Stop Hecklers With One Word!

stop hecklersI’ve dealt with enough hecklers over the years. When a heckler would say something, my brain would work overtime trying to find a great comeback. However, after years of dealing with this, I came to a very interesting realization. There’s one guaranteed way to stop hecklers. It all centers around the fact that hecklers can’t be heard by most of the audience. That’s right, even though that heckler was loud and clear to you, most of your audience didn’t even hear sound. Why is that?

Most of your audience can’t hear the heckler.

Why is this? For one, the heckler doesn’t have a mic, and in all seriousness, they don’t want one! Most of the hecklers I’ve interacted with are generally wanting some attention from the people they’re with, but certainly not from other audience members and most definitely not from you, the performer. In other words, they’re trying to avoid the spotlight.

Two, their mouth is aimed right at you because whatever the heckler is saying will typically be directed toward you. Think about when you’re at an event where there’s a Q&A. Ever have a presenter not repeat an audience question and you have absolutely no idea what the presenter is referring to in his answer? Well, same thing with a heckler. Unless you repeat what the heckler said, most of your audience will have no clue anything was even said.

And three, they’re usually not talking loud. Like I said, most hecklers only want some attention from the people they’re with. I remember performing for a small group of people one time and a guy was being a pretty big distraction to the girl he was with. She was trying to enjoy the show, but every time I did a trick, he would whisper something to her, obviously some kind of an explanation he put together with duct tape in order to look cool. Well, it wasn’t just distracting to the girl. It was distracting to others and to me as well.

So, what do you do?

First, if the heckler is so quiet that no one is distracted, the best thing is to just ignore. Acting like they don’t exist will either cause them to abort their mission or speak loud enough to distract others. And because the heckler is trying their best to avoid the spotlight, the absolute worst thing you could do is turn the spotlight on them.

So what is the word to stop almost all hecklers? The word is…”Pardon?” When the audience hears the heckler say something that he/she thinks is clever (ie. **inaudible mumbling**), I stop what I’m doing, look right at them and say, “Pardon?” Every eye in the room has now shifted from me to them. This stops hecklers in their tracks. They will literally look like a deer in the headlights. Over 90% of the time, the heckler will immediately say something to the effect of, “Nevermind.” My immediate reply (with a smile!!!) is, “That’s what I thought.” It’s not too threatening, I’m smiling when I say it, and it shows the heckler that I’m in control. Typically, that’s the last thing I’ll hear from them.

Specifically for magicians…

I think one of the biggest problems for us is that magic can come off as a challenge. And while many magic acts don’t present it as a challenge, some of them do. Therefore, the guard is already up. I think the fastest way to disarm those people is to get them laughing right out of the gate. Sometimes, the way to do that is a corny joke. That gets a message across that you’re not taking it too seriously and that you’re not there to make them feel stupid. I present my show almost from the perspective of, “Let me show you some things I think are cool.” And that really is my show…stuff I genuinely think is cool…NOT stuff I bought just to fool you.

Bonus Idea

This one is so unfair to a heckler, it makes me laugh. If the heckler says something and it just happens to be one of those rare times that it is clever, I will say at least one more sentence before I turn to them and say, “Pardon?” The reason is, if they repeat it, the moment has already passed and what they’re saying is usually so far out of context, the audience believes the person has lost their mind. So what do I do at that moment? I repeat what the person said so everyone can hear it. That’s the equivalent of gluing their mouth shut.

Always remember…

Remember that your job is to entertain the people and get as many of them as possible on your side. I rarely have hecklers anymore in my show, but when I do, my job is to try to win them over. Yes, I need to stop hecklers, but that doesn’t mean embarrassing them. If I put down their looks and intelligence, I’ve completely lost them with no chance of ever getting them back. Respect your hecklers and you just might win a few of them over. It’s a great feeling.

Check out some videos of my live show.