Five-year-old Colin Waugh’s birthday party took a turn for the worse after the twenty-three kids realized, one by one, that their promised magician was actually a mathemagician.
“It was so sad,” said attending mom Dorothy Strauss. “The kids were just so wound up, fully expecting this magician to blow their socks off, and out comes Norman No. 1 and his merry band of fellow mathletes. If it hadn’t made the kids so angry, it would have been funny, but seeing those poor little faces drop like that was awful.”
“I blame the party planners at Party Inc.,” said Casey Waugh, who relied on the kids entertainment collective to hire and arrange the entertainment. “Sure, they may have told me I had a mathemagician coming, but I can’t help but think that they somehow slid this by me. I heard magician. I said OK. I thought I was done. The fact that they asked for cash up front makes me think that they were well aware that it would end in disaster and I might want my money back.”
Phillip Johnson, the Party Inc. head of public relations, disputed Waugh’s assertion. “It’s unfortunate that this happened, and we are genuinely upset by this,” said Johnson. “But Ms. Waugh signed a contract which very clearly stated that the entertainment be provided not by a magician, but by a mathemagician. She misunderstood. Plain and simple.”
Fortunately for Ms. Waugh and the attending children, the debacle occurred toward the end of the party.
“Everything was great right up until the entertainment came out,” said David Burnicle, whose twin boys were in attendance. “This young guy dressed as a huge number one comes marching out, followed by a woman dressed as a plus sign and another guy dressed as a minus sign – I knew we were headed for trouble. My suspicions were confirmed when he yelled, ‘whoooooooooooo loves math?!’ You could have heard a pin drop.”
Despite the troupes’ best efforts, the kids were having none of it. Those not crying or booing took to throwing fruit and small objects at the entertainers.
“The kids didn’t really give the entertainment a chance,” said mom Paula Silver. “They simply saw numbers and heard the word math and shut down completely. You could tell by looking at these poor men
and women in their silly costumes that they were used to unreceptive audiences.
“Oh, this is not the first time we’ve flopped,” said Kate O’coin, who spends the good part of her weekends dressed as a plus sign. “Parents think, ‘This will be fun and educational for the kids!’ But these kids are at a birthday party – they don’t want to see math tricks. The sooner parents get that through their heads, the better off we’ll all be, because we’re getting tired of showing up to parties with what amounts to a pop quiz. There was only one, maybe two kids who appeared to appreciate the tricks. The rest just threw things or bawled.”
The troupe, led by Norman Haar as Norman Number One, consists of two additional members: Kate O’coin as the plus sign, and Kerry Neilson as the minus sign. Typically, Haar chooses members from the audience to act as digits or various math symbols. Because the act relies so heavily on audience participation, an unhappy group makes the show almost impossible to pull off. Often times, the troupe will simply resort to telling jokes or making balloon animals, but once they’ve lost an audience, as any performer can tell you, it’s next to impossible to win them back.
“If it’s clear that the kids are not going to give us a break, it’s sometimes best to just leave the party and hope that our departure gets things back on track,” said Haar. “It sounds very unprofessional, but young kids can be brutal. It’s for our own safety. I’ve twice had my tires slashed, been kicked and punched dozens of times, and Kate once found a large piece of glass in her birthday cake. It’s unbelievable how nasty a group of unhappy five-year-old can get once they’ve riled each other up. It’s a classic case of herd mentality, and we’re not risking our lives to entertain a bunch of math-hating brats.”