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What I like most about performing comedy magic is that I get instantaneous audience feedback. If they like the joke, gag, or the funny magic, audience members show their appreciation by laughing or applauding.
As you well know, laughter is an unmistakable measuring stick of one’s effectiveness as a performer. I don’t have to pass feedback forms for the audience to fill out after the show to know how well I did. The moment people burst into laughter or meet my efforts with sepulchral silence, I know in real-time if I sucked or soared.
Whether the audience roar as one with laughter, or a few a of them snickers to produce sporadic sounds of amusement, that kind of response brings me to a state of altered consciousness comparable to what some hallucinogens can do. I have no way of knowing that, of course, because I don’t take hallucinogens, alcohol, nor prohibitive drugs. I only get my high from spontaneous audience response like laughter and applause.
Usually, my show’s audience-feedback mechanism is pretty straightforward. They laugh, then I’m on a roll. They keep quiet, then I suck.
However, in some rare cases, the situation is not as straightforward. A case in point: during my show at the posh Baguio Country Club last Thursday, 99% of the audience were laughing. Curiously, however, there’s one person in the front table who did not.
The show was before an audience of doctors. My booker was ADP Pharma, which hired me to entertain its clients with magic during the launching of a pharmaceutical product.
In that particular show, I thought I was on a roll. The audience was laughing more, harder and longer than most audiences I had in the past–except for this one guy in the table nearest to the stage.
The audience would roar with laughter, and all he did was sit there unmoved, his eyes as cold as a cadaver’s, his face as stony as the face of Rizal‘s monument.
The contrast between him and the rest of the audience was so great that, to tell you frankly, he got into my nerves.
I broke out gag after gag, dropped one funny line after another, and the audience lapped them all up. But this fellow kept boring me with his cold eyes and displaying to me his expressionless, granite face. He reminded me of a zombie I saw in a horror movie about the undead.
To say his face and reaction was unnerving is to understate his effect on me.
After the show, I went to the hotel toilet to change into ordinary clothes. And who do you think I bumped into when I was on my way out of the toilet?
You guessed it. The zombie, expressionless doctor in the front table.
This time he was smiling like a Cheshire cat. He grabbed my hand as if he just found a long-lost friend, squeezed it, and said, “Congratulations. Great show. You’re so funny. I have a great evening, and I can’t figure out how you did your tricks.”
I was stunned—so stunned that I have to write about it and tell you about the incident.
I have no explanation for the weird reaction. If he loved the show, why did he wait until it’s over to tell me how he felt about it in the toilet? Why couldn’t he just laugh and applaud DURING the show like the rest of the audience did. The subtlest reaction from him would have been a big boost to my confidence.
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