• 5 and a ½ more ways to deal with hecklers

  • January 27, 2020

  • So, picking right up where I left off yesterday and on with some possible ways of handling our least favourite audience members.

    1) Attack them

    I would only recommend even considering this if you are up to scratch with your improvisation skills. I am not suggesting you leap at them with fists flying, use your words. If you are going to “attack” an audience member, it must be in keeping with your character, letting them know that the behaviour is inappropriate. If you can do this in a funny way all the better, look at comedians online to see how they have handled “shutting down hecklers” to see how they handle it. Be careful though; this can go horribly wrong if the joke or attack doesn’t land, it will seem like an overly emotional response and your performance will be over.

    2) Ignore them and move on

    This takes quite a lot of emotional control and self-confidence. I say that from experience as it has taken me years to get the hang of this one. I started practising it by doing it in my personal life during social interactions. In a group setting, often people are vying to be at the centre of the conversation and will regularly interrupt one another to try and be the one “in the spotlight” of the conversation. In these situations, I would carry on my sentence, maybe getting a little louder, but only a little and not altering my speech patterns.

    As I understand it, this conveys the confidence I have in the value of what I am saying over the other person. It also shows that I will not be derailed just because they are excitable and feel the need to interject. By applying this same mentality to my performances, I now find that other audience members will shush the offending party so they can hear what I am saying.

    3) Magic foolery

    This is probably my favourite way of dealing with hecklers and is the best way I’ve found to do a “bait and switch” I referred to in my article on why I love hecklers.

    Have your heckler pick a card, but don’t let them show it to anyone else; ask for it back and top change it to a different card. Show this new card to everyone else in the audience and ask them to remember it as well. I would know the “audience’s” card and produce it in my favourite manner.

    The heckler would, of course, be absolutely adamant that it’s the wrong card, but since the audience “saw” their card, they will tell him to be quiet and stop trying to ruin the show. In every single case that I have done this, the heckler has been quiet for the rest of the performance; because even if they try to heckle again, they lost all support from the audience.

    4) Admit the mistake and offer a solution

    For this scenario, I am assuming that you, like I have been far too many times, have been “caught”; this may not have exposed the effect, but it was probably enough to raise alarm bells in this spectators mind. So, rather than lying and trying to pretend that they didn’t see what they think they saw, which I’ve always found is merely a thinly veiled insult of their intelligence. Instead, I will sometimes choose to simply admit that they caught me and offer to show them something “more advanced” since they are clearly “more observant” than the usual class of spectator. By accepting that they caught me and flattering them, they often relax and with their ego stroked, they can now enjoy the show.

    Once I had a spectator call me out for using a move that he knew, to which I flattered his knowledge and showed him another effect. He was completely blown away and also oblivious to the fact that I had used the exact same move on him again, this time without being detected. Sometimes people are just too keen to “get one up on the magician”, so it’s easier just to let them have their moment.

    5) Just leave

    Now, this won’t work so well for a magician on stage, but for a close up magician, this is an acceptable way of ending the interaction. This can be difficult to follow through on; for me, it certainly was as when I was starting, I always felt the need to try and perform for absolutely everyone. However, in reality, you only need to worry about entertaining those who want entertaining, so if a group of people aren’t appreciative of the performance, walk away. Most of the time, upon getting a round of thunderous applause from another table or group of people, they will do everything they can to get you back.

    • If you’re a stage magician, the alternative to walking away I would recommend is to start a bit of back and forth with the offending party. Then, you can turn to the audience and outright ask them, would they prefer you to continue, or would they like to hear more of what the heckler has to say. There may well be a moment or two of silence at this point, but ride it out, and the audience is more than likely going to join your side. After all, they came out for a show and not a one-man act from the audience.


    Who knew I had so many thoughts on how to deal with hecklers, I’ll have some final thoughts for you tomorrow. Hopefully these little nuggets I’ve collected over the years are proving somewhat useful!


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