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Topic: Grabby spectators
Message: Posted by: itsmagic (Jun 26, 2004 11:15PM)
How do you handle a spectator who grabs your gimmicked prop from your hand?

The $5 and $1 Transpo is one of my favorite tricks. It always elicits tremendous response, and friends always ask for a repeat months later.

Last night, a coworker asked me to show his wife the trick. She was amazed, and shouted, "NO WAY!" Suddenly, she grabbed my bill from my hand and saw the gimmick. "Ah, I see," she said.

I wonder if it was the way I presented the trick that caused her to grab the bill? Or are some spectators just GRABBY by nature?

I've performed this trick so many times, and not once has anyone grabbed at the bill. In fact, I don't recall any other spectator grabbing for my any of my stuff from all my performances. Maybe it had crossed their mind to grab the props, but their common courtesy held them back. What do you think?
Message: Posted by: Alym Amlani (Jun 27, 2004 04:22AM)
In my experience, you WILL get grabby spectators, and when I started out, people used to grab at my stuff—I don't know exactly what it is that changed, but it now rarely happens. I think it is really your attitude with the audience, if you believe that your props have nothing to do with the effect, your spectators will also seem to believe the same.

In the case of the lady who grabbed the bills from you, perhaps it was just that you drew attention to the bill (or the spectator was just evil!!). :)
Message: Posted by: Paddy (Jun 27, 2004 08:05AM)
Yea, it is a matter of crowd management. You are the magician and YOU are in control.

As a magician I affect reality, I can change the world for my audience, therefore, I control things, even the audience. When you have this attitude, the "grabbiness" stops. Another thing is now send her a bill for magic lessons, minimum billing is $100.

Message: Posted by: Michaels (Jun 28, 2004 02:53PM)

This question has been posted many times before, however, it appears that the new search method on the Café makes it harder to locate a topic these days.

To answer your question, in most cases spectators won't grab if a trick is routined well and if there is good audience control (which is a byproduct of good routining).

Also, when asked to do a trick, I'll graciously refuse unless it is impromptu (or appears impromptu), well routined and leaves me clean. A general rule of thumb while performing is to never invade a spectator's space (unless trust is established) and never let a spectator invade your space (unless invited in).

Top of the day,
Message: Posted by: stephen secret (Jul 2, 2004 10:44AM)
With anything you are doing up close and in your hands try and keep your hands ready to block anyone grabbing at things. I know this can be hard to catch but if you are doing something you don't want people to touch be ready to block with the off hand.

And you can always use the line, "If you want to do magic buy your own."
Message: Posted by: Frank Tougas (Jul 2, 2004 11:21AM)
She may just be grabby, there are those types around. Impulsively grabbing at things or asking questions stepping on your line, etc.

I can't tell from your description but if your co-worker asked you to do the trick for his wife, she may have already been told what the trick was about.

That would then be the equivalent of repeating a trick which often courts disaster. Her attention was less on the effect and more focused on that danged dollar.
Message: Posted by: Michael Taggert (Jul 3, 2004 04:50PM)
Your presence and presentation are crucial. Even still you may just have a grabby spectator now and then, I suggest pain and suffering. Seriously, a grabby spectator is similar to a heckler and has to be treated as such. I had a drunk in a hospitality suite once that walked up and tore a prop in half. I had to have him removed, the rest of the weekend went great.
Message: Posted by: triadsong (Jul 3, 2004 09:55PM)
When I'm doing something close-up I try to non-chalantly put the effect away as soon as it is finished, but we've all had grabby spectators. It is all in the handling and presentation. Maybe I had some luck in this since I used to run a group home for developmentally disabled adults and would do magic for them. Very inquisitive audience and very quick to try to grab.
Message: Posted by: Angela (Jul 5, 2004 05:20PM)
I hate it when people grab... definitely keep your distance until you're clean. Then maybe move quickly onto something else that isn't gimmicked so that they forget about it.

Message: Posted by: dluong (Jul 6, 2004 12:49AM)
Nicely said alym. I completely agree. I used to have a lot of grabby spectators when I started, but as I got more confident with my routines it doesn't seem to happen anymore.
Message: Posted by: alextsui (Jul 9, 2004 11:38PM)
Yes, confidence definitely helps a lot. Your performance attitude also affects the audience's reactions to a large extent. If your patter or routine seems to "challenge" the audience to try and figure out your effect, they'll react that way.

Whenever I do close-up, I also don't stay within grabbing distance. If the props are not examinable, I put them away quickly (but not hastily or seeming guilty) and move on to something else. "Out of sight, out of mind". Thank God I've never had a "grabbing" experience by a spectator yet (touch wood). :)

Magical Regards,
Alex Tsui

...Just want to add on a bit to my last post and share something that has worked extremely well for me in handling spectators.

Whenever I feel that there might be a chance of an unruly spectator spoiling the trick, I set up by saying something along the lines of:

"This next effect that I'm about to do is extremely difficult so I need a volunteer from the audience who has a quick and alert mind. I need someone who can concentrate and follow complicated instructions well. Is there someone like that here?"

You have to request this in an authoritative manner without seeming that you are desperate for a cooperative volunteer.

That way I get a spectator who will try his/her best to follow my instructions carefully, fearing that the other audience members might think that they are slow or dumb if they can't follow along.

Try it. Works like a charm everytime.

Alex Tsui
Message: Posted by: Dr_Stephen_Midnight (Jul 11, 2004 05:46PM)
Talk show host David Letterman is a "grabber." If I was on his show (unlikely, but for the sake of argument) I would do the steeltrap stunt. That way I could offer him the set trap and watch him backpedal.

Penn & Teller brought enough fright gimmicks (including a hatful of cockroaches) to Letterman's show to discourage "grabbiness."

Message: Posted by: Chris H (Jul 12, 2004 06:48AM)
Punch them.

-- Topher
Message: Posted by: Magic Grandpa (Jul 12, 2004 07:40PM)
Magic Grandpa Here:

My approach is very direct. If they grab, I stop and say, "Grab something one more time, and you'll be sorry." I stare them down.

I'm old enough not to care. If I'm being abused by the guests, I leave. I walkout. I've had a few complaints by clients this year, but I don't care. I refuse to perform for abusive people.
Message: Posted by: wol (Jul 12, 2004 07:48PM)
At the start of the evening have one of the clients taken outside and hanged! This serves as a warning to anyone else!
Message: Posted by: felipão (Jul 12, 2004 08:12PM)
I just do the show and put all in a case and go away...
Message: Posted by: dynamiteassasin (Jul 12, 2004 08:57PM)
Knock them out with a KNUCKLE SANDWICH! Just playin'!

I suggest you watch performance, only videos to get tips on how to handle tough spectators. If he/she is really a tough cookie, finish your trick and walk away. Those kind of people are not worth your tricks. There are many out there who are willing to see the art of illusion rather than grabbing the magician's props. Experience is also the best teacher.
Message: Posted by: grant_gilson (Jul 14, 2004 01:35AM)
I try and do some tricks where they are allowed, even encouraged, to handle the props. Some good card tricks with a regular deck where the spectator handles the deck works.

The best one I had was a three card (ungaffed) monte routine. The first time I did a regular throw and asked the spectator which card. He pointed and I did a really bad Mexican turnover. I told him wrong card.

He said, "You switched the cards!" I explained the game (again) and did another regular throw. This time I did a terrible flip move. I told him he was wrong again. He pointed at me and said (louder) you are cheating—your are switching the cards—I saw you. Do it again! I told him he really did not understand the game yet and he said (louder), "Do it again. One more time!" I said OK and this time I did the hype. Not only did he come across the table but he grabbed my right arm so I could not 'switch' the cards. The look on his face when he turned over the loser card was absolutely priceless.


P.S. He is a friend of mine, I would never do that to a stranger. :)
Message: Posted by: Vincz (Jul 14, 2004 10:55AM)
Normally if I do to people who don't know me, or don't know me well, they tend to be more respectful and will not grab. Sometimes, I do have people grabbing, but normally I just hold it tight and they will let go. If it's a non-paid performance, then I might stop performing if they continue like this.
Message: Posted by: Bobcape (Jul 14, 2004 12:27PM)
I think there are some things you can do to [b]minimize[/b] grabbing, but I believe that there are some people who in the right situation will slip by.

Make sure your performance builds and flows to the next effect. Have a reason to put the item away; to perform the next effect. Demonstrate confidence and control of your audience. All of these suggestions will help, but someone could walk up near the end of your performance and react by grabbing. So the only other suggestion is to perform as many no-gimmick effects as possible.

Best of luck,
Message: Posted by: liam-j-gilbert (Jul 16, 2004 09:32AM)
I always used to get grabby spectators when my handling wasn't clean and fluid and my routines weren't well sequenced. The more you perform with audiences the more you learn about good scripting, linguistics, etc. That can help to calm those itchy, grabby fingers.

If you want to look at magic theory and structuring, [i]Card College 2[/i] by Roberto Giobbi has a very wordy and difficult to read section on magic theory but it is worth sifting through it.
Message: Posted by: briantwig (Jul 16, 2004 08:42PM)
On 2004-07-12 20:40, Magic Grandpa wrote:
Magic Grandpa Here:

My approach is very direct. If they grab, I stop and say, "Grab something one more time, and you'll be sorry." I stare them down.
In my personal, private life I am often rude and direct with people who warrant such treatment. When performing magic I try to be the nicest guy on the planet.

When I first started performing I knew people would try and grab but I never came up with a plan to verbally handle it. After it happening twice I decided to come up with my verbal que to get them to stop.

The first thing I say is, "Please don't touch my cards (or whatever they grabbed)." It will be followed by your method. Surprisingly I have not had to proceed past "Please..." Which to be honest I am kind of disappointed about.
Message: Posted by: wol (Jul 17, 2004 12:41PM)
Personally I would never say, 'You'll be sorry.' It seems a bit too threatening. Obviously that's what you're going for but you never know. I used a similar put down once on a guy calling out stuff during a comedy mind reading routine, he shut up but after the show came at me yelling he was gonna kick my head in!

I now say things along the lines of, 'Please keep your voice down as you are ruining the show for everyone else.' This 99% of the time gets the rest of the room against the noisy guy and they pretty soon get the point that they are not welcome. This works for stage/close-up, even little kids get the hint and I still look really nice! I have even had people come up afterwards and apologize for the other person's behaviour! Don't know if this is even relevant but anywho there it is!
Message: Posted by: warren (Jul 21, 2004 09:50AM)
A tip I got at a lecture was, if you have to put something down on the table that you don't want touched, put it close to your groin area. I'd never really thought about it before but I always use this idea now, sorry I can't remember who to give the credit to.
Message: Posted by: Bob Johnston (Jul 22, 2004 08:47PM)
The only time this had been a problem for me is when working with IT. My solution has been to say, “Please keep your arms and hands still so as not to effect the static flow.” No one has ever asked what “static flow” is, but more importantly, no one has “found” the IT.

Message: Posted by: Bobcape (Jul 23, 2004 09:37AM)
Excellent idea! It provides a reason to not grab, without using a threat. I'll use that if you don't mind.

Message: Posted by: ivfour (Jul 23, 2004 11:07PM)
Message: Posted by: Bob Johnston (Jul 24, 2004 04:21PM)
Sounds good, Jerry, but:
Many magicians utilize closeness in their routines. I for one, love to have kids close to me for many of my routines. For example, I would not want an “assistant” to stay “out of reach” of me. Nor would I ask kids in the audience to back up 10 feet, if I come out near them when doing Miser’s Dream.

Having your [b]Close Up[/b] audience close to you, does not mean you will have a problem with “grabbers.”

It has a lot to do with intangibles having nothing to do with your audience being “within reach” of the magician.

Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (Jul 24, 2004 11:31PM)
"Well, thanks, that just ended my performance."

Once I had a grabby lady whilst I was in a close-up contest. I took the table cloth off the table and covered her with it, saying, "in just a few seconds something amazing will happen to you..."

I left her sitting there covered the rest of the show.

I won the contest too.

Francis Carlisle had a great line... "Do you touch the fiddle when Heifitz plays?"
Message: Posted by: dynamiteassasin (Jul 25, 2004 08:45AM)
Another tip is give a "NICE GUY/GAL" impression. This builds up respect and they would never think of grabbing your magic stuff. :)
Message: Posted by: Dr_Stephen_Midnight (Jul 25, 2004 01:48PM)
Not everyone is respectful.

Message: Posted by: PROFED (Jul 25, 2004 02:10PM)
Under cover of a silk, I vanished a pair of thumbcuffs that I just escaped from. Afterwards, she stuck her hands under my shirt and started down my pants. I did not tell here she had two hours to get her hands out of my pants, but wish I had.
Message: Posted by: Angela (Jul 28, 2004 09:18PM)
On 2004-07-25 00:31, Pete Biro wrote:
"Well, thanks, that just ended my performance."

Once I had a grabby lady whilst I was in a close-up contest. I took the table cloth off the table and covered her with it, saying, "in just a few seconds something amazing will happen to you..."

I left her sitting there covered the rest of the show.

I won the contest too.

Francis Carlisle had a great line... "Do you touch the fiddle when Heifitz plays?"

That's GREAT!! I wish I could cover my sister up and leave her there for a few hours. Heck-- today when I bent a fork for her, she grabbed it and started rubbing the handle in frustration screaming, "It won't work!" My sister is *the hardest* person for me to control... I guess it's good that I practice on her. :)

Message: Posted by: dynamiteassasin (Jul 29, 2004 12:41AM)
Another solution to this problem is
do Body Magic.
No one can grab yourself, that would be harassment!
:) try it!
Message: Posted by: Rafael Benatar (Jul 29, 2004 09:16AM)
Thank you Pete, for the Carlyle-Heifetz reference. I have used a similar line, but it's good to know the original phrasing and the source. In any case, the message to be conveyed (without plainly stating so) should be that they may not touch your props because they are yours or because it gets in the way of your performance, but that you really don't care. When I do the cups and balls in an informal setting, with people sitting very close, I toss the irresistible velvet bag to a reachable area of the table to tempt the potential grabber and deal with him/her before the routine is in progress. If there are kids resting their hands within grabbing distance, I say "one. two, and three solid cups" while hitting hitting a cup firmly against the table and stacking the other two on top. Just hard enough so they'd hurt your fingers. Then the parents will automatically take care of their children. Incidentally, if hey grab the loads at the end, when it doesn't matter, for example the onion: "Want a bite?" If they say, as they often do: "Wow, and it's a real potato!" You can say: "What did you expect? This is the ------ (name of venue)." Another line that I use for grabbers, only in small groups, is: "If you did this to Copperfield, the police would take you out." But always mark your territory and control your distance and be ready to grab their arm before it's too late for any of the above.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Aug 4, 2004 03:19AM)
Don Alan used to say, "I don't play with yours, don't play with mine."

I was on a local TV show one morning. I did the vanishing birdcage, and the hostess started to frisk me. I said "When you get through, it's my turn."

She cracked up! So did the cameraman. I didn't know why. It wasn't really that funny.

About 2 years later, I was doing a promotion for the Renaissance Festival, and she asked for me to be on her show, and to do the birdcage. So I did.

When I finished, she started to frisk me again. I said the line again, and she laughed again.

On the break, I said,"You knew I would say that, didn't you?"

She replied, "That's why I asked you back."

I found out later that she'd had a double mastectomy and was wearing a pair of prostheses. She felt that my line was one of the biggest compliments she had ever gotten on the show.
Message: Posted by: CamelotFX (Aug 8, 2004 12:10PM)
I believe that Heifitz has had his fiddle grabbed more than once. Magicians aren't alone.

I usually sneeze all over my props at the beginning, then apologize and say that I have a bad cold. Nobody touches a thing. :)
Message: Posted by: Enigmo (Aug 18, 2004 10:08AM)
I personally believe that this is largely dependent on your performing venue. When I perform professionally, spectators who grab is much less of a problem than when performing for so called friends... I think some of the people who replied stating that fewer people grab their props than they used to should clarify what their current performing venue is.

In the initial posting, itsmagic describes a social situation where he presented magic and where the wife of a coworker grabbed the prop. You weren't probably paid and as such you weren't perceived as a professional entertainer. Furthermore, the lady was put in a situation by her husband to watch you implying that she would be fooled. Obviously, you can expect her to be on her guard and prove her husband wrong. Finally there are some people who view magicians as mere pranksters where the only difference between you and them is the fact you know the secret... Since you are a prankster, this is equivalent to giving them carte blanche to strip search you. There are a few solutions to this.

1) Don't perform when put in that situation. Only perform if you're paid. By accepting to perform for free when requested, you are accepting to lower your value.

2) If you do decide to perform, use ungimmicked props at first and show that you are a professional polished performer. Also direct the magic to the person who asked you to perform or at the group.

3) I have other theories but I have to go back to work...

Message: Posted by: The Mac (Aug 29, 2004 03:35PM)
HI guys,

I've also hag grabby spectators - its often one guy who is so caught up in the moment he lunges forward. that's why when I perform I also am ready to step back or tighten my grip. If a spectator is starting to get antsy I'll say somethign like: " cmon, you're ruining the magic for everyone else.." That puts them at odds with the rest in their mind and they soon settle down.

Its better to have on suillen member of the audience than a blown illusion which you can never perform for the same people again.

During A card routine, like Ambitious card.. I like to invite the guy even closer and I'll put him in a position of being so close that he sees nothing! like I'll Do the classic color change with him looking directly down at my hands and as I do it I'll move my hands slowly closer to his face making it very difficult to focus on what he is seeing.

With Restricted Angle trick like Reformation: To get them in a non threathening field of view I say stuff like "I want you to see this clearly..stand here so you can see this properly."

Those are my tips..hope it helps

Message: Posted by: Clarioneer (Aug 29, 2004 04:23PM)
There is so much ungimmicked stuff available I don't really have too much of a problem in fact like it when they do :) unless its part way thro' that just annoys...

I know at least 3 scotch and soda's that are ungimmicked but I guess people use gimmicked sets to extend the routine...
Message: Posted by: BlendoSquid (Sep 10, 2004 04:46AM)
Grabby spectators are the worst. I was once performing a color changing poker chip routine and the girl I was performing it for knocked them out of my hand!! :angry: All because she couldn't fathom how it was done!
I'm now much more aware of grabby spectators so I always perform behind 2" of bullet-proof glass! Joke!! :rotf:

I think that children are the worst for trying to grab props so I make sure they know that they're not to touch.

Kevin Courtney
Message: Posted by: jasonmcconnie (Dec 14, 2011 11:47PM)
If you are being well paid and it's their fantasy to grab, grab away.
Message: Posted by: charliewerner (Dec 16, 2011 12:00AM)
I too have this problem.. always hate this but began to understand that when people grab your things, they see you as friend and not someone who threaten them(normally with family member). The solution I came up is , have some distance between you and them. When they move nearer, you put the gimmick in the pocket and say "lets move on".. All of them know magic are trick. If you want them to feel miracle, make sure you have good switching technique..
Message: Posted by: braabesflaben (Jan 7, 2012 09:29AM)
I have had this problem with a child last year, luckily there wasn't much to find with the prop I used at that time.
Also found some valuable information in the little darling section about dealing with grabby or loud people.
Message: Posted by: karlito (Jan 14, 2012 03:32PM)
I had a grabby spectator grab my extractor. NOOO it's not good enough that you have a free choice of where to slide the card in.. you have to yank the box from my hand. They somehow didn't discover it's secret though! hah
Message: Posted by: TheGreatRaymondo (Jan 18, 2012 07:34AM)
'Grabbing' has happened to me on a number of occassions when performing Garrett Thomas's Stand Up Monte routine. I guess its due to a number of reasons:
You are actually placing the cards in the spectators hands and asking them to turn the cards over - hence they sometimes feel they can turn the cards over that are in your hands also. I generally perform this great routine in bars or on the street and as we know wherever alcohol is involved the general rules of being polite and respectful to any entertainer dimish as the night goes on!
For some reason or another it nearly always appears to be the ladies, they are far more 'grabby' than the guys - it is a lady almost everytime when someone attempts to grab the cards. I generally say 'Please don't grab the cards' (very politely but also firmly whilst looking them in the eye). If they attempt to grab the cards again I simply stop performing and say something like 'what ashame you ruined it it for everyone else' and simply walk away and move onto the next table.
Message: Posted by: Ekuth (Jan 18, 2012 08:53AM)
I set ground rules as part of my opening spiel, which include not touching the "props which can be quite delicate and expensive".

Which is a flat out lie, of course, since most of my props are made by me out of ordinary things, but it's a powerful mental discouragement that harkens to the "you break it, you buy it" philosophy that stores use.

I also either rope off my pitch with (duh) rope or a row of those LED flicker candles. I like to use the candles to set the "mood" and they're realistic enough looking that I've had people warn me about catching fire... which is when I promptly pick one up and mime being severely burned...

Set the rules right off the bat and practice good crowd control. Hand out or invite people to examine things that aren't gaffed or gimmicked. I always do this as I reset/grab the next effect after I've performed the Cups and Balls.
Message: Posted by: charliewerner (Jan 18, 2012 10:27PM)
Shock them with yigal mesika ET!!!