This extract is about dealing with hecklers in an impromptu close up magic environment. I am going to divide it in two parts because it takes up a lot of space. This is the first part. The second part will be in the next extract:
I would however like to give you a bit more advice before we go on to more tricks.
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:-
- Curl up and die (for the timid among you).
- Punch your tormentor on the nose (for the not so timid among you).
- 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 disbelief” 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!
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.