Please note that the volunteer is always selected and briefed prior to the performance! You must never select this individual during the actual performance. The person you select must be mature, serious and above all, familiar with firearms, particularly revolvers. Check with the people who hired you. Be overly zealous in getting the right person. I can't stress this point strongly enough. I usually try for a security guard or policeman. Failing that, I try for a hunter. If necessary, I'll settle for someone who is familiar with firearms. Once I've been introduced to the gentleman (never use a woman; you will appear to be insensitive and the audience will let you know it) I briefly explain what will transpire on stage. This advance preparation ensures that everything will run smoothly. It also eliminates giving time consuming instructions to the volunteer on stage.
The other reason for talking to the volunteer in advance of the performance is, quite frankly, to scare the hell out of him. Once you begin to brief him, explain that he's going to assist you in an entertaining, but dangerous demonstration of Russian
Roulette. State, that as long as he does exactly what he's told to do - nothing more and nothing less - the demonstration is perfectly safe. However, it is vital that he understands that your safety will be in his hands and that there is no danger provided he does exactly as instructed.
Begin by making sure that all of the pistols are completely empty. State that first, he'll be asked to spin the turntable containing three pistols. Show him the turntable and let him spin it. Cover the stand with the black cloth and let him spin the stand again. State that once the stand has stopped spinning, he's to select any one of the three pistols, lift it from the stand beneath the black cloth and hold the cloth covered pistol approximately six inches beneath your outstretched hand. Allow him to lift the empty pistol from the stand under the cloth. Explain that you will have your back turned throughout to ensure there's no way you can see which pistol he has selected.
Further, state that this selection procedure will be done, twice. After he has selected the second pistol, he will be asked to cock the pistol. Ask if he understands how to do this. Regardless of his answer, proceed to show him and have him practice using the empty pistol. Demonstrate cocking the pistol by pulling the hammer all the way back, until it's locked in the firing position. Allow the volunteer to cock the pistol. As he does so, remind him that the hammer must be pulled all the way back until it locks into position.
Now tell him that when he's instructed to do so, he's to place the barrel of the revolver near your head. At this stage there's no sense in scaring him too badly by telling him he'll be placing the muzzle of the pistol in your ear. Continue by saying that on the count of three, he's to pull the trigger. However, if all goes well, the pistol he'll be holding will be empty. To allow the audience to hear the "click" when the hammer strikes an empty chamber, he's to wait until one second after you've said "three" before he actually pulls the trigger. Now, calmly reassure the volunteer that there's nothing to worry about as long as he does precisely what he's told. Nothing more - nothing less!
Be sure the volunteer has practiced cocking the pistol and pulling the trigger. To sum it up, you want the spectator to be slightly frightened, but completely informed about what he's being asked to do. This advance preparation will help ensure the volunteer will do exactly as instructed and not deviate in any way.
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