I like to think of myself as a pretty nice guy, who treats spectators kindly and respectfully, and tries to avoid aggravation at all costs. But sometimes people just can’t take a good mentalist. The only way to really enjoy this type of performance art is to let go and suspend your disbelief a bit. At it’s best, magic and mentalism is a well executed piece of theater. So it always strikes me as odd on the rare occasion that somebody feels the need to directly challenge me in a show. At a corporate event, there isn’t much that you can do about it, except smile and grin. Fortunately, I’ve NEVER been heckled at a corporate event :).
Flash back to 2013, when I was working a week at the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it is an upscale private, invitation-only, 21+ club that caters to magicians and the lucky members of the general public who can score a guest pass. Dinner, drinks, and magic — it’s definitely a fun night that you’ll remember for a long time.
On this particular Wednesday night, I was working with my good friend and colleague Nathan Gibson, performing a two man show in the Peller Theater downstairs. The room seats about 70, making for a nice, intimate crowd. The second routine involves a spectator’s dollar bill, and I guess the serial number from across the room.
Almost as quickly as I can have him pull out a bill, he informs me that he is going to make this “difficult.” A performer really only has two choices here. The smart choice is to pick somebody else. I went for the challenge. “Give Mark a round of applause as he comes onstage!” BIG MISTAKE. I correctly guess the number, and Mark gets angry. “Do it again!”
CARDINAL MAGICIAN RULE #1 – NEVER REPEAT A TRICK! THE FIRST TIME, THEY ARE LOOKING TO ENJOY IT. THE SECOND TIME, THERE IS NO SURPRISE AND THEY JUST WANT TO FIGURE IT OUT.
No such luck, I politely inform him. To which he responds “If it’s real magic, you could do it again.”
CARDINAL SPECTATOR RULE #1 – SORRY TO BURST YOUR BUBBLE, BUT I’M NOT TRULY A WIZARD.
Without breaking a beat, he yells across the room to his wife, “Honey, grab another $20.” She declines, slightly embarrassed, and now he gets REALLY angry. “I said, grab another $20!” I’m uncomfortable, and worse, my entire audience is uncomfortable. So I get a round of applause to send him back, and he responds “No. Do it again.” To which I responded with a line that I hope I never have to use again:
“I HAVE A BETTER IDEA. WHY DON’T YOU JUST SHAKE MY HAND AND SIT DOWN.”
He begrudgingly retreats to his seat in the back of the room, and at this point I just couldn’t help myself:
“SOMEBODY’S WON’T BE GETTING ANY TONIGHT!”
And then one of the greatest moments of my career happens. He yanks his wife up by the arm, yells “Honey, let’s go!,” and storms out in a fit of rage to the rowdy applause of the crowd. There is literally no better outcome than causing a heckler to storm out on their own volition!
My closing remarks for the show:
“MY NAME IS KEVIN VINER, AND I HOPE THAT YOU ENJOYED YOUR EVENING. IF YOU HAPPEN TO SEE MARK ANYWHERE AROUND THE CLUB TONIGHT, IT SEEMS LIKE HE NEEDS SOME AFFECTION. DO ME A FAVOR — GIVE HIM A BIG HUG. GOOD NIGHT!”