Te Spectator Lies

It can happen, and I think it happens frequendy. A spectator says he knows how the trick is done, while in fact he has no clue. He is actually lying about it!

It's not difficult to understand why some people do this. Sometimes people have fragile egos. They wish to be perceived as smart and difficult to fool. This situation can at times be recognized: The spectator says he understands the trick, but doesn't explain it to the rest of the group. Instead, he assumes a knowing air and pretends he doesn't wish to divulge the secret for your sake. Often these people will smile at you in a conspiratorial way, as if the two of you have a secret bond.

At other times such spectators might call out any method that flies into their heads. The method is never given much thought, because the spectator isn't trying to solve the trick; he's busy coping with his inferiority problems! This explains such simple absurdities as: "It's done with mirrors," or "It went up his sleeve." Again, the declaration is usually accompanied by an air of "Of course I know all this stuff."

And it can occasionally happen that a spectator lies about knowing your secret, then throws out a method off the top of his head that, by sheer accident, happens to be correct! In this case, as far as the spectator himself is concerned, in his own mind it amounts to the same thing as proposing a totally absurd method, since he knows he has no clue and is bragging for effect.

What can we do about lying spectators? I believe the only thing you can do to prevent people from lying is to remove from your magic any sense of intellectual threat, any suggestion of "I can do something you can't." Try to step around the inferiority complexes in your audiences. Definitely avoid being a smart aleck. By doing this, you won't encourage this type of lying, because the audience won't feel challenged. It's impossible to stop some people from lying about these things, but a non-confrontational attitude on your part will greatly diminish their ranks.

But what about those pitiful sorts who feel they simply must lie to inflate their image? You will eventually meet John Nuisance, a nasty fellow, and June Jejune, his equally boorish cousin, who lie about knowing how your tricks are accomplished, not just once, but repeatedly. Let me give a recent example from my own experience: I was doing the Ambitious Card, and every time I took the signed card and placed it in the middle of the deck, John Nuisance, sitting next to me, would shake his head negatively, as if saying, "That isn't the signed card." So I withdrew the card from the pack and showed its signed face, then replaced it in the center—and again Mr. N shook his head in denial. Not only was this fellow lying, he was becoming a real nuisance. He was purposely disrupting the show and making it difficult to do the routine.

Such behavior, in my opinion, crosses the line where it can be tolerated with good nature. This man was trying to ruin my work and spoil the rest of the groups enjoyment. In my book of show-business diplomacy, war has just been declared.

Now of course I could say to our John, "You don t have the faintest idea what's going on here, so please stop acting like a fool!" However, this frontal assault wouldn't serve me well. I would simply look bad and its doubtful that John would like me much. No, it would be far better and more diplomatic if one of the other spectators would tell John to stop interrupting. Thankfully, in such situations it is surprising how often someone will do just that. John is much more likely to listen to one of his companions. He must, he realizes, spend the rest of the evening with them! And the helpful spectator has saved you from looking bad! Social pressure can be an invaluable tool.

Unfortunately there is not always someone in a group who will come to your rescue. John might be the president of the company or a favored client, making the others in the group reluctant to apply social pressure. Then you must handle the problem yourself. If you can summarily prove that John hasn't the slightest idea how the trick is done, it is possible to put John in his place. When performing the Ambitious Card, for example, I could prove to John that he is wrong by clearly showing him, time after time, that the card going into the deck is really the signed selection. Yet, in doing so I am entering into a direct confrontation with him, which isn't advisable. In addition, rising in such a manner to his challenge may discourage his companions to exercise social pressure, something you dearly desire in such situations.

What I did instead provided me with several pleasing psychological advantages. The third time John shook his head, I didn't show him the card. Instead I showed it to the rest of the group! Now everyone else at the table knew John was wrong. The only way for John to know this was by the reactions of the others! I never showed him the card, but it was obvious to him that the card the others had seen was the signed selection. This made the others laugh a bit, and he felt the laughter was directed at him. Through this tactic, I didn't confront him direcdy. Instead I proved him wrong to the other spectators, who then put John in his place. Automatic social pressure!

The next time someone continues to lie during your show, blurting out, for instance, that you have something hidden in your hand, respond the first time or two by showing him that he is wrong; but after that don't show the troublemaker your empty hand; show it to the others. It is much more effective.

I hope, of course, that you will never abuse this tactic. You must exercise care and judgment in using it, as it's a rather strong way to put someone in his or her place! Only use it in those extreme cases that call for it, cases where a John Nuisance or June Jejune is obviously not a good-natured sort and is behaving badly in a concerted effort to ruin your show.

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