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Topic: Handling an Audience - A Primer for Mentalists
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 19, 2010 12:06PM)
There are currently a few separate threads discussing persona, effect selection, handling hecklers, microphones, etc. These are all topics that I discussed at length in my first major book, "The Art of Mentalism." Unfortunately, it is long out of print so I can't just suggest that newcomers to mentalism check it out. So here is a newly edited excerpt that some of you may find helpful:

HANDLING THE AUDIENCE

Mentalism is performed in many different settings-colleges,
cruise ships, nightclubs, stage, television, trade shows, etc. Each
medium has its own peculiarities and requirements, but I've found that
if you can work in the rougher environments, i.e., nightclubs and
lounges, you can work just about anywhere. Realize, then, that the
following is generally applicable to most performances, If you can
master these principles, you'll be comfortable and effective in most
performing environments.

Before the show:

Most of the problems a performer is likely to encounter in the
nightclub setting can be avoided by taking proper preshow precautions.
Wherever possible it is wise to visit the club beforehand to become
familiar with the performing conditions and the clientele. These
factors will dictate the type of program that will be given. For
example, if the lighting in the audience is poor, and you normally do a
book test with the volunteers standing by their seats, you are going to
have to provide small flashlights so that they can read. In a nightclub
show it is not a good idea to bring up the house lights during the
performance. It destroys the atmosphere and will create a commotion in
the club.

You should walk around the club and find out where the areas of
poor visibility are. These are the areas you will have to work to.
Otherwise, the patrons sitting there are likely to ignore your act and
to talk all the way through it. Since that is a problem that can be
avoided, such an interference would be your fault and not theirs.

To avoid distractions from the back of the room, plan to open the
act with an effect involving the entire audience, such as a few
psychological choices or audience readings. The readings should be
directed to those seated in the back or at the bar. This will guarantee
that you will have everyone's attention at the outset.

Other potential distractions can be dealt with by proper
planning. It is a good idea to become friendly with the employees.
Besides being very valuable for obtaining information about regular
patrons, they can tell you who the potential troublemakers are. Above
all, do not be unfriendly with the help. If they like you and show an
interest in what you are doing, they will personally take care of any
unforeseen disturbances which may arise during the show.

The most important aspect of preshow planning is casing the
audience. By casing, I mean that you must look them over and determine
where your most likely subjects are sitting. Later, when you're on
stage, the spotlights will effectively prevent you from making out
faces very well. It can be unnerving to just point at anyone, only to
find out that the guy who comes on stage is the one the bartender told
you was the town drunk. This bit of advice will eliminate most of your
heckler problems, for total cooperation on the part of your volunteers
is essential in maintaining control over the rest of the audience.

Obviously, these are just examples. The peculiar demands of a
particular routine will require additional precautions. (For example,
the lighting or angles might be such that certain impression devices
cannot be used. Don't wait until the middle of the routine to find that
out.) Just remember the old axiom-anything that CAN go wrong WILL go
wrong sooner or later. You must make an effort to foresee the
unforeseeable. After all, that is what being a mentalist is all about.

During the show:

During the show you must command attention and avoid any lapses.
In my first book, "Pseudomentally Yours," I related the story of a
technically competent performer who just stood by silently while
volunteers carried out their instructions. This is called "dead time."
If you're not talking or if something visual is not going on, the
audience is likely to fill in the gap for you by heckling or engaging
in conversation. You must keep all minds occupied at all times.

Obviously, your act must be good and the material strong and
direct. The opening must command attention and the pace must build to a
powerful finale. A bad act or a slow one will always cause a nightclub
audience to get out of hand. Don't blame them, because it would be your
fault.

Be sure your humor is up to date. Most of the gag material that
appears in the magazines and instruction sheets is terrible. The best
humor in a nightclub mental act is generally double entendre and
situation comedy. One-liners are fine if you've learned proper
delivery. Otherwise avoid them.

It is assumed that you will have taken the trouble to master
microphone technique and have attained professional stage presence.
Amateurish handling and nervousness is quickly transmitted to the
audience. If you don't talk and act like a pro, every audience will be
a tough one. Generally, you can learn more about this area by watching
professional comics and singers than by attending a hundred magic club
shows.

Annoying conversation by patrons can best be handled by moving as
close to the disturbance as possible. I move around a great deal in my
club act, my microphone cord is at least twenty feet long.
Heckling is another story. Despite all of your precautions and
professionalism you will get heckled sooner or later. It's nothing to
be afraid of, however. The first thing to do is absolutely nothing.
Ignore the heckler. If you respond too soon you will be giving him just
the recognition that he wants. Also, if the audience hasn't heard the
heckler's comment, they are likely to be antagonized by your retort.
The situation is best handled by waiting until the audience is annoyed
by it. A mild heckler line would then be permissible.

This is all it usually takes. If you've waited long enough before
responding you will have the audience on your side and they will
probably tell him to shut up or leave if he acts up again.
Beware of the devastating heckler stoppers found in the patter
books. If the victim is a valued customer of the club you might get
yourself fired. if you've over-reacted to a minor disturbance you may
end up on the receiving end of a libel suit or, worse yet, a physical
attack. If a heckler is totally out of control or looks dangerous,
don't hesitate to signal the manager. It can seriously harm the rapport
you must maintain with your audience.

Some performers recommend enlisting hecklers as volunteers. I
don't suggest this at all. Part of your preshow preparation was devoted
to selecting likely subjects so that you could avoid trouble during the
show. Why nullify all of that and ask for trouble?

The main thing is to be confident and firm. I'm sure you all
remember teachers you had who were better able to maintain classroom
discipline than others. They knew their subjects, were good speakers
and presented a commanding appearance. They led the class and not vice
versa. You must do the same with your audiences. You'll have far less
heckler trouble than the performer who lacks self assurance and is
easily rattled.

I've already discussed the dangers of allowing dead time during
your act. Such lapses are very likely to occur if you simply say, 'Who
would like to volunteer for my next effect?" In many clubs you'll get
no response at all or if someone does come up, it may turn out to be
the town drunk we were warned about earlier.

By asking for volunteers in this manner you are relinquishing a
certain amount of the control I've been discussing. You are putting
yourself in the audiences' hands. Don't do it. You sized up the
audience before the show and have a pretty good idea of who the better
subjects will be, so just approach one of them and tell him what you
want him to do. Don't ask him if he wants to help. He doesn't get an
opportunity to refuse and is on the stage before he really knows what's
happening. Such an approach leaves the impression of control and,
additionally, will prevent volunteers from having time to indulge in
creative thinking as to how to trip you up.

Remember-it is your job to surprise the audience; don't ever give
them an opportunity to surprise you.

__________________________________________________________________________

Hope you found this useful.

Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus and a Prosperous New Years to all of you.

Good thoughts,

Bob Cassidy
Message: Posted by: DekEl (Dec 19, 2010 12:20PM)
Thank you Bob, for your advice.
Message: Posted by: Stephen Young (Dec 19, 2010 12:37PM)
Thank you very much for sharing this Mr Cassidy.

It's something that I, for one, am in need of.
And I'm sure a lot of others could benefit from, whether they care to admit it or not.

Magicians giving Christmas presents to magicians

regards
Steve
Message: Posted by: cc (Dec 19, 2010 12:49PM)
Thank you, Bob, for the generosity and great advice. Happy Holidays to you as well.
Message: Posted by: david12345 (Dec 19, 2010 01:14PM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-19 13:06, mastermindreader wrote:
Remember-it is your job to surprise the audience; don't ever give
them an opportunity to surprise you.

__________________________________________________________________________
[/quote]
Priceless

Thank You Bob and Happy Holiday Season to you.
Message: Posted by: Dick Christian (Dec 19, 2010 01:44PM)
There is no need for anyone to have to reiterate or emphasize the value and importance of the advice being offered in this (and other threads in both the "Penny" and "Inner Thoughts" forums) by Master Mindreader Bob Cassidy. Not the least of which is that a careful reading -- and UNDERSTANDING -- of his note that starts this thread should help the astute and introspective reader (which, I fear, comprise only a minority of Café subscribers) to analyze whether or not he/she has acquired the skills and experience essential to succeed as a mentalist and, hopefully, will serve to discourage those who may not yet have reached that level.

Further I hope that everyone will appreciate the significance of the fact that Bob has, in effect, been giving Café subscribers the gift of a FREE online seminar that is easily worth thousands of dollars to anyone who wishes to be taken seriously as a mentalist.
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 19, 2010 01:50PM)
Thanks for the nice comments. And thank you, Dick, for reminding everyone to send me thousands of dollars at their earliest convenience. :)

Good thoughts,

Bob
Message: Posted by: WDavis (Dec 19, 2010 02:33PM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-19 14:50, mastermindreader wrote:
Thanks for the nice comments. And thank you, Dick, for reminding everyone to send me thousands of dollars at their earliest convenience. :)

Good thoughts,

Bob
[/quote] Can I pay in whiskey this coming February at the castle?
-w
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 19, 2010 02:54PM)
Rum, Walter, rum!

Yeah, I'll be back at the Castle February 14th through the 20th doing the Parlour late shows. Funny enough, that's a prime spot for hecklers because some of the late audiences can be pretty ripped.

Last time, some guy in the front row kept mumbling comments to the person sitting next to him. Finally he said, very confrontationally and loud enough for everyone to hear, "I'd like to see you try that with me!" (I'd just finished the drawing dupe phase of 4dt.)

I looked at him with a hurt innocent expression and flattened him with, "I don't understand it. You were so nice to me in the men's room."

The audience loved it and he shut up.

See you there!

Bob
Message: Posted by: numizmata (Dec 19, 2010 03:16PM)
Thanks! Merry Christmas!
Message: Posted by: brehaut (Dec 19, 2010 03:19PM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-19 15:54, mastermindreader wrote:
Rum, Walter, rum!

Yeah, I'll be back at the Castle February 14th through the 20th doing the Parlour late shows. Funny enough, that's a prime spot for hecklers because some of the late audiences can be pretty ripped.

Last time, some guy in the front row kept mumbling comments to the person sitting next to him. Finally he said, very confrontationally and loud enough for everyone to hear, "I'd like to see you try that with me!" (I'd just finished the drawing dupe phase of 4dt.)

I looked at him with a hurt innocent expression and flattened him with, "I don't understand it. You were so nice to me in the men's room."

The audience loved it and he shut up.

See you there!

Bob
[/quote]
That made me laugh out loud! Nice
Message: Posted by: Dick Christian (Dec 19, 2010 04:47PM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-19 14:50, mastermindreader wrote:
Thanks for the nice comments. And thank you, Dick, for reminding everyone to send me thousands of dollars at their earliest convenience. :)

Good thoughts,

Bob
[/quote]
Bob,

My usual commission will be fine.

Dick
Message: Posted by: Mind Guerrilla (Dec 19, 2010 06:04PM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-19 15:54, mastermindreader wrote:
I looked at him with a hurt innocent expression and flattened him with, "I don't understand it. You were so nice to me in the men's room."
[/quote]
LOL!
I know I speak for more than just myself when I say, "Thank you, Mr. Cassidy for all the guidance you provide."
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 19, 2010 06:11PM)
Warning! That line is NOT recommended for beginners and I wouldn't use it at a corporate banquet. (Well, maybe I would.) It a "right time and place" thing.

Your welcome, Mind Guerrilla. I'm just trying to share some of the stuff I wished I knew when I first started out. I learned most of what I know the hard way and sometimes it wasn't pretty. :)

Bob
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 21, 2010 06:03PM)
If any of you have any questions, or things to add or argue with me about, please feel free to jump in. I think topics like this can be genuinely productive to those who are serious about the art of performing mentalism.
Message: Posted by: Mick Ayres (Dec 21, 2010 11:17PM)
Hi Bob,

Love that last line about surprising the audience. Great stuff from top to bottom.

Happy Festivus to all...and to all an odd night!

Warmest regards,
Mick
Message: Posted by: Rebecca_Harris (Dec 22, 2010 05:31AM)
That's a brilliant post, tons of great information there. Thanks Bob!
Message: Posted by: Wravyn (Dec 22, 2010 09:45AM)
Thank you. It is information like this that helps a performer become the performer they desire to be.
Message: Posted by: mindshrink (Dec 22, 2010 10:04AM)
I understand that a magi should design the patter in such a way that there are no pauses or gaps or periods of silence....but at times due to certain circumstances...such silent pauses might arise which has to be filled.
How do you fill the 'pauses '?
Message: Posted by: Rebecca_Harris (Dec 22, 2010 11:21AM)
Occasionally a silence can be scripted in, it can be a good way to raise a little tension. But if I do find myself in an awkward silent spot, I usually just say something a little conversational to a spectator to fill the gap.
Message: Posted by: Kevin Cook (Dec 22, 2010 12:15PM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-19 13:06, mastermindreader wrote:

To avoid distractions from the back of the room, plan to open the
act with an effect involving the entire audience, such as a few
psychological choices or audience readings. The readings should be
directed to those seated in the back or at the bar. This will guarantee
that you will have everyone's attention at the outset.

[/quote]

Hi Bob, can you elaborate on what you mean by 'audience readings'?

Thanks

Kevin
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 22, 2010 12:23PM)
Rebecca is exactly right. Scripted moments of silence can be very effective. In my own act, for example, I request the audience to be silent "for the next thirty seconds, or so," while I apparently memorize the order of a pack of cards. It works well and enhances the believability of the routine.

Unexpected dead spots, such as when a participant takes a long time to make a selection or follow directions, etc. are best covered by conversational asides, relevant anecdotes or humorous observations. The main thing is that you don't just stand there doing nothing; because if you do the audience's attention can be lost or, even worse, someone will decide to fill in the dead time for you with a "witticism" of his/her own. Again, you cannot relinquish your control of the situation.

Good thoughts,

Bob
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 22, 2010 12:31PM)
Kevin-

In the context of this excerpt, "audience readings" really refers to anything involving the entire audience. Normally I use the phrase to refer to Q @ A and I think it would have been more accurate for me to say "any effect or bit involving the entire audience.

The sentence you are referring to made a lot more sense in it original context in "The Art of Mentalism," which covered the subject of audience reading in considerable detail.

Thanks for the question. I'm sure there were many others who were wondering what I was talking about.

Best-

Bob
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 22, 2010 12:44PM)
Elaborating on my last post- audience readings, psychological choices, etc., are examples of what I refer to as "major effects." I call them that because they involve, or potentially involve, the entire audience. Major effects are, generally speaking, the best way to open a program for a large audience.

I refer to all routines involving specific volunteers coming to the stage as "minor effects." (Note- the designations 'major' and 'minor' have nothing to do with the strength, per se, of the effects - merely to the number of people involved.) I don't recommend using minor effects as openers for large audiences because they tend to be slower in terms of set up and and serve to cast the rest of the audience as passive observers rather than active participants.

Best-

Bob
Message: Posted by: mindpunisher (Dec 22, 2010 12:57PM)
Q&A has been used as a closer for many mentalists for many years (I believe). Bob are you saying that Q&A type routines make good openers? Its just that in my limited experience Q&A or reading the minds of audience members from on stage is one of the most powerful things you can do. Is it easy to follow on from such a dramatic demonstration?
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 22, 2010 01:27PM)
No, I don't use Q and A as an opener, but I DO use routines that involve, like Q and A, the entire audience. (Major effects) Like I said, the use of the phrase "audience readings" in my original post is really out of context (the post is an excerpt from a larger work) and I really should have edited it to read "any effect or routine involving the entire audience."

Good thoughts,

Bob
Message: Posted by: ROBERT BLAKE (Dec 23, 2010 01:13AM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-22 11:04, mindshrink wrote:
I understand that a magi should design the patter in such a way that there are no pauses or gaps or periods of silence....but at times due to certain circumstances...such silent pauses might arise which has to be filled.
How do you fill the 'pauses'?
[/quote]
I would suggest that if you feel that a dead spot is there that you look over your show. most of the time dead spots arrive while taking or putting away props (chalk board - pencils). Think that what you could do. can you make it shorter. Tie in 1 or 2 things together. if the moment is there how can I make it interesting - can I put a joke or some audience involvement here.

Example: for a memory test I need 18 numbers to memorize. Now I could ask a spectator to name them, but then the whole audience is sitting there looking around. So I decided to take a balloon and throw that in the audience. They have to push the balloon through the air until I say stop. That spectator names some numbers and we move on. This way the whole audience is involved.

Mr. Cassidy, what are you thoughts on transitions between effects?
Message: Posted by: powerwords (Dec 23, 2010 01:34AM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-23 02:13, ROBERT BLAKE wrote:

MR. CASSIDY, what are you thoughts on transissions between effects?
[/quote]

Wow, this is like having Bob as my personal consultant or private tutor......

I also have the same question...... can you give us tips on that matter. Transitions between effects or routines......
How do you plan your routines for your show? What type of mentalism routines and effects that you always put in your repertoire?
Message: Posted by: Kevin Cook (Dec 23, 2010 04:12AM)
Thank you for the clarification Bob, and for your generosity.

Kevin
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Dec 25, 2010 02:25PM)
[quote]
On 2010-12-23 02:34, powerwords wrote:
[quote]
On 2010-12-23 02:13, ROBERT BLAKE wrote:

MR. CASSIDY, what are you thoughts on transissions between effects?
[/quote]

Wow, this is like having Bob as my personal consultant or private tutor......

I also have the same question...... can you give us tips on that matter. Transitions between effects or routines......
How do you plan your routines for your show? What type of mentalism routines and effects that you always put in your repertoire?
[/quote]

I have always viewed my entire act as if it was a single routine. There is nothing worse than watching someone present an "act" that is simply a sequence of unrelated routines connected by lines like "And now I'd like to show you . . ."

I discussed this in detail in my "Fundamentals" and "The Artful Mentalism."

It's all based on first defining your persona and determining what your special ability is. In my own case I have defined myself as having the ability to send and receive thoughts based on visualizing things on an imaginary movie screen. (I'm not suggesting that everyone do this - it's important to come up with your own approach.) Vernon once said that an effect was no good unless you could describe it in one sentence. I believe that should apply to your entire act as well.

Don't make the mistake of trying to demonstrate every possible paranormal ability, i.e., telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, PK, etc. Because with each additional ability you claim, the more you muddy the overall impression of what you do and your credibility decreases proportionately.

Good thoughts,

Bob
Message: Posted by: ablanathanalba (Dec 26, 2010 04:27PM)
Thanks for sharing with the community, Bob. It's a really nice surprise for the holidays!
Message: Posted by: cpzwart (Jan 11, 2011 08:41AM)
Great advice, Bob!
Message: Posted by: Pakar Ilusi (Jan 11, 2011 10:32PM)
[quote]

I've already discussed the dangers of allowing dead time during
your act. Such lapses are very likely to occur if you simply say, 'Who
would like to volunteer for my next effect?" In many clubs you'll get
no response at all or if someone does come up, it may turn out to be
the town drunk we were warned about earlier.

By asking for volunteers in this manner you are relinquishing a
certain amount of the control I've been discussing. You are putting
yourself in the audiences' hands. Don't do it. You sized up the
audience before the show and have a pretty good idea of who the better
subjects will be, so just approach one of them and tell him what you
want him to do. Don't ask him if he wants to help. He doesn't get an
opportunity to refuse and is on the stage before he really knows what's
happening. Such an approach leaves the impression of control and,
additionally, will prevent volunteers from having time to indulge in
creative thinking as to how to trip you up.

Remember-it is your job to surprise the audience; don't ever give
them an opportunity to surprise you.

Bob Cassidy
[/quote]

That was the best part for me. I will change my approach now.

Thanks so much Mr. Cassidy! :wavey:

:online:
Message: Posted by: Goldfield (Jan 18, 2012 04:40AM)
Having my first gig coming up, this really helped Bob so thank you !

May I ask, do you have any books on what you describe as major effects- e.g.: psychological forces?
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Jan 18, 2012 10:06AM)
[quote]
On 2012-01-18 05:40, peterd wrote:
Having my first gig coming up, this really helped Bob so thank you !

May I ask, do you have any books on what you describe as major effects- e.g.: psychological forces?
[/quote]

I discuss this in both [i]The Art of Mentalism[/i] and [i]The Artful Mentalism of Bob Cassidy[/i]. You should also refer to Banachek's excellent [i]Psychological Subtleties[/i] series.

Note that by "major effects," I am not referring to psy forces only, I also mean Q&A, audience readings, suggestibility tests, and any effects that involve, or appear to involve, the entire audience.

Good thoughts,

Bob
(You might also want to read [i]The Resurrection of Doctor Crow[/i]. Not that it has much to do with your question, but because the Doctor wants you to. :eek:)
Message: Posted by: cirrus (Jan 18, 2012 10:43AM)
[quote]

I looked at him with a hurt innocent expression and flattened him with, "I don't understand it. You were so nice to me in the men's room."
[/quote]

This is something that I would say also, but the situation has to allow it, and you have to deliver it in a way that the audience knows you are joking and still he knows that you are not going to be messed with. I have done this style of stopping hecklers enough before and I mostly deliver this kind of sentences in a slightly gayish manner, not taking myself to seriously either. It accomplishes the 2 things mentioned before.

Mr. Cassidy, thank you for the advice that every performer not only mentalism can use.
Greetings,
Cirrus