Assaulting the Audience, a How To

To tease, or not to tease, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler for people to suffer
The slings and jokes of impotent aggression,
Or to take arms against a sea of hack lines,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep.

I love interactive comedy. I’m good at it. I love breaking the barrier many people have while watching a show by addressing them directly. I get laughs, and I get the attention and smiles from those I choose to pick on.

Invariably, the best shows I do- the shows which I feel best about, where the audience gives the best feedback (whether verbally or monetarily), where the show really works– are the shows where I take the time really messing with people. I leave the stage feeling exalted- but dirty.

Typically, I disapprove of magicians making fun of their audiences. Or more accurately, I disapprove of how most magicians make fun of their audiences. It’s a filthy and hypocritical position that borders on elitism. I’m well aware that I don’t have all the answers, but I feel there is a greater precision to my playful attacks. I feel my more honed aim assures that nobody feels worse for wear having crossed the path of Ryan Kane.

Here are some of my rules for assaulting my audience.

Don’t Make Them Feel Uncomfortable

I cut the “write your phone number” gags out of my show long ago. I don’t put guys in situations with homosexual contexts for an assured laugh at their expense. I don’t insult people’s jewelry or (lack of) shuffling skills.

I put alot of effort into this, particularly with any audience member which I bring onstage with me.

And I don’t insult people’s intelligence, directly or indirectly. The response to my show is applause and laughter, not to feel stupid.


If You Start It, I Will Finish It

If you don’t clap, I will call you out. If you are on your cell phone during a show, I will address you. If you heckle me, I will destroy you.

These are infractions, errors on the part of the audience member, which I feel justify a little teasing. Are they minor crimes? Absolutely! But they do reflect choices the audience member made and that provides a springboard for audience interaction. They made the first move.

I’m not picking on Guy In Front for no reason. Guy In Front didn’t clap at my amazing magic. Not clapping is an action. If my character takes offense from Guy In Front’s lack of applause, I have created conflict and there is great humor in how my character and Guy In Front’s character resolve the situation.

I may be wrong about this. I probably am. But it’s where I am now.


Positive Trumps Negative

I try to balance out any negative or harassing interactions with positive ones. I also try to frame any “scolding” jokes with a positive twist.

Audience members who clap and laugh are rewarded by being hailed as role models, or being invited to attend every show.

I feel this makes my show better, and it makes myself feel better. It’s a carbon footprint sort of idea, and we all know that carbon footprints are bullshit (Thanks Penn & Teller). But I am a believer in positive reenforcement over negative reenforcement.

In closing, I’m somewhat ashamed that my work furthers the cliché that the magician is someone who messes with people. That’s only a few steps above top hat and tails in my mind.

But you have to use what you’re given, and this is the show people seem to want to see. The best I can do is deliver the best show that I can, and feel good about doing it.

When I stick to these guidelines, I feel at peace and the audience gets the show they want.

Know somebody who needs to hear this? Please pass it along to them!

Have your own insights? Please comment below!

Did you really read this far down? Thank you so much, you are awesome!

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