Andy at The Jerx (previously) describes a surprisingly effective tactic for putting a heckler in his place during the performance of a magic trick.
The heckler was an "alpha male" who tried to "knock [Andy] down a peg or two" by insisting that he, the heckler, be allowed to shuffle the deck after Andy had it set up. Andy let him do so, then, when the trick failed, said, "Ah, It's okay, man. It happens…," "treating him like we were about to have sex but he couldn't get it up…" "Don't worry about it."
By making it seem like the magic wouldn't perform for the heckler because of a deficiency in the heckler's character (and not because the heckler had blown the trick with an additional shuffle), Andy believes he didn't just turn the tables on the heckler, he also helped "establish the idea that when things go right, it's, in part, due to the spectator as well," so when he performed a trick for someone else, it seemed all the more magical.
As with all magician's lore, I want to figure out how to connect this with prose fiction, the way a storyteller can make the reader overlook or forgive problems with the story by enlisting them to think that the successes of the story come from their skill as a reader.
He was expecting me to be embarrassed and instead I was consoling him. "It's no big deal," I said. "These sorts of things don't work with everyone."
"Actually, you would be great for this one," I said, turning towards another person at the table. "Let's try it. This will be fun." And now I'm off having fun with the other people.
Meat-head dude kind of hung back for a minute, and when he reintegrated himself into what was going on a few moments later his attitude had shifted. He wasn't exactly super enthusiastic but he had dropped the annoying shit he had been doing.
I can't say I know for sure the psychology of why this worked. But I think what is happening is this: When someone is genuinely antagonistic to you and your performance then, on some level, they probably want to see you fail. So by failing outright and showing just how little it affects you, you essentially remove that tactic from their arsenal. They're not going to take you down by screwing up your trick, because you apparently don't care that much one way or the other. In fact, your language suggests that if anyone should feel bad, they should.
By lightly consoling your heckler when the trick fails you are also helping establish the idea that when things go right, it's, in part, due to the spectator as well. Which is a good idea to establish.
The Amateur Magician's Heckler Stopper [Andy/The Jerx]
(Image: Magic Decks)