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Topic: Obscene spectators?
Message: Posted by: Robin Parker (Nov 29, 2001 10:35AM)
The past month I had two instances when spectators used, IMHO, very poor taste in expressing their interest in my performance.

One poor woman had the nerve to suggest, while I was performing a flawless ring & string routine, if I could pull the ring from my a**. (Referring to my backside) I am not an extreme prude, but come on! I attempted to ignore the "request" and watched how others commented on her behavior.

Last weekend, during the same routine, a young and full figured woman requested if I could increase her bust size. Yikes! Like I said, I’m no prude but this is a bit much.

I simply continue with my performance and try to do my job which is to entertain as well as possible with the miracles of our art and allow others to embarrass themselves with their mouth. What are your experiences & thoughts on this?
Message: Posted by: Steve Brooks (Nov 29, 2001 11:06AM)
Gee, what sort of ’Ring & String’ effect are you performing?

Just kidding! :rotf:

I think you said it best, let ’others’ see how stupid these people are, let them embarass themselve’s.

The best thing to do when you find yourself in an ’akward’ situation, is too politely thank them, and move on. You’re correct in saying that you are only trying to do your job and perform.

Unfortunatly, even the ’low-life’s’ of the world do go out in public, and we as entertainer’s will encounter them from time to time. Like I said, bite your tongue and move on. The last thing you want to happen is a confrontation between you (performer) and them (a guest). Good luck! :wavey:


Life is not a problem to be solved...

but a mystery to be lived.
Message: Posted by: Robin Parker (Nov 29, 2001 01:59PM)
Steve, your query concerning the nature is funny; actually I did not remember that both instances occured during that routine until I wrote that post. I've performed that routine hundreds of times but usually I dont receive such responses. If more such responses continue to arise during the routine, I'll then think about it. Or I could perhaps blame Greg Wilson for I learned it from his excellent video. lol Greg would probably think it funny as well.
Message: Posted by: Magicduck (Nov 29, 2001 02:10PM)
If you are old enough, remember some of the lines Robert Orben wrote in the 1960’s. He had a book called Heckler Stoppers or something. It had lines like: (to a bald heckler) Oh excuse me sir, I did not realize that you are sitting upside down or (to a woman) Listen lady, give me a break, do I come over to your house and turn off your red light when you are working?

I read these, amused, but I wonder if they really ever worked. I for one would not have the nerve to try any of them, but this was a very popular book back then and, heck, Orben was no small potatoes -- he was the speech writer for Gerald Ford, the President.

Anyone have any comments on the value of this type of line, even back then?

Message: Posted by: Steve Brooks (Nov 29, 2001 02:37PM)
Probably a good way to get your nose broken.

:rotf: :xmastree:


Life is not a problem to be solved...

but a mystery to be lived.
Message: Posted by: Robin Parker (Nov 29, 2001 06:47PM)
I love the "red light" line. How funny!!! As is said before, I am no prude and I will use that line! Sometimes I get one of those smart-a**, 20 something cats who deserve such a line. Actually, I’ve ask’ed smart mouthed women to choose a card by the hindu-shuffle force, asking them to say "Stop". Next I say, "You remember when you used to say stop?" Gets a good reaction, but of course it is rather thin ice so use your perception well before going there. Most importantly, be entertaining, even when defending yourself after having eaten a lot of c**p. Remember Don Rickles, the guy made a ton of dough insulting others and he is one of my favorites from the ’70’s.

I prefer to be nice, but sometimes people will punish you for your virtue. I see it more & more.
Message: Posted by: Jack (Nov 29, 2001 06:59PM)
Sounds like you perform in a place that serves alcohol. When the lady asks if you can pull a ring out of her a**, respond by saying "No, sorry, this magic ring only allows me to see them." as you look through the ring at her. Now referring to the other girl (who asked if you could increase her bust size), I have only one question. Was she cute?!? :goof:
Message: Posted by: Robin Parker (Nov 29, 2001 07:06PM)
Hello Jack, yes, she was cute. I’m married so I figured it was best not to go anywhere with her comment. Besides, women will sometimes say such rubbish simply wanting to tease. I did not want to give her any satisfaction.
Message: Posted by: Scott F. Guinn (Nov 29, 2001 10:47PM)
I think that, first, you need to determine whether these people were trying to give you c**p or just good-naturedly teasing you. If you are in a bar and they’ve been drinking, that kind of thing is to be expected. If it is mean-spirited, just walk away. If it’s good-natured, just laugh along with them and let them have the spotlight for a minute.

I think the "heckler stoppers" should almost NEVER be used, particularly for such insignificant indiscretions as you describe. It’s not like they were booing or threatening to beat you up, etc.

My last Pro-Files article on the Visions dealt with hecklers. My newest article deals with the use of insult humor and will be appearing in the next issue of Visions, which will be coming out within the next week.

It’s true that Don Rickles made a living out of insult humor. It’s also true that everyone knew that up front and went to see that. It’s also true that for every Don Rickles, there are a couple million out-of-work and/or beat up insult comics. Personally, I don’t care for those odds.
Message: Posted by: tctahoe (Nov 30, 2001 01:43AM)
I think the "heckler stoppers" should almost NEVER be used, particularly for such insignificant indiscretions as you describe. It’s not like they were booing or threatening to beat you up, etc.


I think I have to disagree with you on that. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, the "heckler’" is testing the waters with an insignificant wee line. I think it is your job to let everyone know who is in control of your performance.

Unfortunately, not every performer understands that there are degrees of ‘heckler stoppers’. There are ways of shutting people down without you coming off the bad guy.

Another unfortunate fact, the big comedy boom of the late eighty’s and early nineties (Thar’s jokes in them thar Hills”) with so many comics performing an aggressive take no prisoners type shows. That type of entertainment has, in away primed our audiences; they expect us to be able to deal with these kind of situations.

Again, it all comes down to the degree with which you decide to deal.

If the woman had said that to me, I would have probably said one of two things.

“Can you pull that ring from your a**?”

“OH, you missed the beginning of the trick” or “Hey! That’s how I proposed to my wife. You ol’ romantic.”

If I sensed a little more venom behind her words…

“OH, for that I would need a much bigger a**…any volunteers?”

There are so many factors that go into dealing with these people. You must, MUST, learn to read people. I am in a very fortunate position; I come across as very likeable and non-threatening, even when I am threatening.

On the up side of that I can shut’em down before they become a problem, on the other hand because I appear to be so darn friendly, the audience is comfortable with me and that encourages them to want to talk. You need to understand you, and your effect on people, not just your magic.

It is so much better to have an audience respond to you and not just your tricks.



When in doubt…drop an anvil
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Nov 30, 2001 03:11AM)
As for Orben’s heckler stoppers, Orben was not funny in the 60s and he’s certainly not funny now.

Magicduck points out that Bob Orben was a speechwriter for Gerald Ford. Need I say more?

TC Tahoe’s advice is right on; defuse the situation if you can’t ignore it. Most of the audience is on your side anyway.

Of course, the best thing is, as TC says, to win over the audience in the first place and avoid heckling altogether.


Peter Marucci

Message: Posted by: Burt Yaroch (Nov 30, 2001 06:04AM)

On 2001-11-30 02:43, tctahoe wrote:

If I sensed a little more venom behind her words…

“OH, for that I would need a much bigger a**… any volunteers?”

:rotf: :lol: :rotf:

And if she’s being downright scathing...

"Oh for that I would need a much bigger a@@ and you seem to be using yours right now."

I’m not as stupid as you look I am. :goof:
Message: Posted by: Scott F. Guinn (Nov 30, 2001 11:30AM)
“Can you pull that ring from your a**?”

“OH, you missed the beginning of the trick” or “Hey! That’s how I proposed to my wife. You ol’ romantic.”

If I sensed a little more venom behind her words…

“OH, for that I would need a much bigger a**… any volunteers?” -TC Tahoe


I wouldn’t really qualify those as heckler-stoppers. More of a witty retort, as they are not cruel or making the spec the "butt" of the joke (so to speak) in the same way as "Hey, do I come to where you work and...:"

Also, please note the phrase "Almost never" in my post. I didn’t say never... in the right venue, with the right audience, I have, indeed, used some of those types of lines, but it has been very rare. That includes the time I spent as a non-magical stand-up comic playing comedy clubs across the western US and Canada.

Regarding Orben (and Rickles), his humor was more acceptable in the 60’s (although maybe not any funnier), but most of it will be considered offensive in this politically correct day and age. If you are working comedy clubs, the Playboy Mansion or the Def Comedy Jam, that’s another story, but I seriously doubt most of the Cafe’s participants fall into that boat.
Message: Posted by: tctahoe (Nov 30, 2001 01:19PM)
I think they are heckler stoppers. They let the heckler know that you are on top of things and, hopefully, will cue them in on that fact that you are in control. There can, and should be degrees of heckler stopping lines. Call ’em warning shots if you will, a well-timed witty retort may be all the ammunition you need. Too many times performers pull out the big guns and slam a heckler too hard, too soon.


When in doubt…drop an anvil
Message: Posted by: Margarette (Nov 30, 2001 04:24PM)
Here’s what I do...

but first, I must give you a little bit of background information. When I do my stand up or escape shows, let’s just say I accentuate the positive with my attire. This is basically an invitation for comments, and I accept that. I have learned to deal with that, in fact, I have some really great comebacks for certain situations. Since I know under-age people read this, I will limit what I say.

When I am performing my 50’ Rope Tie, well, it takes a while for me to get completely tied up, so there is friendly banter between myself and the men tying me up. Yes, I always use men. This banter does get suggestive, but I always have a comeback. Now, if they say something just plain rude, which I do not wish to encourage to continue, I say, "Hon, my insurance wouldn’t cover your injuries!" Prefacing that with the "hon" gets the first laugh, then the insurance comment gets a larger laugh. It usually then changes the direction the friendly banter goes. Now, I was doing one show, where one of my volunteers happen to come onstage holding a cigar... ok, now that you’ve all finished making up your own jokes, here’s what happened. He found out I was from Arkansas, and made a clintonesque joke about his cigar. I looked at the cigar, looked at him, and said, "The name’s Margarette, not Monica." Not another word about said cigar.

Now, another instance also takes place during my escapes act. I do emphasize a great deal that the object is not to put me in pain. If they don’t seem to understand, I say something like "Hey, if you want pain, that’s gonna cost you extra, and you don’t have that kind of money."

The main thing is that you don’t ever let the heckler know that what they are saying is bothering you... that is what they want. Don’t ever give them the satisfaction. Once you do that, you’ve lost control of the situation. When I do my escapes, I simply cannot afford to lose control of the situation. I do that, and to put it simply, I could get seriously hurt, or worse. :wow:

Now, for the woman who asked if you could pull a ring from... well, we all know what you said... you could have said something like "I can do that, but I usually reserve that for the late night crowd" or possibly something like I use "yeah, I can do that, but it’s gonna cost you extra... and you don’t have that type of money." Now, if she says she does, give her some outrageous figure, and tell her "this is in cash on the table right now." This way, you are not being crude, you are addressing the situation, but you are not giving her the satisfaction in knowing that what she said bothered you.

Just my two cents on the topic.

Message: Posted by: Jack (Nov 30, 2001 06:00PM)
The hecklers that I can't stand are the "I know how you did that!" even though they don't ones. I've noticed that in big crowds they're the ones that want to be Mr. Studdly or Miss Smarty Pants. You know, the ones that always want to be the center of attraction of that group. It's hard to perform close-up magic to a group when there's that one person interrupting your rhythm and performance with "I've seen this one before." or "That's a trick deck." or "I know how he does that." or "My brother's real good with cards also." or "It went up his sleeve."

Another issue that magicians get confronted with are guys that are jealous because their girlfriend or wife is getting turned on by you because, hey, girls like magic.

And some people just can't stand to be fooled. They've grown up with their senses (sense of sight, logic, etc.) and can't handle being led astray by them. They tend to feel insecure when they are tricked (as opposed to the majority that feel entertained by magic).

Magically, Jack :evil:
Message: Posted by: Margarette (Nov 30, 2001 09:02PM)

I can honestly say I have never been confronted by a jealous boyfriend. :sun:

Message: Posted by: Scott F. Guinn (Dec 1, 2001 12:38AM)

You are exactly right, and that is the point I was trying to make -- most magi hit them WAY too hard WAY too soon! Your responses are amusing, but not offensive -- most of Orbin’s "Heckler stoppers" are offensive, but not amusing.

I totally agree that you must always be in control, but I also think we need to let the audience interact, and laugh if they say something funny. I don’t think we always need to "one-up" them. Letting them have the spotlight doesn’t mean you’ve lost control -it simply means that you are the director letting them have their moment before you move on, and this endears you to the audience. After a chuckle and a pause, responding with the type of line that you or Margarette mentioned will get another laugh. I guess I don’t consider those lines heckler-stoppers, because I don’t consider the comments made by the spectator in the original post heckling. She wasn’t personally attacking, she was interacting and becoming involved in the fun. I encourage that kind of interaction and give and take.

As far as the "I know that" stuff, it can be kept to a minimum by taking as much of the challenge aspect out of your routines as possible. it isn’t a contest, it’s a joint venture where we have fun and are amazed together. Jealous boyfriend? Work to him and not the girl. Still pulling that stuff? Thank them and walk away.

In my opinion and experience, there is no reason to brutally sting anyone in an Orben-esque or abusive comic manner in any of the scenarios from the above posts. You are there to entertain the audience and the show is about them. Check your ego at the door, let them have some fun while maintaining control, or walk away. Or stop performing for the public!

Again, I refer readers to my current Pro-Files column at http://www.online-visions.com for a more in-depth discussion of this matter. I am very passionate about this, because, as TC said, too many go too far too soon, and that is one of the reasons why many people don’t like magicians!


Scott F. Guinn

Great Scott! It’s Magic!
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Dec 1, 2001 03:26AM)
Margarette has the key word: "Control".

It is essential for the performer to maintain control.

You can intereact with the audience and let them trade barbs with you. Just as long as they remain aware of who is in control of the situation.

The minute you lose control, you're dead (figuratively, I hope!).

In small groups (i.e., table hopping, etc.), I usually just stop -- stop talking, stop doing anything -- until the guy or gal who wants to be the centre of attention suddenly realizes that s/he IS! That is usually enough to scare them off. And then I continue as if nothing happened.

(You've won, remember? There's no need to embarrass them.)


Peter Marucci

Message: Posted by: tctahoe (Dec 1, 2001 03:48AM)
I don’t think we always need to "one-up" them. Letting them have the spotlight doesn’t mean you’ve lost control --

Scott F. Guinn

I love you for saying that. I have tried for years to get magicians to understand exactly that same thing. Some of the biggest laughs in my show are my reactions to things said by an audience member. My goal is to have them leave and remember they enjoyed spending time with me. I am sure I will be jumped on for not having a ‘bigger’ goal, but for me that is it. I want audience members to see my days, months, or years later and remember they genuinely enjoyed “that show” I did.

Going back to that inane need for one-upmanship, one only has to look to the greats to see it ain’t necessary. Jack Benny, Steve Alan, and… OK I could go on and on and on and… Sorry. Any one that physical or verbally interacts with their audience must learn this give and take.

I have jokes and effects that totally set the audience up to deliver the punch line for me, and it is a wonderful thing.

Magician = Smarta** to far too many people. Can we not try to change that?
Message: Posted by: Jack (Dec 1, 2001 06:20AM)
All the above posts are correct, and all are varied. This is because; as in the real world, spectator interaction is equally varied. You have spectators that are simply playing (unoffensively). They are simply enjoying the moment, which is perfectly fine. You have others that heckle; that won't shut up. They will ruin it for you and your audience. I've had spectators openly thank me for shutting certain people up because he was ruining it for them. I've had spectators that I've had no choice but to let them have it. It's not like a spectator says one thing and the magician attacks them. That wouldn't be good showmanship. But you have to be on your guard for those times when it's more than kidding or your whole show is getting ruined. That's not fair to you or your audience and must be halted. Audience control is key (obviously) with this artform. Everyone can get into deep theories or structured methologies on dealing with the unusual spectators, but in the real world it's as uncertain as each person or group you approach. Everyone is different and each performance is a new adventure. I say be prepared for the worst. All others are simple to deal with (ignoring them or letting them have their moment is dealing with them) if their intent isn't hostile or verbally uncomfortable to you or the others. but when that time comes that you have someone that's going to ruin, expose, or hinder your performance, intentionally (and there are those who will try to), they must be stopped or you might as well turn and walk away, not performing to any of them. It's just my experience in dealing with the thousands of spectators that I've dealed with in my years of performing close-up magic.

This issue could be regional as well. We have to keep in mind that we magicians here live all around the world. What works for one of us may not work for another due to differences in cultures. I mean I perform in Texas and maybe spectators down here are different in their demeanor than those you others perform to.

Margarette, in response to your response; Do you have to deal with jealous girls, or are girls just not that way to female magicians?

Magically, Jack :xmas:
Message: Posted by: Margarette (Dec 1, 2001 02:57PM)

Actually, I have yet to run into a jealous girlfriend either. Most of the comments I get from women is how I manage the straitjacket escape in those shoes. :fruity:

Message: Posted by: Michael Peterson (Dec 1, 2001 03:08PM)
Hi Margarette, I'm curious as to what kind of shoes you wear while doing your jacket escape?


Message: Posted by: Margarette (Dec 2, 2001 10:18AM)
The shoes... I knew I probably should have included a description of the shoes in my other post.

When I was putting together my performance attire, the only shop in town that I knew would carry the stuff I needed was a store that catered to the heavy metal, biker, and fetish type people... lots of leather and stuff in the store.

To go along with the outfit I had put together, I needed some appropriate shoes... stiletto heels were out of the question.

I saw a pair of shoes and tried them on... they fit.

I asked the owner of the store about the feasibility of wearing these shoes with what I was planning on doing with them. His comments to me were "I have a lot of strippers come in and buy these shoes, and they love them for how easy they are to wear and work."

The shoes are leather with metal studded straps around the ankles, and about four and a half inch heels. For anyone who knows the term, they are basically CFM shoes. If you don’t know what the term is, please do not ask.

So, like I said, I usually get comments on how I’m able to perform the straitjacket escape in those shoes. They are easy to walk in, just a bit difficult when I have to manage stairs. So, now you know about the shoes!


Message: Posted by: Michael Peterson (Dec 2, 2001 10:53AM)
Thanx for the explanation, maybe a pair of CFM's would spice up my jacket escape :question:

Thank you Margarette :bg:

Message: Posted by: Margarette (Dec 2, 2001 01:07PM)
Hey, if you get a pair of those shoes to spice up your sj...I will travel anywhere you are performing to see that!!! :lol:

Message: Posted by: Burt Yaroch (Dec 2, 2001 01:51PM)
I think that puts a whole new spin on your ranting post of a few weeks ago Margarette. :goof: :eek: :goof:

Or perhaps I'm just sick that way.

But Ichazod in the CFM's. I'm sure I'm sick now. :sick: :sick: :sick:
Message: Posted by: Michael Peterson (Dec 2, 2001 01:59PM)
Message: Posted by: Jack (Dec 4, 2001 05:24PM)

I once saw a girl do a cool card trick on a video wearing high heals. A signed card ended up folded in her shoe. Are you familiar with it?

Message: Posted by: Drewmcadam (Dec 8, 2001 12:34PM)
Boy, there are a lot of shoe fetishists in here, aren't there?

Getting back to the original topic for a moment, when faced by a heckler I like the question: "Sorry, what did you say?" (asked as though you genuinely didn't hear it) This is usually followed by silence and/or tittering.
Message: Posted by: tboehnlein (Jan 25, 2002 08:35AM)
Jack I believe the girl in question is Tina Lennert, Margarette your responses & thought into them are excellent. In reading the initial post for this thread my first thought would be to analyze the group quickly if they seem to be having a good time then do a quick shuttle pass add a little banter about what it would be worth to see it happen, then say oh what the heck I love a challenge then do it.
Message: Posted by: Jeb Sherrill (Jan 25, 2002 07:42PM)
I do think "control" is the key word. I tend to be good-natured about "most" things. I just smile and nod or shake my head. It's my show and I'm hopefully above the comments and hopefully the audience feels that way too. Still, I've had a few interesting words for people from time to time. So much has depended on the venue. If you have a classy act, I think this is a good way to do things. If you have a more blue style however, I guess you can get away with just about anything.

A little story:
I was doing a small stage show with a couple of friends at Comic Convention. Well, the crowd was less than savoury and you can imagine we had several interesting comments thrown. Being on stage, we could ignore most, but as my friend was just unlinking a couple rings in this Linking Ring act, one of the unsavouries said "hey man, that's my c*ck ring. I was unfamiliar with this fascinating term, but nevertheless I understood the meaning. My friend looked dazed for a moment, but then stopped his act for a moment, removed a finger ring from his left hand and said "no sir, this is YOUR c*ck ring".

We were all quite proud of the boy, and man did it get a laugh.
:dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance:
Message: Posted by: tboehnlein (Jan 26, 2002 12:04PM)
Message: Posted by: MichelAsselin (Feb 2, 2002 11:36PM)
Lisa Menna does a mean card to shoe which is very deceptive and fried me when I first saw it. I think it is featured on the NYMS tape.