Getting the Party Started

© Merlini
Photo credit: © Merlini

There is an art to entertaining. Stand-up comedians need timing, warm-up guys need to be able to get a crowd excited without surpassing the main act. However, nothing surpasses the magic of the b’nai mitzvah emcee.

“You can bring someone in to play music, but we specialize in entertainment,” said Doug Sandler, who has DJ’ed nearly 2,000 bar and bat mitzvahs locally since he started entertaining under the name DJ Doug in 1984.

“We play plenty of games, but engagement is key,” he explained. “It’s not just engagement of the kids, it’s how we can get the kids and adults to play on the same page without alienating one group or the other and ending up with two separate parties.”

To say the least, the games he plays are innovative. He plays scooter hockey, has pyramid-building contests and uses toilet paper for mummy-wrap contests. Of course, traditional games are still commonplace. “People still love and request Coke and Pepsi; they have since it started in 1991,” Sandler said. “We do Simon Says. I didn’t invent it, but I’ve played it 2,500 times, so I think I’ve got it down.”

There are also all sorts of activities that engage kids and parents alike: for example, a musical scavenger hunt in which kids rush to retrieve items from members of the audience. And guests are sure to be entertained by watching two fathers rush to see who can give their kid a sock the quickest.

With today’s technology, there are also ways that you can do a geo-scavenger hunt, Sandler explained.

“It’s so easy to have plasma screens now that people want a lot of technology at their parties,” he said. “But whether you have all the tech in the world or you just have an emcee, the party is really about this celebration of an incredible milestone. It doesn’t have to be a keep-up-with-the-Joneses-type situation. You just have to make it so it’s fun for everybody at your event.”

In line with new technologies, a growing trend in the bar and bat mitzvah party scene is automated photo booths. David Hartzman, an event photographer for the Washington Talent Agency, explained: “We really try to keep with the new trends, and as far as upcoming and new stuff, photo booths have really blown up over the past two years.

“People think that they’re retro and cool in spite of them being much newer. We can fit 20 people in one booth as opposed to two. They’re also getting bigger because [they’re] more economical as far as novelties come. It’s not a photo station that involves a photographer and posing, although there is still an attendant at the booth to help out.”

According to Harzman, one booth has a giant, full-length “magic mirror.” If you walk past the mirror, it has a little animation that says “touch here to start,” which brings the display to life.

“It talks to you, it says smile for the camera, and you can even sign your own picture on the screen,” Hartzman said. “It’s very interactive. There are a lot of props for people to be slightly more dressed up or goofy for the photo booth.”

Of course, the music at a party is one of the most important elements. There are always the Top 40 hits, which kids love so much. According to DJ Doug, “Uptown Funk” has been the most requested song recently, while a few years ago it was the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.”

Technology has completely changed the world of the DJ. If you don’t have a requested song, you can download it instantly.

“There’s such a huge overlap in the music that adults and kids like these days too,” Sandler said. “XM Radio brings the kids’ music to adults while video games bring ’80s music to kids. You can have 8,000 songs in your library, but if I have the 60 songs that I know will be a hit, I don’t need all of this huge collection.”

When it comes to the bar and bat mitzvah entertainment, there will always be new trends hand in hand with the classics. As Hartzman said, “People like seeing new things, and the people who come up with those new ideas, they are the ones who push parties to the next step above and beyond.”


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