Ask a Magician, a series of blog posts answering your questions! – Issue III
The dreaded heckler!
I don’t know where Alan is from, but online he has asked a question that I’m sure many of you are interested in:
Have you ever had a heckler shout out the secret to one of your tricks?
Oooh! This is not nice to talk about, but yes! Occasionally people do shout things out. This is much more common in close up magic than it is with stage magic, but that’s because my performance is set up to be conversational. When I’m performing close up magic I actively encourage people to be involved, to interrupt and to share their own jokes.
You’ve got to keep in mind that at the events that I perform at most, weddings and birthdays and company celebrations, most people are there to have a good time and chatting to the magician and having a bit of “banter” (I’m not usually a fan of that word, but it does fit well here) is part of that.
If they shout out a secret I try to give them a gentle reminder that they should enjoy the show now and chat about the secrets later if they really want to. I’m also aiming to make all of my routines engaging enough that people focus on the magic, and don’t care about the secret. It’s never 100% possible, otherwise, I would be burnt at the stake.
However, there are of course some people just don’t like magic! That’s fine and I’m always polite and leave people alone if they don’t want to see anything.
Once however, there was a guy – contrary to what you might think it’s not always guys, it seems 50/50 to me. Anyway, this guy didn’t just want to join in with the fun, which is ok. He wanted to ruin the performance, which is not ok. He was shouting out random things like, “it’s up your sleeve,” (I was wearing a T-shirt!), “those are trick cards,” (someone at the table had already shuffled them), “it’s magnets” (they’re certainly a thing, but are very rarely used in magic). I think he was just saying whatever he could think of.
If I had been performing to just that person, I would have said something along the lines of, “you don’t like magic, do you?” and when he said, “no” that would have been a great time for me to briefly explain that, “I’ve got a lot of people to entertain tonight, so I’ll leave you in peace!”
In the above situation, I was performing to someone else and this guy was shouting across the table! So instead, I thanked everyone for their time and explained that I couldn’t continue but would be happy to show anyone a little magic if they found me later in the bar. That’s the simplest way to deal with a situation like that.
Later that evening, the others on that table called me back, apologised for their friend and told me they had sent him on an ‘errand’ and could I now show them some magic. Of course, I spent time with them showing them some of my best routines, which they thoroughly enjoyed.
You see an idea of my performance style and how I interact with people (no performance is ever exactly the same) in the video below.
Fortunately, situations like this are rare, but where someone is genuinely being malicious about ruining the magic either for themselves or for others, then with close up magic, I simply move on to another group. I get paid to entertain, not to argue. Of course, there’s a different approach for stage magic, but that’s perhaps for another question!
Got a question to contribute? I would love to hear it! Leave a comment, or click here to email me.