A distraught Michael Fernando tagged me on his Facebook account with a question. It’s a long question, so bear with me for writing a long answer.
Basically, he is asking what a magician can do when performing for unruly children. He has been performing magic since 1996, but he says he has never experienced performing for an audience comprising uncontrollable, misbehaving, heckling children—until last Friday’s show.
The way he writes it on his post, I imagine the children walked all over him like zombies in The Walking Dead, ate him, spat his flesh on the floor, and walked all over him again.
His troubles started before the show began. The children, forming a raiding party, rummaged through his props while he was still setting up his stuff. In the process, they discovered some of the props’ secrets. If there’s such a thing as pre-show heckling, this was it.
When time came for him to perform, Michael made his entrance to a shout of “boo” from one girl aged about 12-years old. This girl became the children’s leader. Every now and then she would stand up, and several other kids would also stand up, did things to hamper the show and annoy the performer.
She grabbed props, made distracting comments, exposed tricks, and spilled water on the props. Every time this girl acted up, some of the other kids would follow what she did. It was synchronized heckling. She and her cohorts made performing difficult, if not impossible.
The awful part is that no parent intervened to control the children and restore order.
Michael’s problem covers the whole gamut of performing a children’s magic show. It started before the show began, went on for the entire performance, and it lasted until the final trick of his show.
Before I address the specifics of Michael Fernando’s problem, let me state again, for the nth time, my position about hecklers.
First, I DO NOT DEBATE WITH HECKLERS. I said it before and let me say it again: 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.
If you are serious about how to handle hecklers, read my full post here: Haven’t I Said Before? You Will Lose a Debate with a Heckler.
Second, I DO NOT INSULT THE HECKLER. Sure, some performers, in their state of helplessness, would strike back at the hecklers with peppery comebacks and insults, but unless you have Don Rickles‘ talent or you have the comedic ability of motor-mouthed insult humorist Vice Ganda, you would do better not trading insults with a heckler.
Again this is especially true when the heckler is a child. Your insults will probably just fly in over the child’s head, but the parents will take them seriously.
Read them, study them, and take them to your heart, and you will gain a doctorate in hecklerology (a term I just coined to sound erudite). The profound ideas contained in those articles were products of the mind of a zen master named Leodini writing at his best. Meaning, while he is under the influence of 1.5 ml. Coke.
While you are reading them all up, let me cobble a few paragraphs to answer Michael’s Facebook post. I’ll publish my thoughts as soon as I don’t feel lazy anymore.