One of the Questions to our Punch Booth Message Board read:

I'm sure all performers have encountered this problem before-how did you handle it? I was just starting my P&J show for about 30 three-to-six year olds at a birthday party when for some inexplicable reason they all thought it would be great fun to yell "boo" at Mr.Punch. Not the "scare you" kind of boo, but the "your act stinks" boo.Well I knew they were just being rowdy and not making a comment on show quality since I had just started. So I waited but they didn't stop. So I had Punch leave the stage and I looked around the edge of the stage for a sympathetic adult. Alas none were watching the show or else thought nothing was amiss.So I came out as myself and politely explained to the children (making sure that the few adults within earshot heard me) that to boo meant that you don't like what's going on and that you want it to stop. And that of course they didn't want the show to stop.And that they should enjoy themselves but to please be good audience members and listen to what the puppets had to say.Well, no sooner did Punch enter the stage than it all started again. It was no use-it was a game for them now.I just plowed through the rest of the show as best I could so I could collect my fee. But it was a terrible experience.

This was one reply which may be useful:

Here is my suggestion to combat this situation of an unruly crowd as follows:-
Before I go in the booth the interaction with the audience includes a promise of a prize like the birthday childs balloon (for example) if they stay sitting, listen to the story and then answer a simple question afterwards. The complexity of how you put this to the children depends upon the age but I say after the show I will ask a question and anyone getting it right will get a balloon...

If there is any problems during the show I remind them or the puppet does that a prize is awaiting the cleverest child... that works.

The question I ask at the end of the show is usually as follows...
"What color is..... my next door neibours car?"
Slowly it dawns on them that it had nothing to do with the show but then I never said it would be.. They start guessing colors ( another minute or so of business silly if you wish miss hearing the colors etc,,) Then I say that no one won because my neibour does not have a car ! He has a bicycle!

I am not always that hard or horrible and depending on the time to hand will adjust the question to suit and give the balloon model again a few minutes of entertainment.

It has worked for me, however I like many others only need to employ this tactic on rare occasions that the mix of monsters (sorry ) children has a few trouble makers or ring leaders who would be intent on spoiling any show no matter how good you are.

The hardest disruption to any show I have encountered was when in the middle of my punch show the mum anounced that "Tea was Ready"... Best vanishing Act I have ever seen ! woooosh gone! No amount of skill can combat the lure of tea..." and no apologies from the mum either. But the fee was the same and they were happy so in the end... who cares? I did a bit but the booker (and we all know the customer is aways right!!!) thought that not having warm jelly was a better option than paying the 100 an hour entertainer to do nothing!.

Uncle Wiggy or in the real world...Barry Hopkins


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