response. Far better of a variation. :)
    Al e Cat Dabra and ChaseC6 like this.
  5. Always go to Gator Boots... :cool:

    but the Witch Doctor above has some good advice on "hecklers"

    as far as the Mind reading, it depends on how "technical" you want to get into it you also don't want to destroy your character and foundation

    if your performance is you "reading minds" and then you go into a joke, or try and apologize for it your character is destroyed

    it can be as easy as "with so many distractions nowadays, with technology etc people have a harder time really focusing on something, but if you write it down/have a card (whatever), even subconsciously you can focus on that moment, let me show you...

    that was a quick write, but something to that can be altered
    Al e Cat Dabra and ChaseC6 like this.
  6. Thanks for your help, you always provide great insight.
  7. Hopefully this helps? :)

  8. Very helpful, thanks.
  9. "If you can read minds, what am I thinking?"

    I had some fun pondering this question and trying to come up with some replies:

    1. "I KNEW you were going to ask me that question."
    2. (Place hand to forehead, close eyes, and pretending to concentrate) "Woah! I think we'd better keep that out little secret."
    3. "I have a better idea, why don't you read MY mind? It's light reading."
    4. "I would say it, but this is a family show."

    Some really thoughtful responses and good advice, on this thread, BTW

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