Steve Martin, the magician and comedian, said one of the reasons he quit touring was because he hated performing for drunks. There may have been other reasons as well but if that was the only rationale for getting off the road and living the life of a Hollywood star, we would understand.
We have performed for many audiences with one or two drunk members – some even outside of our own home and family reunions. It never really bothered us philosophically or practically. Our proud Irish heritage comes with a built-in ability to work with and around the inebriated.
Friday night we performed for about a dozen folks who were all at the same moderate-to-high level of intoxication. They were an otherwise delightful and attractive crowd. Ladies in their finest and men in their “I don’t want to dress up, but she’s all dressed up so I will do it but I won’t like it” best. All but one of the guests were clutching their drink glasses as they watched with varying degrees of interest.
Our routine runs just about 18 minutes. From the opening joke to the final card reveal, it clocks pretty much the same each time we perform it. Sure there could be some spontaneous, momentary detour that adds a half-minute but we never go beyond 20 minutes. Friday night, that 18 minutes lasted almost 30 minutes as we dealt with well-intentioned heckling, requests to “do it again but slower” and the restart of a trick because the audience member forgot her choice.
We know we should be indignant about the experience. We should take to these virtual pages to complain about the group, throw shade their way for enjoying themselves on a Friday night in a manner that lengthened our show and ruined our rehearsed routine and made a mess of the timing. But we just can’t.
They were, as we mentioned, all at the same approximate level of dysfunction. No one was belligerent or offensive. They were very complimentary of our skills during and after the performance and no one became physically ill on or near us. Yes, the act lasted longer but perhaps in their time reference, it worked out to be 18 minutes. Sure, they did not laugh right after we said our lines but they usually caught up with the joke within a minute or two – occasionally repeating the line aloud as they laughed.
We are not condoning or encouraging irresponsible behavior or rude drunkenness. We have performed for rude drunks and did not enjoy the experience at all – not even a little. We have had altered audience members attempt to take cards from us or demand we follow their instructions as we perform. That isn’t fun.
We don’t want to romanticize the experience. It wasn’t as if we were performing for a private party in a salon owned by Jay Gatsby where the champagne flowed and all were imbued with an ebullient joie de vivre without the painful bloating and gas. These were people who were having a nice evening and came together to see a show they seemed to enjoy. The performer didn’t mind working his act a little differently – a little slower in some respects – to help them enjoy what they were seeing. No harm, no foul from our point of view.
Plus, we were finally able to confidently perform really tough (for us) card sleights without the slightest fear of being detected. It was good for all concerned. Does that mean we are enabling bad behavior? We don’t think so. We’re just happy to have had the chance to perform for people who seemed happy to have us perform for them.
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