Adult Volunteers

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Grant McSorley
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Montreal

Adult Volunteers

Postby Grant McSorley » May 4th, 2003, 8:45 am

Hi everyone,
I was performing in a show put on by our local SAM assembly last night. It was billed as a family show and held at a church so there were many children, parents and seniors in attendance. My first routine involved the production of a bottle of wine which was then given to my assistant so I needed an adult up on stage with me. I had to ask 3 times before one adult would volunteer to come up. I don't have a lot of stage experience and I was wondering how I could make adults feel more at ease volunteering to assist me.
Thanks for any help,

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Steve Bryant
Posts: 1887
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Ballantine
Location: Bloomington IN

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Steve Bryant » May 4th, 2003, 9:22 am

When possible, and for me this is almost always the case at a dinner-type show or in a bar, I approach any audience volunteers BEFORE the show and ask if they would please assist during the show. I assure them that it will not be embarrassing, and that usually their only responsibility will be to remember a card. Once the show rolls around, they are usually eager to help. (My wife loathes being on stage, and I therefore realize that others may feel this way. I began doing it this way years ago and have never faced a "rejection" since.) In cases where the person hiring me has seen the show, I might ask him for advice as to whom to choose.

Matt R
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Joined: April 25th, 2008, 1:52 pm

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Matt R » May 4th, 2003, 9:28 am

My recommendation is not to ask for volunteers
but to ask someone specifically to help. Walk
over to them if possible, ask their name (let's say it's Bob), say "Nice to meet you Bob", and
get the audience involved by saying "Let's
give Bob a big hand for volunteering." They will
cheer wildly being glad that is not them who
has been selected. Once they have been singled
out and the audience has cheered the potential
volunteer on, there is little chance of backing

You may also talk to someone in the audience
ahead of time, letting them know you will be
asking them to volunteer. This way they have agreed in advance and no problems or delays
occur when you need them.

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Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby troublewit » May 4th, 2003, 3:38 pm

I like to follow the advice and example of Magicians who never open with an audience volunteer effect. Rene Lavand does a "my credentials" effect, and I always try to establish myself to an audience as someone who is competent and friendly before asking for volunteers. Especially in a venue where you are not known to the audience members. People have been subjected to all sorts of demeaning and belittling roles as "volunteers" in the past, and many are wary (with good reason) of offering themselves as a sacrifice for the Magician's frail ego. If you can establish yourself as someone worthy of their trust, you will likely earn their cooperation and willingness. It's also nice to ask in advance (when possible) for assistance in order to save "dead air" time when requesting volunteers.
Christopher Klocek
337 N Wood St
Griffith, In 46319

Brian Marks
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Location: Nyack, NY

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Brian Marks » May 4th, 2003, 6:43 pm

Usually adults are hesitant to get up on stage. Stage fright takes over. You must ask someone speifically to help.

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Pete Biro
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Location: Hollyweird

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Pete Biro » May 4th, 2003, 7:55 pm

Johnny Thompson worked with me when I went into his Nevada Review show... revising material so that instead of having anyone come onto the stage, they could do what was needed without leaving their seat.

This is for a stage review type show... you should avoid bringing anyone onstage unless you have sorted out something with them before hand.

In a more social, cabaret, church, dinner setting it is ok to use volunteers as they are usually all known to one another... but again... you really need to sort this out in advance.
Stay tooned.


Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Guest » May 4th, 2003, 9:04 pm

I agree, never ask for a volunteer, ask an individual person. By firm but if they REALLY don't want to, let them say no.

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Joined: January 31st, 2009, 1:36 pm

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Kendrix » May 5th, 2003, 6:24 pm

I agree with Steve Bryant. I stroll around before the show or if time is a problem I let my assistant scope out volunteers. Trust me, no men say no to her.

Brad Henderson
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Location: austin, tx

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Brad Henderson » May 5th, 2003, 7:53 pm

First, we should ask why they don't want to join us. Often it is because they don't trust us, or they don't trust MAGICIANS per se. A "credentials" effect, as recommended, can work to overcome this, but I think developing a rapport with your audience prior to enlisting volunteers goes a long way. If you ever go to a Wayne Newton concert, he comes out into the audience during his first song and shakes everybody's hand. From that moment on, the crowd relates to him as something more than a superstar. The fourth wall is broken. I think we as magicians can do that through sincere communication with our audiences.

But, sometimes the venue is intimidating. When I worked nightclubs, this always diffused the situation:

Make eye contact, ask their name, then say, "Please give XXX a round of applause as they join me onstage." I also usually added a compliment immediatly after getting their name.

Here's the key. As soon as you say onstage, turn around and walk over to your prop or to address another area of the audience. In other words, do not make further eye contact with the volunteer until they are making their way onto the stage.

That way they will not demure from the situation as they have already accepted the applause.

Now, two caveats: You should read the audience before you select the person. Asking them their name (more specifically, the comfort with which they answer) will tell you a lot about their predisposition to being in front of a group.

Second, you must be nice to them once they decide to help you.

Murray Hatfield
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Joined: May 6th, 2008, 1:06 pm

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Murray Hatfield » May 6th, 2003, 4:25 pm

One thing that I've found effective is to do an effect early in the show where I ask for the help of an audience member but tell them they can remain in their seat. Generally once they know they can stay in their chair they have no problem helping. The routine I do is one that is fun and funny but not at the expense of the helper. It also has a very magical conclusion after which I ask for a round of applause for my audience helper.

In this way I establish right at the start that we are going to have some fun but without causing undue embarassment to anyone who helps me. Later in the show when I ask for someone to join me onstage, I find little or no resistance. They know me, they (hopefully)like me and they know they are safe.


Geno Munari
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Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CA

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Geno Munari » May 7th, 2003, 6:47 am

Actually the best way to get a woman on stage is to tell them that you need a helper for the "Bra TricK"

:) :) :)

Just joking......


Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Guest » May 7th, 2003, 7:34 am

Don't ask them. Tell them.

"You, Sir, what's your name?"
"Please stand up for a moment, I need your help."

If you do it in a friendly-but-unambiguous way, you'll have no problem. People will follow simple, clear-cut instructions much more readily than they will questions.

"I need a volunteer" forces them to first make the decision 'Do I want to volunteer?' then, 'Am I GOING to volunteer?', then 'OK, I'll volunteer'. Much easier to tell them what to do, as hypnotists the world over have learned.

Now, all the above applies ONLY if their participation will cause them absolutely NO embarassment whatsoEVER. If you're bringing them up for anything that makes them the butt of the joke...even indirectly...then may your soul reside in eternal torment. 'Cause when you're done with them, those of us who DON'T humiliate them won't even be able to make eye contact.


Rafael Benatar
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Location: Madrid, Spain

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Rafael Benatar » May 7th, 2003, 2:19 pm

For some reason, I find people in Europe are more reluctant to volunteer than in the US, and every magician develops a strategy.

Think of the 3-card Monte guys. They can win someone's money before they realize they were betting. The whole ploy is brilliantly explained in Darwin Ortiz's Gambling Scams. It's also demonstrated many times a day in the streets.

By the same token, bring them into the trick before they know they are assisting. During previous tricks, look for friendly faces. Look for people who laugh at your jokes and react to your tricks as you want them to. Then approach your chosen spectator and ask him a question or have them do something that seems uncommiting. Something they can't refuse like shuffle a deck or hold something. After a moment invite them to join you on stage. This way they will realize that if they don't follow you, you will have to start all over again and delay the whole thing for the rest of the audience. Also, you have a better chance if you pick somebody who is with somebody, but not with just one person, perhaps with a small group or a family. After you tell them to join you, walk confidently to the stage as if assuming they are following you.

Pete McCabe
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Location: Simi Valley, CA

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Pete McCabe » May 7th, 2003, 2:56 pm

Murray Hatfield's advice is spot on.

For example: Start by pointing to someone who you wish to help you (in a later effect) and say "Please name any card." When they do, chat for a second (is this your favorite card or just the first one that popped into your head, Do you believe in intuitition, etc.) Now do some trick involving the named card. Follow up with "That worked perfectly, so join me up on stage."

This eases the spectator into the idea of volunteering without ever mentioning that fact. And it breaks the ice, establishes that there will be no embarassment, etc.

The construction of the follow-up is worth noting. It's not a question, which as has been noted is a good thing. But it also includes a reason. Research has indicated that people are much more likely to agree to a request if you give some reason.

By the way, this hold true even if the reason has nothing to do with the request. Just FYI.


Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Guest » May 7th, 2003, 4:21 pm

Kevin Burke has the right thought. Be direct and confident in your words. Say it with authority and it will happen. Andy Nyman also has the same approach. Very powerful and respectful. It takes the guess work out of who will actually volunteer.


Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Guest » May 8th, 2003, 3:14 pm

Just a quick note for any of you who might want to investigate this topic in more depth...

Max Maven & Eugene Burger are holding a three-day seminar called "Handling Humans" at the Las Vegas Magic School, June 17-19.

You can get more details on the seminar at the Magic School website .


Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Guest » May 12th, 2003, 10:02 am

With many volunteers, one thing I do is to take the sting out of any trick I might do and turn the laugh on myself.

By making myself the butt of the joke (something I have spent my life being anyway, so I'm actually playing to type!), the volunteers all seem more at home and safe.

Example - card to forehead. This trick is quite surprising and gets a huge laugh - but some folks take it as an insult to their intelligence, so I turn the laugh with a line and a gesture.

"Hey, don't feel too bad! Think of how I feel having to do THIS for a living!" and point at the card, while mugging a grimace.

By putting the joke on me, instead of them, and then thanking them for their help and for being a good sport, the concerns of the majority of the crowd seems to dissipate.

Being a natural-born buffoon helps, of course...!

Lee Darrow, C.Ht.

Grant McSorley
Posts: 129
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Montreal

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Grant McSorley » May 12th, 2003, 12:12 pm

Hi everyone,
Thanks for all the great advice, I guess my problem was opening wiht a trick that required someone coming right up on stage with me. I'll have to work on my routining a bit to ease them into that kind of thing.
Thanks again,

Rick Schulz
Posts: 177
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Ft. Worth, TX

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Rick Schulz » May 14th, 2003, 5:24 am

Grant, you wrote:

"Thanks for all the great advice, I guess my problem was opening with a trick that required someone coming right up on stage with me."

Why would you open with an effect that required an audience member as a volunteer? Your first effect should be done to communicate your performing "persona" (magician, entertainer, comic, serious, etc.) to the audience. Later on, after you have established a rapport with the audience, it may be easier to ask for volunteers.

Grant McSorley
Posts: 129
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Montreal

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Grant McSorley » May 14th, 2003, 11:02 am

Hi Rick,
All I can do is plead ignorance. My performance history has been mainly composed of children shows and close-up where people tend to be more anxious to assist than adults are in stage shows. Like I said, routining is something that I need to concentrate on more.
Thanks for the feedback,

Jeff Haas
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Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: San Mateo, CA

Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Jeff Haas » May 14th, 2003, 11:19 am


I went through the same transition. When you're used to kid show and closeup, there isn't a natural barrier between you and the audience. Kids want to jump up and help; in closeup, you're right there and it's natural to interact.

So you have to adjust your thinking when you go out and do standup for large audiences, mostly of grown-ups. You need to come out and establish what you're about in the first few minutes (perhaps the single hardest thing to do), and your material needs to require less interaction than you're used to from family shows and closeup.



Re: Adult Volunteers

Postby Guest » May 23rd, 2003, 7:29 pm

I've found that by giving them a choice(will you vs. will you not) gives them a way out. Don't. You can ease their discomfort by wispering to them that it'll be simple and any joke will be on you not them. Of course make good on it. Also when picking a VOLUNTEER choose one that has responded favorable to your show. Avoid someone who wants to be picked. "Strong Magic" by Darwin Ortiz has a chapter or two on the subject that I've found very helpful.

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