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 “hecker 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.