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Topic: How NOT to attend a mentalism show
Message: Posted by: christopher carter (Oct 31, 2004 01:07PM)
Recently at a performance for a college "Family Day," a man approached me prior to the show with these words, "One question: Is Steve Shaw really Banachek?" It struck me as a bizarre question, but I quickly realized that it was just his awkwardly coy way of saying, "I'm a mentalist, too." I asked the man what his background with the craft was, and he responded with some equally coy and non committal remark like, "Oh, I have an interest in it." Then he went to sit down with his wife and daughter.

If this were the only way the man had chosen to interact, I wouldn't have thought anything particular of it except that his social skills could be better, but what he did next was very bothersome to me. He took out his notebook and proceeded to take notes throughout the entire show!

Now I fully accept that he may have just been trying to record some thoughts or ideas, but I'm not sure he realized how incredibly distracting his actions were. I have no way of knowing whether he was actually copping my material, but rather than find out the hard way, I simply took out some of my favorite original bits. Had the man approached me more forthrightly and had he not been taking notes, he probably would have gotten a more interesting (for him, at least) performance.

My point in this post is to remind some of the newer mentalists that there are better and worse ways to act when attending somebody's performance. It is very likely that the performer will be delighted to have you in the audience. I know I have enjoyed meeting quite a handful of Café members at my shows. But acting in a way that draws extra attention to yourself is kind of like taking out a deck of cards and doing flourishes during the performance--It's really not in the best interest of the show. The best approach is to simply introduce yourself, give your name, state your interest or experience with the craft--You know, the sort of thing socially astute people would normally do. Also, for heaven's sake, DON'T take notes!!! If for some reason you absolutely must, please explain prior to the show why you will be doing so. Nobody wants to spend the show wondering if his lines will soon be your lines.

I hope nobody is insulted by this post.

Message: Posted by: truthteller (Oct 31, 2004 01:12PM)
Hi Chris,

I would have been tempted to walk into the crowd, stand beside him, comment on how people are often suspicious of even the most commonplace objects, and ask if anyone had a notebook and pen which you could borrow. You could take it from him and he would be without recourse to it.

But yes, not to loose the point, people often have no idea what proper behavior in another person's show is. I don;t know how many times I have had someone at a trade show in which I am performing make some comment afterwards about a "nice 'insert name of' move." The funny thing is the move they are commenting on wasn't used. So I know exactly what level or person I am dealing with.

How much better things would have been had they just said, "Hi, I'm Jon and I do magic as a hobby."

Just a thought.

Brad Henderson
Message: Posted by: shrink (Oct 31, 2004 01:24PM)
Would bringing a video recorder and boom mike be distracting?

The internet has to blame for this. I remember the days when having anyone in the audience that any clue about mentalism or hypnosis was almost non existent.

Things have changed and will continue to do so...

However If I had been distracted by someone I would've stopped them from doing whatever it was that was the problem. If I couldn't have done it in a covert or entertaining way I would've been direct..


Unfortunately if someone is going to steal your lines there isn't to much you can do. I once had someone approach me in a supermarket and recite a show they had done recently. And all of what they recited was mine word for word. I was really irritated but they thought I would be impressed..
Message: Posted by: Dr_Stephen_Midnight (Oct 31, 2004 02:47PM)
Oh, and don't bring a friend who is a big fan of yours.
I attended an Andre Kole college show a few years back, and decided to pay Kole a brief visit after the show.
No sooner had I introduced myself and complimented him on his performance, that my guest began inundating Kole with high praise of MY abilities and exploits. I had to quickly and quietly excuse myself, and hustle my walking ad brochure out of the building to defuse a clumsy situation.

Message: Posted by: ESP Guy (Oct 31, 2004 03:23PM)

It could've been worse. He could have been wearing his "card vest" and "bunny tie" as I have seen on occasion.

Message: Posted by: Greg Arce (Oct 31, 2004 03:28PM)
I've seen similar things happen at the Magic Castle. Guys will come into the Close Up Gallery and The Parlor and take notes on people's acts.
It's a *** shame! I once heard of one of the performers actually calling someone out that was taking notes during his performance. I wish I had been there.
I also can't stand magicians that come to see someone's show and then proceed to do magic tricks in the lobby as if it's their venue.
You never go to a play and see struggling actors trying out their latest monologues in the lobby.
What is it about this field of entertainment that brings in the low moral thinkers and the starving for attention crowd?

Message: Posted by: shrink (Oct 31, 2004 03:36PM)
I had one of those a few months back. He went on to tell everyone how each effect was done. He was wrong though although he was on the right track sort of. But it did create a problem. I got him on stage and made him look like an idiot with a routine that gave him the chance to earn £100. All he had to do was pass a a series of tests by lying. It went down a storm and his irritable personality actually helped make the audience connection stronger.

I've heard on here that you must never make someone look like a fool onstage. I don't agree there are times when it makes for a good solid piece of mentalism.

This was one of them.
Message: Posted by: Banachek (Oct 31, 2004 04:40PM)
I sympathize with you Chris.

Note taking is very, very distracting as much so as cell phone use. If someone comes up and states they are writing an article for a magazine (newspaper, magic or otherwise) I will give it no other thought when I see them taking notes. But when you do not know, it is on your mind all through the show.

I don't think the internet is responsible for bad manners. I remember years ago a friend of mine was at the magic castle, he was in the close up room. Right up front someone started to take notes. My friend said, "let me show you something. Took the notes from the person's hands and said, "now most of you have seen when someone takes a paper, tears it and restores it" as he tore up the notes (looking at them to make sure indeed it was someone just stealing his lines of course), then he said "I can't do that." and proceeded with his show. The other magicians in attendance got the message and thought it was great. This was prior to the internet as it is today. Before most people had or could afford a computer.

I once had someone stand up in my show and shout out, "Your a fake, James Randi says you are, tell me my name." I then proceeded to tell the man I would be happy to tell him his name if he came up on stage. He would not.

After I approached him in a friendly manner as I was very intrigued as to what would justify in his mind the bad manners. Found out his girl friend thought I was "God" as he put it, with what I was doing. I then proceeded to tell him it was in bad form and that he made skeptics and Randi look bad by acting as he did. That I knew Randi very well and he would never do something like that.

Anyway, sorry you had that problem Chris,especially with them using my name to sort of wink at you. Some people in our profession just think it okay to have bad manners if they think you know they are in on the secret. A shame.
Message: Posted by: shrink (Oct 31, 2004 05:33PM)
The internet doesn't make it any easier though as there are more mentalists or people in the know than ever because of it.
Message: Posted by: ScottLeavitt (Oct 31, 2004 07:53PM)
Guys, keep in mind that some of these notetakers don't mean any ill will. They are most likely fans, are there to both enjoy and learn, and don't realize its a distraction.

I had just such a lapse in judgement last night...was at an evening performance of The Spencers, and ended up sitting right behind some friends and their kids (and their friends). In waiting for the show to start, they asked me to show them something, and clearly not thinking, I leaned forward and began to shuffle a deck of cards. Kevin's assistant spotted me and very politely came over and asked me not to do any tricks. Did I mean any disrespect by it? Nope. Should I have known better? Absolutely. Did they handle it smoothly? Yup.

Short way of saying that these events don't need to lead to a confrontation...can probably often be handled quitely and professionally (as Kevin's asst did) under the assumption that the person in the audience either doesn't know better or isn't thinking (like yours truly).

Just some thoughts.... (and yes, I dropped the assistant a thank you note last night for handling the situation professionally, and appologizing for my inappropriate actions)

Yours in Magic

Message: Posted by: procyonrising (Oct 31, 2004 08:01PM)
It's a distraction because it's wrong. Whether harm is intended or not is not the issue.
Message: Posted by: ScottLeavitt (Oct 31, 2004 08:11PM)
Not totally disagreeing with you procyonrising (agree its wrong), but just saying that the person may not know any better, and some of the posts above seemed (in my interpretation...may be reading into things) to be getting confrontational (even hostile) in terms of how they view the amateurs in the audience. I don't believe "intent" impacts if its right or wrong, but do think it should influence how you view/deal with it.

If its viewed as a more innocent action (intent wise), there are probably some subtle ways in which the situations can be remedied.

Just one idea -- and not being a professional may be off base with this -- but how about a comments such as "please make sure your cell phones are off, and if there are any fellow mentalists out there, please don't take notes during the show as it can be distracting to those around you." Plays a bit to their egos ("fellow mentalists") while pointing out the inappropriateness of their actions without getting confrontational and embarrasing them in front of their friends/family.

Again, just one person's thoughts....
Message: Posted by: Greg Arce (Oct 31, 2004 11:23PM)
Scott, it seemed you realized what you were doing was wrong early on, but I see magicians who seem to think that it's their right to entertain at any affair no matter what.
I remember going to see Gabriel, Copperfield & Salem on Broadway and seeing the pack of fools doing card tricks in the lobby to members of the audience.
Like I said, I don't see actors practicing monologues in the lobby, or dancers showing off their latest spin or singers doing a bit of a latest song while attending their fellow performer's shows.
I still ask the question: what is it about magicians that makes them want to be the certain of attention... always?

Message: Posted by: procyonrising (Oct 31, 2004 11:33PM)
1. Professionals have this rule: only one star in the house. It's never okay to perform at someone else's venue without the headliner's permission. Granted, it's an unwritten rule--much like not stealing material is an unwritten rule--but it's still something understood by pro performers (whether they be mentalists, or musicians, or whatever).

2. If you're taking notes at any performance--mentalism or not--and you're not a writer or journalist or critic, you're not there to see the show, you're mining material with the intention to steal (there's no other reasonable explanation).
Message: Posted by: christopher carter (Oct 31, 2004 11:39PM)
On 2004-10-31 20:53, ScottLeavitt wrote:
Guys, keep in mind that some of these notetakers don't mean any ill will. They are most likely fans, are there to both enjoy and learn, and don't realize its a distraction.



I agree. I started this thread because the incident I described is not that uncommon, and my hope is that a few folks might remember this when they attend shows.

A few on this thread have suggested confrontation, but my opinion is that that would have been extremely counter-productive in my particular circumstances. The man was, after all, the father of one of the students, and the students are, in the end, my boss. I think there's nothing to be gained from embarassing the family of the guy. In reality, I can think of very few situations where a confrontation is in the best interest of the show.

Message: Posted by: Jheff (Oct 31, 2004 11:49PM)

I would treat the notetaker as a heckler and treat that person accordingly. It's very much like having a cellphone go off. When that happens during my performance, I stop, ask for the phone and begin having a conversation with the person on the phone about rudeness. After my point is made, I may do an effect right with that person. This is not my idea, by the way. I've seen several performers (comedians mostly) use this technique.

In the case of a notewriter, I've not had that happen, but I'm sure the day will come. And I will be ready. First, while standing nearby to the notetaker, I'll ask to borrow a pad of paper for the next effect. "Does anyone have one?" I'll do an effect with the paper in his pad, sit him back down, thank him profusely for his assistance and explain that since he's having a great time watching the show, he'll not need the pad until the end. At which point, I'll keep it until the act is finished. I think this'll work.

-- Jheff
Message: Posted by: christopher carter (Oct 31, 2004 11:55PM)
On 2004-11-01 00:49, Jheff wrote:

I would treat the notetaker as a heckler and treat that person accordingly. It's very much like having a cellphone go off. When that happens during my performance, I stop, ask for the phone and begin having a conversation with the person on the phone about rudeness. After my point is made, I may do an effect right with that person. This is not my idea, by the way. I've seen several performers (comedians mostly) use this technique.


Your approach may be best, but personally, I'll opt for being rebooked. :)

Message: Posted by: Jheff (Nov 1, 2004 12:04AM)

So will I. And what I didn't say, which I thought was obvious, was that you can do it in a funny, but pointed, manner, not one of spite and anger because the cellphone went off. The point is made without being offensive and done entertainingly. Same with notetakers. And, perhaps I missed your point, Chris, but by taking a command over the audience and still retaining your dignity and some of the heckler's dignity, why wouldn't you be rebooked?

-- Jheff
Message: Posted by: christopher carter (Nov 1, 2004 12:25AM)
On 2004-11-01 01:04, Jheff wrote:

And, perhaps I missed your point, Chris, but by taking a command over the audience and still retaining your dignity and some of the heckler's dignity, why wouldn't you be rebooked?

-- Jheff

For one thing, I am not at all certain that the notetaker should be seen as, or treated as, a heckler. He presents a minor distraction to me, but one I can easily deal with. Otherwise, he is invisible to the audience. One deals with a heckler on behalf of the audience. Setting forth a confrontation, at least in the situation I faced recently, wouldn't be taking control, it would be ceding control. I'm confident that in the show I am describing, nobody else would have the slightest idea why I was singling the guy out. Consequently they would think I was being a jerk to a student's parent, which I am sure is a good way to ensure that I would only play that school once. Similarly if a cell phone had gone off, I think its a very different dynamic if I were joking with a student (in an audience of only students) than if I were singling out a student's parent.

I'm not saying that your approach wouldn't work for you, but I know myself and my market, and I don't think its right for me.

Message: Posted by: bsmith (Nov 1, 2004 12:26AM)
On 2004-11-01 00:49, Jheff wrote:

I would treat the notetaker as a heckler and treat that person accordingly. It's very much like having a cellphone go off. When that happens during my performance, I stop, ask for the phone and begin having a conversation with the person on the phone about rudeness. After my point is made, I may do an effect right with that person. This is not my idea, by the way. I've seen several performers (comedians mostly) use this technique.

-- Jheff

I would handle it like Richard Osterlind and ask them to name a number between one and a thousand. I think it is important to maintain your cool and not scare off any future volunteers that you might have. I could only imagine if I were an audience member at your show and you chose me to come up on stage to assist with an experiment. God forbid I mess up, or I don't understand you clearly.

If someone's phone rings, use it to your advantage. If a man has a pad - use it for an effect. Instances like these can be blessings in disguise. Before handing the pad back to the man I would jot down a polite note and let him know how I feel.
Message: Posted by: xersekis (Nov 1, 2004 09:56AM)
I think anytime one attends a show of magic or mentalism or psychic demonstration or whatever - that the attendee should never perfrom anywhere near the venue, in line, in the audiecne, after the show standing aroung etc. Nor should one announce or discuss that they have, are or been interested in the topic - openly in front of other audeience members. That is for restricted private conversation if the performer is at all interested.

Nor should one offer to show the performer a thing or two unless the performer requests it of you.
Nor should one volunteer how one thinks anything is done, tell no one, not friends, family or starngers during the show or anywhere near the show.

I think people attedning a show should support the performer, encourage others to do the same. One should never market oneslef, mention that they do something similar, are an entertainer etc.

When I attend with friends of perfrormers I am a schlep who helps them carry things. If I am a friend in the audeince I never state that I do anything like what they do.

After all it is their evening, their show, their night, they are to be the star - no one else. It is tacky, childish to to or behave otherwise.

Yes, sometimes people make mistakes and this post is directed at no one. The thing is -

elevate the performer. Good karma will come back to you if you consider generating good will.

Everyone who performs has horror stories and stories of annoying audeince members who are magicians, entertainers, debunkers, curiosity seekers etc.

If you pretend to be in the arts at all - the respect the art itself and the people who help professionally perpetuate the art. And if one can't do that - one should stay home.

My 2 cents worth.
Message: Posted by: Banachek (Nov 1, 2004 10:33AM)
Chris certainly understands this situation well. In the market he is working one does not want to embarress anyone in the audience, one work to the director of entertainment will make sure you never get rebooked even if you are in the right.

There are many here who are starting out in mentalism and entertainment who need to be told the rules of engagement. I think that is what Chris was intending and what better way to do it than pointing out it is wrong and distracting than on a magic/mentalism board such as this. Maybe we can all spread the word of how distracting and disturbing this can be.

ON the other hand, if someone is taking notes of the effect performed for future review of the show, one should let the performer know in advance that they will not be taking notes to steal lines and effects but just for the purpose they are mentioning, this way the performer can okay it a ahead of time and will not be distracted by a spectator scratching away during the show. For instance, just last week I was at Penn & Teller's show and Billy McComb was in the audeience, he was taking a few notes. I assumed it was so he could do a write up at a later date. He is good freinds with the guys. So their can be other reasons for taking notes other than stealing. But stealing is usually the reason in my experience.

As for mentioning that other mentalists and magicians should not take notes during the show. One it sounds bad and rude to say this and two what mentalist wants to point out that there are other such people like himself that might be in attendance. We kind of want people to think we are pretty unique and if anything there are just a handful of such folks in existence, certainly too few that there might be some in attendance.

And as for performing at another performers show, it is just bad form. I always tell people that I would rather not as this is not my place to perform and I am not sure the entertainer would like it and on top of that I am not getting paid for it (tongue in cheek)

I would hope that all here would spread the word about both of these items being rude. (Performing on another performers turf and note taking without permission) Speaking of the latter, if one does ask and the performer says no, he has that right. Don't be upset, he does not have to say yes. It is his show and his career to handle in any way he sees fit. If he does not want coverage, so be it, that is his choice. OF course you have the choice to write an article after the fact. If you choose to take notes during the show, be adviced you may very well be kicked out.
Message: Posted by: shrink (Nov 1, 2004 11:46AM)
I'm suprised they bother to take notes. You can conceal small tape recorders quite easily it has happened in the past at a few of my shows..