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Hello, Sir Leodini,

I have a question for you.  I am a magician. Do you agree with me that even though you are a good entertainer, there are always some types of audience that have no reaction to what you are doing? Even though you show them your best act, they still don’t care at all.

I experienced this type of crowd three times out of 10 gigs.

Here’s an example: I always use the finger chopper/dissecto for adult members of the audience in the comedy interactive portion of my show. The patter is good, and there’s a lot of showmanship. Most of the time I get a good reaction to this trick in the form of an enthusiastic applause. Recently, however, I’ve noticed some of my audiences are stunned to silence while watching my act. As a result, they give out no noticeable reactions.

Again my question: is there really a type of audience that is so stumped by the tricks they see that they are unable to applaud or give any indications they like what they just saw? Or is the lack of reactions an indictment of my show’s lack of entertainment value?

I hope to hear from you soon! Thanks and God Bless!!!

Pao2day

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Dear Pao2day,

At the rate questions are thrown my way these past recent days, I feel like magic’s Dear Abby. If that is the case, let me share with you my brand of uncommon common sense that has made the Dear Abby column such an enjoyable read for many years.

Yes, the scenario you described is familiar. I have my fair share of audiences like that.

PhotobucketI still can remember a harrowing experience at one birthday party. Despite my best effort, I had a total absence of audience response. My best laugh lines brought round-eyed glances but totally zero laughter. I unloaded joke after joke, but they all bombed. There were so many jokes that bombed that I felt like a suicide bomber.

However, after the idea of committing hara-kiri in public crossed my mind, the audience eventually laughed at my funny lines and clapped their hands. They became alive toward the end of my show.

Funny that many magicians who cannot elicit a smile from the audience while doing a thimble manipulation would attribute the non-reaction to stunned silence.

PhotobucketBut what is stunned silence?

As I understand the term, it is the silence with which an audience greets a magic performance that has thoroughly amazed them. The are so bewildered by the magical effect that they are left speechless and sent into catatonic state. They are paralyzed and unable to react. Astonishment immobilizes them to the point of their losing the ability to laugh and applaud.

Oddly, stunned silence happens only in magic shows.  It is a phenomenon that so bewilders me that I’m left speechless and stranded in catatonic state. Stunned silence stuns me.

You see, other live performers work for reactions. They leave audiences rolling in the aisle with laughter. The get standing ovations. They make girls scream with delight, children yell with excitement, and members of the audience with happy feet dancing on the floor while riding an invisible Korean horse. Some performers even make their audiences cry, if that’s the reaction they want to produce.

But they never leave audiences in silence or in a limbo of non-reaction. Never. Except in magic.

Too many times, stunned silence has been invoked by magicians unable to entertain their audience. It is a convenient explanation for why the audience did not laugh or clap their hands to reward their Color Changing Silk trick.

Here’s the brutal truth: there is no such thing as stunned silence.

If your audience turns into motionless Walking Dead after you vanish a red silk handkerchief with your thumb tip, and they greet your tricks with complete silence, and the silence stretches into the night long after you have gone home, that is not stunned silence. That is a sign your show flopped.

PhotobucketCalling an audience’s non-reaction a stunned silence will console you a bit and comfort your bruised ego. However, the truth of the matter is, silence, if it’s permanent, always indicates a failure on the part of the performer.

A genuine stunned silence is like this: you bring onstage a tiger, and with a wave of your magic wand, the tiger turns into an elephant.

That’s an astounding feat of magic. The audience will be speechless for several seconds. But then, they will start to rustle in their seats. They will murmur their incomprehension. Some will even swear and use the name of the Lord in vain. And then you will hear a ripple of applause that rises to a crescendo and engulfs the room. After a few more seconds, the audience rises to its feet to give you a prolonged standing ovation.

You see, a genuine stunned silence is like a tsunami.  First, the sea recedes for a mile, and then it comes back in big, overwhelming waves.

So as a performer, be wise and discerning. You must know the difference between non-reaction and stunned silence.

Non-reaction is a total absence of noise and activity from the audience. It stretches into the night without an end in sight.

Stunned silence, however, is silence initially that grows to enthusiastic reactions like roars of laughter and tsunamis of applause.

PhotobucketNow you are wiser. Ain’t you glad you asked Leodini a question?

Stay magical,

Leodini

www.leodini.com

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