If you think there’s only one way to show happiness and enjoyment, think again. People from different parts of the world, especially children, have distinctive ways to demonstrate their happiness.
I should know. For years, as a Filipino magician, I have been performing magic shows for children and adults of all shapes, sizes, nationality and ages. I enjoy watching their happy reactions as much as they enjoy watching me perform.
I believe the great majority of people from different parts of the world enjoy magic. However, because of culture, background, local beliefs, and family values, they demonstrate their enjoyment in different ways.
Before anyone adjudges this article as “politically incorrect”, let me say that I’m posting this to share a performer’s joy of watching these distinctive reactions.
These are my personal observations on the particular audiences I have had. I have not attempted to be scientific or scholarly in reaching these observations. I write these to share my experiences and hope to encourage parents to be more attentive to their children when their kids are having fun.
The list below is short because I’ve not yet traveled the world to perform. For the constant travelers, they may have gotten different reactions from the ones I got and consequently would have different observations. I based these observations on watching the reactions of both children and adults in my audiences.
Koreans – They assume an initial formal attitude, especially the women. The cold cordiality is daunting. In a cocktail party, they tend to group according to gender. So when I’m performing close-up magic for one group, it’s usually either an all-male or all-female group.
The coldness disappears, though, at the very first trick. Although the women maintain their reserved bearing throughout, the men are given to horse playing with the magician. The men are very skeptical, too. They inspect playing cards, coins, sleeves, etc.—but all in the spirit of fun. They also readily admit I’ve fooled them when I have.
Japanese – Very reactive. All tricks, even the simplest, blow them away. At least that’s how they make me think by their enthusiastic reactions. They could rank as one of the best audiences in the world.
Chinese – The older fellows will give me a cold look as I approach them. The younger ones (the teenagers and the 20-somethings) will smile nervously and are courteous to a fault. If I slip Feng Shui and herbal medicine in the conversation, I can immediately see the older folks’ face light up.
When I am doing card tricks, someone is usually having a running commentary about my performance—in Chinese. Actually, he’s telling the rest of the audience how the trick is done—but I don’t know that, because I don’t speak Chinese.
Most of the older guys are very skeptical, too. They’d pound on my magic boxes to find the secret door if they get the chance to touch the props backstage.
Chinese women like to have their palms or minds read. I suspect all women, regardless of nationality, like to have their palms and minds read.
In children’s shows, Chinese kids will watch the performance almost in complete silence. Not crazy over volunteering to become a magician’s assistant, many are too shy to interact, especially the 4 to 6-year old kids. If the tricks bomb, it’s not because the kids are not enjoying the magic. After the show, when the parents are not looking, they’ll tell me in a subtle way that they like the performance by asking where the rabbit went.
Taiwanese – Pretty much the same as above, except that I can spot who the tourists are. They tip me right after the first trick and will look offended if I refuse it.
Their reactions are often little or slow in coming. This is true of their women, and even truer if the husbands are around and watching them. Apart from a slight smile or a courteous applause, Taiwanese women are not given to public displays of reactions to a performance, no matter what I do during the show.
Performing for this type of audience can be very disconcerting. The laugh lines that usually put the audience in stitches are met with silence. The trick that usually blows people mind only elicits scattered applause. And so on.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the performance. It’s just that they don’t show enthusiastically (or in the open) their appreciation of my efforts to entertain them. In the end, though, one or two members in the audience will approach me after the show and tell me in private how they enjoyed the magic.
Americans – Parents love to sit on the floor with their children while watching the show. They seem to be all psychic, as they know where the best parts of the show are and clap their hands accordingly. In fact, they applaud too easily.
Extremely noisy, American kids love to be the magician’s assistant. Asking for a volunteer will create a stampede of a dozen kids wanting to perform with the magician. They are very uninhibited too, in words and in deeds. When I flash, they’ll shout which hand the coin went. When I play coy and don’t see where the dove went, a little guy in the front row will kick me in the shin. Loud , energetic and enthusiastic, they always push me to do better than usual.
American kids are very effusive in their admiration. After the performance, they’ll tell me “I like your show,” while the parents are listening. Most American kids would like to bring home the rabbit or the dove, and they’ll go to great lengths to get what they want.
Filipinos – Their reactions are a mixture of all the above. I think Pinoy audiences are the best in the world. And that’s my unbiased opinion.