• 5 reasons why you should be grateful for hecklers during your performance

  • January 13, 2020

  • I cannot stand hecklers. They are usually drunken idiots who interrupt the performance, always at a crucial moment, or ruin the flow of the effect I’m performing, resulting in a joke or magical moment not landing the way it should. If I could get prevent hecklers entirely, I would.

    Unfortunately, we can’t stop them from trying to get involved at the wrong moment, so I taught myself to see the good in them and learn to love them, here’s why:

    1) Showing me where to improve

    As a close-up magician, my sleight of hand must be on point. It needs to be as good as I can get it, after all, I’m performing right under my spectator’s noses and don’t want to get caught. Should I get caught, which I hope is less often than I think, then I take it as a clear indicator of which part of the effect needs work, whether it is the sleight of hand, or the misdirection, or whichever part needs to get the attention it deserves.

    2) Providing an opportunity to practise improvisation

    The only way to practice improvising is to be in a situation where you have to improvise. When a spectator decides to heckle me, nine times out of ten, it is a line I’ve already heard so that I can use one of my knee jerk responses, but sometimes they say something I have never heard before, forcing me to think on my feet. I see it as a game of verbal tennis, and I have to keep the rally going, this keeps it fun and light-hearted rather than turning into a sparring match. The added bonus is of course if it goes well, I get some new material out of it!

    3) Highlighting you need better crowd control

    If someone in the audience reached a point where they thought it was a good idea to speak up, this could be a sign that your act is moving too slowly, or not interesting enough to hold their attention. I don’t mean to be harsh, but some lessons are. It could, of course, be that they are just a drunken idiot, and if that is the case, you may just need to work on reading your audience better. The most likely heckler will often stand out ahead of time, and you may just need to make it much clearer to your audience with how you speak, carry yourself and perform, that their input is not required unless requested.

    4) A Chance to win over a losing crowd

    Sometimes when a heckler speaks up, it’s because they feel the need to speak on behalf of the audience as the act isn’t landing well. This happens to me from time to time, where they may just not be that interested in the magic, or who knows what reason. When the heckler starts giving you a hard time, if you can make them look like the bad guy, perhaps with a bait and switch effect, so it seems like they are just trying to ruin you, you can end up turning the audience on them. And if the heckler is the bad guy, then you are the good guy, and the rest of the audience will join in for the show. BE CAREFUL THOUGH! This can quickly go wrong if mishandled and make you a much worse bad guy, so be considerate of how you handle the transition and how you make them the bad guy.

    5) Show your audience just how professional you are

    As a professional performer, it’s your job to entertain your audience, whatever happens. Hecklers are a part of that, even though I wish they weren’t, and if you can handle them properly, you will show everyone, possibly even the heckler, just how much of a professional you are. And after all, you are a magician, so why wouldn’t you be able to?

    Now, as for actually handling hecklers, well I’ve touched on it briefly today, but I’m going to go into more detail tomorrow!


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