STEALING FROM YOUR AUDIENCE – Bo in the trenches by Bo Gerard

This article is NOT about art of pick-pocketing, although it is a worthy art to master, as an addition to your stage show. What I AM going to talk about is using lines or ideas that audience members suggest to you. Well, they might not actually suggest these tidbits, but they might reveal these gems to you while they are reacting to your act – if you are listening!

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I am ALWAYS listening to my audience while I am performing. A reaction from a certain area of the audience might help me pick my next onstage assistant. Or what I hear might inform me as to how the audience is doing, either attention-span-wise, or material-wise. This is very helpful in helping me determine how to proceed with the show. And occasionally an audience member might say something that enhances my patter, and I may incorporate that idea into the act.

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For instance: In my walk-around I do a bit where I ask the person who has chosen a card, NOT to think of the 4 of spades, which was used (forced) earlier in the act, but to only think of their chosen card, which I place face down in their hand. While I am trying to break their concentration by showing them the 4 of spades and telling them not to think of it, I shoot and aside to another spectator. I tell him, “You think that’s easy? For the next 10 seconds, you try not to think of a Giraffe!” When he immediately fails, I say, “You know a Giraffe can go his whole life without thinking about you!”

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Then I turn to the first spectator and say, “What are you thinking”. They usually say their chosen card. Sometimes they fumble, and say the 4 of spades, but one time the person said, “I’m thinking of a Giraffe holding a four of spades!”. Well that’s GOLD! The next day I asked my artistic wife, Gretchen, to paint me a picture of a giraffe holding a 4 of spades in his mouth on a blank faced card. From then on, I made sure that the Giraffe/4 of spades was the one that ended up in the spectators hand. I could never have thought of that on my own.

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Another time I was telling a short joke between tricks at a Christmas function. I presented the family audience with a holiday riddle. I said, “If athletes gets athletes foot, what do astronauts get?” Now the answer is mistletoe, but the 6-year-old I had on stage said, “ASTEROIDS”. After the audience stopped laughing for 10 seconds, I said, “That’s a better answer! I guess penguins get Polaroids”. And I have been telling that story at holiday jobs ever since. Thanks for the help, my beloved audience. I will keep listening!

CONTRACT-SHUN? – Bo in the trenches by Bo Gerard

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Contracts can be a pain, but they also do a lot of good work for you if you’re a contract laborer. (Contraction, Labor; OK that’s enough with the child birth references.)

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Some performers would much rather avoid issuing contracts. Creating, sending, waiting for signed replies, amending, filing; all of this seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth sometimes. And it takes time to create a good contract, and then clients will ask for changes, or not read them, or not return signed replies. So, why do we do it?

So here is the short list of why you need a contract:

• To have something to refer to when a client asks you to do stuff you didn’t initially quote for. Fail to include everything, and you can end up putting in a lot more work than you are getting paid for.

• To protect yourself in the case that you need to cancel the project. What happens if you get sick or have to go out of town for an emergency. (it happens).

• To protect yourself if the client decides to cancel the project. You put in a lot of work already, you deserve to get paid whether they use that work or not.

• To ensure you get paid, when you are supposed to get paid, for the full amount that is agreed upon.

• To look pro and have your clients take you seriously! Most clients will think you don’t know what you are doing if you don’t have a contract, and they’ll be scared that they aren’t protected either if there isn’t one.

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Of course, if your client does cancel or break the contract, you still might not get paid. It all comes down to how much of the contract the client is willing to honor. You are likely not going to take them to court. That’s why you should get a 50% non-refundable deposit for big jobs or high demand dates like holidays.

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In my forty years in the business, I have only had a handful of issues regarding payment and cancellations. I do believe that, as much trouble as they are, that contracts generally improve your dealings with clients, and are worth it in the end.