Received this question from a beginner who did his first ever magic gig:
“A neighbouring table saw me doing tricks and wanted to see one so I went over and did my colour monte lego card routine
An audience member bluntly and honestly said it was bad, she could see what I was doing, and it was rubbish. (Although she was tricked by it as she did not predict the final card reveal)
I had done card tricks all night and everyone loved them (or at least said they did) but that one bad review has not left my mind since.
Do you ever get difficult / harsh / rude audiences? How do you deal with it?”
I’m sorry to hear this has happened to you on your first ever magic gig, but what counts is how you let it affect you.
Everyone who deals with the public gets to deal with rude, ignorant people sometimes.. that’s why you see signs in stores warning about staff not having to accept it. Add in alcohol, then throw in the social pressure to ‘be the centre of attention’ and that’s why ALL close up magicians come face to face with people like this. You just have to politely shrug it off and move to another group.
Just last week I was performing at a gig full of characters right out of made in Essex. I finished a routine with some sponge balls and when the lady opened her hand and was surprised by the trick, all was well and good. Then a moment later she just threw both sponge balls over her shoulder and shouted ‘Give us a fag’ to her partner… I was completely taken aback.. That was one of the rudest things I’ve come across… What did I do? Nothing. Her attitude isn’t really my problem… I’m not there as a guest, I’m there working.. creating the event.. I just left the group that instant and recovered the sponge balls. I then moved on to another group. I did not react, I didn’t even raise an eyebrow… Why create a scene? Why even take it personally.. Just move on to another group. The rest of the guests were lovely and I received the usual feedback.. So there was no need to let one single rude person be the measure of the evening or your skill as a performer.
Heres some situations that could happen on your first ever magic gig:
Lets say you perform your first trick and everyone in the group is hostile. In that case, don’t react, just smile and move away and approach another group. Don’t judge the whole event by one single group.
Maybe you are working a group and everyone is loving it except one person. You can choose to be polite and ignore the heckler, or simply remove yourself from the group. Many experienced magicians with a quick wit, magicians jokes, and the presence can fire back funny comebacks, but that’s a specific SKILL. If you have that, you probably don’t need to be reading this anyway…
So at the start hecklers are going to ‘knock you off’ a little bit. The key is to move on.. You have no duty to perform for someone who does not want to play along. What you are doing is close up theatre as much as it is a trick.. Move on to another table or part of the room so you gain as much positive experience as you can, over time, you will find being challenged like that less distressing and can come up with funny ways to deal with the challenges.
The good news is that this happens very rarely and on the whole you will love performing.
I wish you the best with your magic
I asked a few magicians to give you their advice when a magician gets heckled on their first ever magic gig:
David Joch : There will always be anyone, who don’t like you or what you do because of different reasons.
If at least one liked what you do and asked for more, then you’re doing it right – nobody is able to do it right for everyone..
HOWEVER, don’t “unhear” the “bad” comments, because maybe you’ll find a weak point in your routine that you can change it to make it even stronger. Don’t let the comment bring you down, you don’t know the reason for it, maybe it was just bad manners without any reason so then it is not your fault!
Dani Marko : You can’t make everyone happy all the time, you are not pizza
Brett Sirrell : It’s your first ever magic gig, don’t worry. You are several steps ahead of the person that has just had bulls!t “great” feedback.
You now understand what to work on. Experience comes from hours of performing to real people, learning to naturally know lines of sight, how to misdirect get a laugh when you need a misdirect or reaction.
It also takes time to learn what an audience likes and doesn’t. Again Magicians love packet tricks and colour changes etc but actually it takes experience to learn what an audience loves. There’s no such thing as failure just feedback.
Jennifer Meyers : Don’t let this get you down. Audiences can be brutally honest. Take this review as a lesson that you need to practice more. Use video from every angle. Work your magic until you can perform it flawlessly. Have lots of fun!! If you are not having fun than your audience isn’t having fun either. Hang in there!!