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Old 07-14-07, 05:25 AM   #1
Aaron Gregg
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Default Mentally Challenged Audience Members

So this afternoon I was having a bit of difficulty building a crowd and then I got stuck with the worst situation of all: a guy with down syndrome sat down in the front row. He kept shouting out things and consequently disrupted any rhythm I I tried to gain.

I've been able to deal with all sorts of problems with an audience but this to me is an unsurmountable obstacle. I'm not a newbie, I've been doing the street for 10 years but I want to know if anyone has a strategy for dealing with the mentally handicapped audience member.

Thanks.

-Aaron
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Old 07-14-07, 09:22 AM   #2
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I had a show last year, with a "special" woman in the crowd... I, being the genius that I am, picked her as my volunteer...

I sent her back nice and diplomatically, but she spent the rest of the show, in the front row with one of her boobs out.
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Old 07-14-07, 09:53 AM   #3
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Sorry, Kim.
That was me.

...A little off to the side of this topic, I was about 7 or 8 years old and I think it was my birthday. We were at some amusement park. I think I had just puked and my Mom bought me a giant soft pretzel. ...But that's not part of the story.

A trampoline act was setting up and as the crowd gathered, a very "challenged" man came along and started rocking to his not-working ghetto blaster (which is what we called them back in the day).
You could see the crowd around him pitying him, but backing up a little bit, giving him a large bubble of personal space while he got more excited about the people bouncing around in the show. It got very distracting, especially for me, and I could hear people talking about how they felt sorry for the performers.
Eventually, as the tricks got more challenging and the show came closer to its climax, the troubled young man in the audience started getting completely out of control -- rocking almost violently -- until he pushed through the crowd and ran right up to the trampoline, climbing up onto it. He got tossed around a bit as the acrobats jumped, and then, bounce-by-bounce... he began to gain control of himself. One flip... Two flips... Three flips... He was completely staged. HE was the climax.
Best climax I can remember seeing in a street show.
But then I WAS a very small child and very gullible, and had just puked to add to that. So my memory could be a little foggy.
...I also seem to remember the pretzel being the best pretzel I had ever eaten.
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Old 07-14-07, 11:32 AM   #4
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let them be annoying for a bit. let them screw up a whole routine, and then turn off you mic, go sit down next to the guy, and be very sweet. Ask him to stop. Tell him it's very important for the show be quiet except to clap and cheer when everyone else does.

if it works people will dump money on you and want to know what you said to the guy.

I use this strategy with bad kids and bums and it's gotten me a lot of $20 bills. I've been called the "bum whisperer".


keep in mind that you can show some level of frustration, and/or annoyance, but not anger. You have to stay in control.
If you shut someone like that down too soon the audience won't understand what kind of problem they are and won't be on your side, so let them be annoying for a couple minuets.

Don't crack a joke about how the guy is retarded, crack a joke about how you can't crack a joke about how the guy is retarded.


and if it just seems like a lost cause you can skip to the last trick and pack it in.

that's my 2 cents. I've never actually dealt with problematic unsupervised retarded people, but the crazy folks in Baltimore are definitely mentally handicapped. every pitch/show/performer/time of day is different, but I've been surprised at how mean I can be without loosing the audience.
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Old 07-14-07, 04:23 PM   #5
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Thanks Evan but there's a HUGE difference between dealing with a bum, drunk, or crazy kid and the mentally handicapped. The technique you mentioned is one I use as a last resort with kids and it works quite well.

The problem with people with down syndrome is they generally have very little understanding of social norms (my mother worked in special ed my whole life so I've been around it a lot). There were women with the kid in my show who kept telling him to be quiet but it made no difference. Also, they don't allow amplification on the pitch so I didn't have the advantage of volume.

The thing that makes the handicapped so much harder to deal with is that you can't make fun of them. It's not like I can say "Look folks, I don't think he's got down syndrome, I like to think the rest of us have up syndrome."

Ironically, while I was trying to keep the show on track I tried to engage a drunk guy who was walking by. I thought if I could get some conflict going with him then it would deflect attention from the handicapped dude. Unfortunately the drunk was pleasant and well-behaved so I was screwed.
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Old 07-14-07, 05:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Rachel Peters
One flip... Two flips... Three flips... He was completely staged. HE was the climax.
Wow. They'd never be able to get away with that, these days.
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Old 07-14-07, 10:09 PM   #7
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Oh, if you had given all that info to begin with I would have just said you were screwed. I would say you should acknowledge it in some way so that at least everyone knows you are a patient loving person who is trying to make the world smile and feel all fuzzy.

Sux, sorry about your show.

I've accidently pulled a volunteer up that had one arm for a bit that kind of needs two arms.... Twice, it's happened twice.... Makes me look like such a dick.



The up syndrome joke isn't mean enough to be funny. if your going to make enemies, go all the way:

*Dude, stop being such a fucking retard!....... (look at him) oh, shit, nevermind.... carry on...

*This guy makes me want to bang my head against a brick wall..... then I'd be just like him. he looks like he's having a great time!

*Here today, a special celebrity! The gold medalist for the special olympics heckling event!
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Old 07-15-07, 12:07 PM   #8
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I would pretty much respond like evan's first post. Except, I wouldn't talk about him being retarded unless it just happened to be right.

For every heckler or interuption, you let the audience feel the frustration before the response. The crowd doesn't have to get frustrated, but they have to see that you are justified in your frustration. They have to understand how this disruption affects your character / personality.

Then, you can treat them like any other heckler.

You're a sucka if you think bums are prey to social standards or that the average stranger is. You don't know who is who. That's the fun.

It sounds like you have too many rules in your head. You gotta say the jokes that you know or you have this idea about how people feel about making fun of slow folks. You have rules about how retards react.

The freer the performer the more fun they are to watch. People are around guarded chumps every day. They will gasp in the fresh air of you freedom. If your friends will laugh about a retard joke, then your audience will. If your audience isn't willing to go with you, you're not good enough.

As for me -- because it's my personality to do so -- I might in one situation, let it build. Half react then, let it go and let it build a little more. Make first contact and make it clean and basic and normal preparing jokes in my head lead him to an other outburst, then, kill him. Tear into him so hard that people can't process whether it's wrong or right, I give'em too much to laugh at. ( just like I would with my friends). I wouldn't bring up his handicap, just keep on talking to him like he's normal and not understanding why he can't get it.

Or, I'd give him 5 bucks and send him to get me a coke.

It would be different depending on the situation and my mood. That's the idea. Make it a live show. No hard-fast solutions, just get rid of the rules and make the show fun no matter what happens.
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Old 07-15-07, 06:29 PM   #9
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Scot Try Love 22 or Trisomy 21

Scot is right ...but all he really had to say is you treat them like anybody else ... retarded people never bother me ... its trying to like the assholes ... that's a lot harder.

P.S. I once asked a mongoloid if his karyotype showed "trisomy 21 or a translocated 17th" ... no one laughed but one guy way in the back applauded.
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Old 07-15-07, 06:44 PM   #10
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Quote:
"trisomy 21 or a translocated 17th"
I know it's cliche, but I actually laughed out loud
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Old 01-10-08, 01:08 AM   #11
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One of my first "real jobs" was working as a habilitation aide in a 200+ bed facility for developmentally disabled adults. I was a "tard guard" or a "turd wrangler", as we would say. The job was VERY demanding, both physically and mentally, but the problem was rarely the residents. They were supposed to act like retards. The other staff members were the problem! Hateful, lazy, and very often abusive. Stress city, for sure. I worked there for a total of about 4 years. This was in rural Illinois, and it was actually a pretty good job for an unskilled worker. I saw some amazing, terrible, scary, wonderful things there.

Anyway, I learned A LOT about people in that environment. The thing to remember with disabled people, even ones that are severely and profoundly retarded, is that their feelings and emotions are exactly the same as ours. They get hungry, tired, bored, horny, happy, sad, etc. too. It's how they process and relate those feelings and emotions that is different than a regular person.

The population I worked with lived a semi-institutional life, kind of like prison but without all the perks. When we would take our people on outings into the community, they were always on their absolute best behavior. This one dude, Johnny, was about 4 feet tall, 50 years old and when we would take him out, he'd be a total happy little gentleman. As soon as we'd get him back to "the Square" he'd go berserk, screaming and ripping his clothes off, dropping F-bombs like a sailor, flipping over tables and basically being a maniac.

The line between living in one of those places and being seen as sane by the rest of the world is really pretty thin, though. I am grateful every day for having arms and legs and senses that work and the ability to think and speak like a normal person.

I used to do my clown show for the facility once a month. Talk about challenging. 3/4ths of the residents would just stare at me or just be totally oblivious, the rest would practiaclly worship me! After a couple of shows, a couple of the higher-functioning residents got wise to my secret identity. Those were good times.

I need to find me a facility here in New Mexico. I miss those days.
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Old 01-16-08, 07:20 AM   #12
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Hey Michael P., reading this thread made me think of that guy last year in Hollywood.
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