CUSTOMER ASSISTANTS - PLEASE HOLD / by Bo Gerard

Not a misspelling, but a reminder - followed by an ardent plea.  The audience members you bring up on stage are not only your guests, but also your CUSTOMERS – and so you should HOLD them closely to your heart and treat them with respect.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun with them while they’re up there, or even push them out of their comfort zone a bit, but I have seen assistants truly embarrassed on stage by some performers, and even I myself once became the butt of another performers humiliating humor.

This embarrassing behavior is not limited to small time acts.  I once witnessed a national juggling/unicycling act that not only ridiculed his assistant’s appearance and personality, but physical abused him for about 7 minutes, while attempting to mount his giraffe unicycle.  It was not the usual, mild mistreatment we’ve all seen from some performers, but a strategically planned attack!  It was so brutal that I thought the assistant had to be a plant.  But that was not the case.   This poor schlemiel will NEVER agree to go up a stage with anyone, EVER AGAIN. 

One time I was attending Monday Night Magic audience in NYC, and the magician, who will remain un-named, chose ME as an assistant.  We had never met, and I am sure he did not know I was a performer.  He decided to do some verbal "comedy" that involved making me look and sound like idiot.  I know, you’re saying “that couldn’t have been very hard”.   But still!!!  So, why did I play along and let him embarrass me?  It's because the audience came to see HIS show, not an exchange of insulting retorts.  I put the audience’s enjoyment before my own desire to put this guy in his place.

In the corporate-show world, the audience is always more alert and attentive if someone from their group is on stage, so it’s our job not to betray that trust.  Feel out your assistant’s personality, get them laughing and reacting with amazement, make sure you don’t push them TOO FAR out of their comfort zone, and make sure that the audience shows their appreciation for them.  Once you bring an assistant up on stage, they are no longer just an individual; they are now the audiences onstage delegate.  Make sure that their memory of the experience is a great one.  How you make them feel will stay with them long after they have forgotten the tricks you did.