How to Handle Hecklers

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By Chelsea Nichole

If you don’t get a chance to listen to this week’s podcast, or if you just prefer reading over audio, then this review is for you. I sat down with Erik Casey and Sebastian Midtvaage to discuss how they handle hecklers when performing, or more specifically, how they respond to the phrase, “I saw how you did that!” Sebastian had some great practical tips that every magician can start using when doing walk around gigs. One of Erik’s approaches is a bit less practical unless you are willing to really sell his response.

Sebastian uses a couple different techniques when dealing with hecklers. When he is performing for a small group of people at a table and someone says, “I know how you did that” he tends to respond with a smile and says, “Shh.” He doesn’t do it in an aggressive manner but in a playful way as if to say, “I know you know how I did it, but don’t ruin it for everyone else.” His playfulness communicates to that person that they are now a part of the magic, as if they themselves are a magician to. This makes them a part of the trick and keeps the flow of his performance.

Another response he uses if a person is a bit more aggressive in calling him out is to say, “Thanks for letting me know,” and then continues right on in his act. This is done very politely and he says when he uses it, it is often quite disarming for the person since they are not expecting a thank you. Sebastian says that response also stops anyone else from pointing anything out the rest of the time

Lastly, if he is performing a trick and he realizes he flashed the audience and makes eye contact with someone who is about to say something, he will wink at them. Again, the effect is similar to him saying, “shh”, in that the person now feels included and special. They are “in the know” and are helping the magician by not saying anything.

When someone tells Erik they saw how he did it he responds by smiling and saying, “Me too!” and then continues on performing. This is a great response magicians can all use. Another approach Erik uses to people saying they know how he did the trick is, he hands the cards to the person with a big grin and excitedly says, “No way! You know how to do this trick too! That’s awesome. Can you show me how you do it?” He says the only way you can do this is to be over the top excited about meeting another magician and sell that excitement; there cannot be a hint of sarcasm or inauthenticity. “It’s genuine fakeness, if you will,” Erik says. “It’s definitely not something I would recommend but it works for me.”

Sebastian had a great story of time he felt heckled and how his response maintained an important relationship with a customer. He said he was hired by someone to perform for a company party and was told that the CEO loved magic, however he had no idea who the CEO was. So he gets to the party and decides to warm up by performing for a table of teenagers and the venue was quite loud so he started by saying, “If you can’t hear me let me know.” Within ten seconds of performing a young kid across the table says very aggressively, “I can’t hear you!” Sebastian said his first instinct was to respond sarcastically but instead he said, “Thank you for letting me know.” And then for the next trick he moved and performed directly for the kid. Later in the night the company started up speeches and ended it by calling the CEO up. Turns out, the guy that looked like he was only a teen, happened to be the CEO of the company. So disaster avoided.

The overall consensus Erik and Sebastian agreed to, is that whatever you choose to do to handle someone interrupting you or pointing something out, is to be polite so that you never burn any bridges with anyone; you never know who might be your next customer. You also have to find what works for you and your personal style of performance.

If you want to hear more on this topic check out our podcast!

What are your go to responses when being heckled?

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