Success can be harmful if looked at improperly. Yesterday, I lucked out and drew the biggest crowd I’d ever drawn in New Orleans, breaking my record high hat by $20 (not counting the show where I got my first $100 bill). I felt fantastic afterwards, the panoramic photo I tried to take couldn’t even capture half of the circle.
Yesterday and today I learned that going from doing the best show of your career into the next show(s) can mess with you.
When you’re starting a show, you are the crazy guy yelling on the street, faced with the enormous task of disarming and charming a bunch of strangers. When you finish, you are the center of a swirling mass of energy, attention, appreciation and group consciousness. But after that crowd of people finishes complimenting, thanking, and paying you, they go their separate ways. Then as soon as you go to start your next show, you’re right back to being the crazy guy yelling on the street.
One moment you’re surrounded by a hundred people preoccupied with loving you, and the next moment you can’t quite convince a mother to let her kids watch you start the next show. That can be a trip.
In areas where the foot traffic is fairly slow, the importance of that first group of 7-10 can not be overemphasized. If there is nothing happening in the streets around you, a group of 10 people can peak a lot of interest, especially if you have them clapping or yelling. Something I’ve started doing on slower days is actively timing the beginning of my show, poaching larger groups and convincing them into cocreating the illusion of an audience. It can make a world of difference when starting a show with minimal materials.
But… Let’s say you have a crowd of 10. One group of four, and two father/mother/child groups. Only one member of the group of four is actually interested, the other three have been dragged up to the rope against their better judgement because of the pleas from their friend. These guys become distracted, looking around, checking their phones, and mentally compiling their grocery list. The other seven audience members are attentive and involved.
It’s counterintuitive, but in my opinion you’re better off losing all three of the uninvolved individuals in order to maintain the integrity of the show. Yes, from a distance they still increase the headcount of your crowd, but they are very unconvincing human decoys when seen up close. A passerby glancing at the show would see that about a third of the crowd was not having fun, which negatively impacts the likelihood of them joining the show. A group of seven smiling and focused people is much more powerful than an incomplete group of 10.
You can try your damnedest to win them over, but sometimes those people are just best let go. If despite your earnest attempts to open them up, they continue communicating to you that they’re not willing to put forth a sufficient amount of their energy into the act of cocreating, then you might as well save your energy and focus entirely on those that are willing to receive your gift.
More often than not, if you create strong moments of magic with those that are sharing their time with you, the reactions of those involved can win back the attention of the preoccupied.
One of the things I love the most about this job is that no matter what the outcome, every day I learn more and more about myself, others, and the art I’m so very passionate about.
I’ve started selling possessions and reinvesting in my machine. I’m excited to start traveling again =)
I’ll leave you with a bit of humor forwarded to me by fellow New Orleans magician Alexander