• 3 tips on Hecklers and Personas

  • February 03, 2020

  • Hopefully, my ramblings over the last few days will have helped you with your heckling woes. I thought I would finish off with some more thoughts on managing hecklers in regards to another recent topic I touched on, characterisation.

    The character or persona that you have chosen as your preferred presentation to the audience should be able to guide you as to how best handle hecklers. Tied in with this is, of course, your audience, the venue, the location and the kind of event itself, but the most crucial factor is your character.

    1) Stay in character

    Aside from all the tips and suggestions I’ve made, this one seems worth pointing out, even though I’m sure your response upon reading it was an eye roll or something similar. Don’t worry; I don’t mind; it’s an entirely reasonable response. But whenever I’ve seen a magician lose their grip on their character, the audience is instantly lost, no longer walking down the garden path, suddenly snapping back to reality.

    This can be an uncomfortable experience, and you may never recover your audience if you’re not careful. Whereas, if you can handle the situation, without breaking character, it can very well end up feeling like a scripted moment that could become a very memorable part of the show.

    No matter the situation, remaining in character can justify your behaviour. I know some phenomenal magicians who do very “blue” material, and this, of course, allows them to absolutely destroy and verbally abuse any hecklers, very much akin to Jimmy Carr, and leave the whole room in stitches. I also once saw an inexperienced magician try this who had to quickly leave the stage due to the amount of booing that ensued.

    I’ve also seen the exact opposite thing happen. This particular magician was renowned for his material and being abusive to audience members, in this specific instance, though; he decided to be much kinder with a particular heckler during his street performance. As a result, he was pulled into a dialogue and began to lose the audience. Within a few minutes, a crowd of over 100 people had dispersed, leaving him to start all over again.

    2) Have character traits in mind to help

    Teller, Penn & Teller, has often been asked why he doesn’t talk during his performances. For him, his character doesn’t speak, but it also has another reason. Nobody heckles a silent magician. This is a very simple and elegant to the solution. Now don’t go rewriting your entire act and become a silent magician (or do, what do I know?), but look at how Teller has made a part of his character his immunity to hecklers.

    Being a more abusive kind of magician can make it very easy to scare most hecklers off at the pass, but it may mean that you only get the worst offenders. Alternatively, a tact you could try, which is the one I have chosen to lead most of my behaviour, is to take on a more playful and cheeky character.

    For me what this means is that should someone start heckling, I revel in it and make it a game. Shifting the goalposts and arguing, playfully, to leave them confused and curious about what is going on. I am a massive fan of tongue twisters, and I love integrating any wordplay of that nature if I can.

    3) Remember that we’re all human

    Another seemingly obvious thing to point out is that both you and the heckler are people. We are full of flaws, imperfections, insecurities and all those silly little voices that niggle at the inside of our brain.

    I mention this for two reasons. The first is to remind you that; however, you decide to handle a heckler, to do so with kindness in your heart. Do it in a way that strengthens your performance and not one that makes you seem cruel.

    The second is to remember that you are human and deserve to be treated as one. If they cross any line that you would consider unacceptable, walk away, call security or simply express that you will be taking your leave. Just don’t be a “Karen” about it.

     

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