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If you happen to be hard-headed and choose to ignore me, do so at your own peril.
Debating, arguing and quarreling with hecklers will do you no good. You will lose even if your are right. You will look mean, nasty and bad even if the heckler is meaner, nastier and badder than you. In the eyes of people, you are Darth Vader incarnate even if you are the victim, the one harassed, and the one disrespected by boorish members of the audience.
A good example to illustrate my point is the incident involving Michael Richards onstage at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood. It happened more than two years ago, but the lesson is as fresh as today’s fish.
Michael Richards played the character Cosmo Kramer on the classic American sitcom Seinfield (1990-1998). He is a veteran comedian and should have known how to extricate himself from a difficult situation. Inexplicably, he lost his cool and disregarded his years of experience as comic performer. The way he handled the hecklers is a classic example of how to make yourself look bad in front of an audience.
Comics and live performing artists (that includes us magicians) often face hecklers. The idea is not to get drawn into a debate and shouting match with boors. The greater trick is not to lose one’s cool when the boors turn to be the better debaters.
In the after-incident interview, Richards said that, at first, he tried to parry the heckling (he used the word “jujitsu’), but when this failed, he just flipped out and went into a tirade.
The following video shows the ugly incident. Richards could have left the stage and cut cleanly before he went into an uncontrollable outburst, but he didn’t. He chose to stay and to joust with the hecklers, peppering them with racial slurs and cuss words.
The result? He lost, and lost badly.
Here’s the video of that incident. Study it and learn from it.
(Because the video contains profanity and racial epithets, you may be challenged to confirm your age.)
In fairness to Richards, he later apologized on television.