Colin Underwood, Corporate Magician on Audience Participation:
“Shoot the heckler! Ok, maybe not… but here’s how to deal with him:
Generally there is always one guy who wants to be the comedian and upstage you. Most of the time it can be handled by acknowledging the guy and if his comment received laughter then acknowledge it with a smile but then take firm control and direct the audience back to you.
The more attention he gets the more he thinks he can continue with his comments. Most cases are as a result of the excessive intake of some of earth’s finer nectars!! If you are not in a stand up comedy venue I would not suggest using any stock heckler lines on such a person, you will more than likely alienate the rest of the audience or group.
I also found that obtaining two audience members from the same group or party is a definite no!! The one will lead the other on and then you have major disruptions.
I choose two from different parts of the theatre. I try choosing the happy looking guy or the real weird hairstyle or clothes type – I can get some sort of humour from the guy without belittling him which is so much the better.
I also try not performing too long at functions especially corporate or private parties where the alcohol (or drugs) takes over. Yes I mean drugs; I was ONCE booked at a big rave to perform close-up magic for the party animals!! I certainly received some of my best reactions for some of the simplest effects possible. I would love to know what the guy saw coming out of his hand when all there was were two sponge balls because he jumped about 3ft backwards!!!!
The formula for drunk people… jokes more, magic less and keep it fast paced and do not hand them anything to hold. I had my bowler hat filled with beer, the chosen card torn into pieces and the deck of cards dropped onto the wet bar floor!!!
I have come to see that the move or sleight can be done much later and slower than one expects. The more comfortable you are in the space of others the more time you have to do the move.
For example the card is returned to the deck, I hold a break (this is the hottest moment to do the move), and I will pause and direct my attention to an audience member by looking up and away from my hands. At this point I might ask a question or make a more assertive and slightly louder sentence to direct their attention up to my face.
I also freeze my hands and you’ll find the spectators will get bored with watching nothing and will then look up at me. It is then that I will do the move.
I have found there is ample time to perform a move before the spectators refocus on my hands again.
I have often stalled the move and routine because one guy is keeping watch on my hands, this is where I will direct all the attention onto him!!
Normally he will be forced to look up with all the attention on him. I do this by saying something like “check this guy out he is going to watch my hands all night and nothing else” or something to that effect. I obviously do the move as everybody looks at him and as he looks up at me!!
My kind of magic!!
Directing the attention is a better word than misdirection and this is a Tommy Wonder principle, which I firmly believe in.
However I don’t advocate sloppy sleight of hand either. I just like making life easier for myself.”
- In short:
Audience participation is key – but choose the “right” helpers on stage.
Don’t pay hecklers too much attention.
Limit performance time at functions with alcohol or try a different approach
Timing is everything for the big move.
Direct audience attention to help your move.
Experience close-up magic! Ideal for corporate venues, weddings, tradeshows and more!
Call Colin for more details : +27 (0) 78 625 9663
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