Posted on Feb 21, 2014

Heckling happens. Probably it happens to me more often then others as I am a performer but it does happen to everyone. And we all do it, maybe not overtly but we still all participate in heckling in some way almost everyday. It is because people as a whole are snarky and mean. Individuals are nice but the group is mean.

An extreme example of heckling happened to me this last weekend. I was street performing in downtown Greeley(which you should come and watch on Fridays…just saying), and this gentlemen had had a little bit to drink. One of the highlights of my show is that I juggle fire. This is because fire equals tips and tips equal me purchasing new toys. I build this up a lot during my show to get people excited. This gentleman wasn’t happy with me juggling fire suggesting instead that I juggle grenades. I mentioned that unfortunately that juggling grenades was frowned upon by the local police so I couldn’t do it. He mumbled something involving him having an Ak-47 and whatever.

Now a normal person may have been nervous with the basic threat of violence. And now I realize that what he said wasn’t cool. What I did instead was push back. Not saying anything mean or rude but basically telling him that the people weren’t there to watch him, though if he had a show I would be happy to stop mine and allow him to perform. He spluttered a little bit and then sat silent for a while.

What I did was bring the spotlight to him. Most people think they are hilarious add drinking to that and you get a perfect storm. By putting the spotlight on him he was forced to face the blunt force that is the general public. Most people don’t want this. In fact if you aren’t expecting this it is hard to react in a way that doesn’t make you look like an idiot.

I figured that I had silenced him for the remainder of the show. Unfortunately I underestimated the amount of alcohol he had consumed as well as his need for attention. At one point during the show he yelled that I should do the splits while juggling. What? It was weird. Then he proceeded to get up and drop into the splits. Even more weird. This showed me that he was ready for the big time. He now had to be part of the show. I had to get him on my side in order to be able to finish the show.

Luckily it was about time for the finale. I cut the Diabolo bit short and moved on to the torches. I set up the rola-bola, got the torches dipped in fuel and asked for a lighter(knowing full well that he had one). He said he had one and brought it up. I let him light the torches while I held them. Thanked him, got the crowd to applaud him and sent him back to the audience. He was now invested in the trick/performance. I did my bit with torches and was finished.

While collecting my tips he approached and dropped a five in the hat, said that he was ex-military and was glad to help out with my show. I thanked him for helping me with the torches and moved on. I had converted a potential trouble maker into a fan simply by acknowledging him and making him part of the show.

Truthfully that is the trick. In life when someone is up in your business it is important to make the part of what they want to be part of and not alienate them. If, instead of including the dude, I had laid into him I could have had a problem. I would have made an enemy that could have spent his whole evening following me around making performing hard. This isn’t easy to do.

But how do you do this? In a business setting you can do this by asking for feedback from people who are constantly second guessing you or making you crazy. You don’t have to do what they say but they will fill more included if you ask for their opinion or just ask how things are going. In life in general it all goes back to the golden rule. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Simple.