Five Things That Will Improve Your Show….

•April 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Nick

1       Do your time. To be a good and commercial act you need to know how long your performance is scheduled for and stick to the time. No saying; “The show is killing, I will just keep going,” or “This crowd sucks, I’m outa’ here!” Be a professional and do your agreed upon performance time. The average performer has no idea what other factors may be affected if he is cavalier in his timing. I know of quite a few bookers who are hesitant about hiring magicians because they are erratic in their timing. Keep an extra trick in reserve in case the show is running short and also have a trick towards the end of your act that can be jettisoned if you are running overtime.

2       Don’t take material from another performer’s act. Ever. If someone is doing something in his or her shows exactly as performed on a tutorial DVD and you have bought that video (or product) then you may perform the marketed version as supplied with the purchase. What you may not do is take the extra jokes, bits and timing that any other performer has added. This rule includes anything you see on YouTube— because it has been posted on social media does not mean it is fair game to steal.

3       Avoid the trap of seeing “how much time you can get out of a trick.” A better policy is to see how little time it takes you to get the maximum impact out of a routine. There are plenty of tricks in magic; don’t be afraid of tightening everything up and adding an extra effect in the space you have created. Always be on the lookout for a way to add an extra double punch ending to any trick, assuming it strengthens the effect and doesn’t weaken what came before. Comedians use a term “going beyond the punch line” for moments when you should have stopped a joke but buried the laugh by saying something extra that wasn’t needed.

4       Do not equate how much money you spent on a trick with how long it should play in your act. The same approach also applies to how much time you spent when perfecting a trick. Keep it lean and mean and cut out all the fat. It doesn’t follow that a thousand dollar chair suspension in your kids’ show will get any more reaction than a couple of balloons or a breakaway wand. Adjust the degree you focus on a prop with the interest and energy it creates rather than the impact it had on your wallet.

 5       Make sure the audience realize that you are having fun performing your act. Even if you are bored to tears–don’t let it show. Enjoy yourself and let it show. This is the status quo your audiences want to believe in, so keep the illusion going, even if you are exhausted or have a 102-degree fever. Nothing is more contagious than a big smile and looking like you are having fun.

Crafting Comedy That Packs A Punch…

•April 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This is great old clip of Patton Oswalt discussing a magic act he worked with having a road melt down! Patton is such a fine example of a wordsmith comedian!

In the spirit of this blog’s message, I will make this brief!

Eliminate any extra words in your dialogue. Know what you are going to say and then write it down in the form of a script. Next go through that script and then carefully discard all unnecessary words. See how many words can be edited out of your jokes without it affecting the laugh and then ruthlessly cut them out. It requires hard work and discipline to write a really tight joke but it pays big dividends. Be particularly careful to make sure that your joke finishes on the punch line. Burying the punch line is a cardinal sin in the comedy world; make sure you don’t reduce your laughs by running on to long and cannibalizing your own material. Less words almost always results in more laughs.

Professional comedians spend endless hours refining what they say and how they say it to get the biggest response. It isn’t uncommon to see a magician who has spent endless hours perfecting their magic be sloppy or overindulgent in their dialogue. Know what to say and the most effective way to say it. To this end it is very useful to tape record your act and then edit, edit, edit. While videotaping a magic show gives you an excellent handle on the visual aspect of your show, the use of a tape recorder can be a much more useful tool in discovering where your patter needs to be pruned. Be precise.

A great run down on how to book your act into a comedy room.

•April 19, 2017 • 2 Comments

The following is an open letter on Facebook written by my friend Don Barnhart. I thought it really contained some dynamite advice and with Don’s permission I am sharing it here. It is a lengthy read but VERY well worth reading. Don is a successful comedian, hypnotist and booker—-he knows what he is talking about!
Open letter to the comedy community on bookings, paid work and more… (please feel free to share)
I would like to share my opinion on how professional comedians go about getting work as so many of the newer comics don’t seem to understand the right way to go about it.
It’s so basic and simple that it might confuse you. You have to ask for work! That’s it. Nobody is going door-to-door looking for the next great comic so that’s why you need a website, current video and an updated bio/resume with a valid email address with contact info. You also need to promote yourself and send your information out to the bookers, agents, clubs and managers.
About every 4 – 6 weeks, you need to send out this info with your current list of avails to the places you are seeking to get work from. Almost every working comic out there does this and the big name acts and celebrities usually have an agent or manager to do that for them but it still gets done. On the average, I get about 10 emails a week from the major agencies and about 300-500 a week from regular working class comics and I only book one club and a handful of military and corporate shows so you can imagine how many emails and phone calls a franchise club like the Improv gets on a daily basis.
It’s out of sight and out of mind so you need to be persistent without being a pest. Most clubs have a small window when they do book and they might book out the whole year in one sitting. If you’re not on their mind at the time, they can fill the entire calendar within a couple hours and you missed out. Keep in mind, the bookers and clubs have their favorites of tried and true acts so even if you did get on the roster it doesn’t mean you’ll be first pick for dates so you have to be patient…really patient. Now if you’re famous or a draw then a club or booker might seek out your talents for a special event but that’s for the performers that actually put paid butts in the seats.
A word to the wise: Bookers really do pay close attention to your social media and most like to hire acts that promote their shows, are easy to work with and don’t create drama and bad mouth other acts, clubs, bookers, club policy, etc. And they really don’t like it when you trash the acts they do book. If your opinion is so important, go open your own club and book whoever you want to but until then, don’t be an asshole. It makes you sound bitter and if you’re really that great, they would be booking you too.
I hear all the time from comics that it’s the club’s responsibility to promote and that’s true. It is. However, keep in mind if there are 10 equally funny comedians, a club will tend to pick the act that goes above and beyond to help promote and bring more people into the club. The competition is stiff out there so you really have to be honest and ask yourself what are you doing to separate yourself from the rest of the heard? Are you a utility player that’s interchangeable and just taking the work, filling the time, draining the bar, insulting the audiences and/or trying to impregnate the wait staff? Are you pleasant to be around or are you a nasty person with a bad attitude that creates a toxic environment that nobody wants to deal with?
Take a really close look at your calendar. If you don’t have the work you want, it’s time to ask yourself what can you do to get it? Are you sitting at home bitching about how funny you are and wondering why the clubs are calling you? When’s the last time you dropped into the club to say hi. Are you doing the same old material or writing coming up with fresh ideas? Is your deliver boring? Are you learning how to perform better? Are you improving in every way that you can? Are you taking acting, writing or improv classes to improve your stage presence? Are you taking a meditation or yoga class or going to a therapist to at least improve your outlook on life? Are you toxic to be around? Is it your act, your attitude or a combination of both?
I find it sadly hysterical when I hear local acts complain that they we’re not “invited” or “they’re not going to beg for work” and this is not just the Vegas scene but it’s happening in every city across the country. You actually have to go out there and ask for work and put your info out there. There are far too many talented acts with solid credits, experience and references that are emailing clubs with their avails so how in fact are you better than them? If you’re not being “asked” to perform maybe it’s time you sent the booker a new video or ask to do a live showcase and show them how much better you’ve gotten since the last time they saw you instead of sitting around complaining or bad mouthing them about not calling you and seeking out your talents. Maybe you just didn’t impress them the last time they saw you. But that’s only a temporary condition if you really are good.
Bookers love to see comedians that are constantly working on their acts and growing and know that everyone starts at the bottom. If you really are that good they’ll WANT to hire you. We all want the best show possible. Anyone telling you different or that your too good or the headliner doesn’t want to follow you is blowing smoke up your ass trying to justify why they and you aren’t getting booked. It’s just another excuse to blame everyone else but themselves. Do you have any idea how stupid it would be to say, “Oh, yeah. You’re so good we don’t want to book you. We would rather have lame acts”. This is a business so great acts keep audiences coming back. Bad acts with even worse attitudes get cut as nobody wants to work in a toxic environment. The audience is listening and so are the bookers and we can tell when an act is just walking through their material and just phoning it in.
You want work? Bug your local club and ask for guest sets so you can work out and get better until they want to hire you. Make yourself invaluable to the club until you get your shot. Offer to help seat the room, clean up after a show. Do anything you possibly can so that you’re there every night in case there’s a fall out or if someone’s running late. (That doesn’t mean go to the club, hang out and drink the green room dry) If someone doesn’t show, you might get a chance to fill in and save the day. Oh, is all of that beneath you? Then go ahead and sit at home and wait for the phone to ring.
Now, if you’re not getting the work you want it’s usually one or two things. Your act isn’t as good as you think it is or your personality and offstage behavior is not what others want to be around. In some occasions it’s a combination of the two. When you tell people how great you are or that you’re a seasoned headliner but you have no work to back it up perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your place in the comedy community and go get better, not bitter.
Most comedy clubs book 3-6 months in advance some even book out as far as a year so that way the comedians can route their travel. As for myself and most bookers out there, a reference can go a long way to get your foot in the door and your info to the top of the pile but they still want to see your resume and a link to a video so they know they’re getting a professional comedian and not an amateur, a glorified open mic-er or a guy that can get you really good weed. Asking to do a guest set or showcase at your local club is even better and most comedy clubs are open to that or run an open mic or showcase night. Vegas being the exception as most of the comedy clubs have a limited amount of time so they rarely do showcases.
This is one of the reasons I started the Monday Madness Showcase at Jokesters. It’s a chance to showcase acts that I may not be familiar with or haven’t seen for a long time. It’s a chance for them to be considered for future paid work, give them quality stage time at a professional club, to help them grow and to get a better demo so they can go out and get even more paid work from other clubs. It’s not an open mic so if you want to do a set, send me an email with your avails, any new info, where you’re working, references and link to a recent video.
Even when you email a booker your avails, they may not get back to you right away as they’re booked out and don’t have time to reply to everyone seeking work. That’s why it’s important to follow up and send your avails out every 4-8 weeks or sooner if your schedule changes. Don’t get mad and bash the club, booker or venue if they don’t get back to you right away just keep them posted on what you’re doing, where you are working or any new credits you may have. Give them a reason to want to book you. For some clubs, it may even take a few years to get you into their rotation, as there are a ton of talented and seasoned comics that kill every night so they may not be ready to take a chance on someone with less experience or a bad attitude. Can you deliver the goods each and every night in spite of the size or demographics of the audience? I’ve seen far too many acts that do 1 decent show out of a full week and then wonder or blame the club as to why they’re not getting booked back.
Bashing the talent a club does choose to book doesn’t go a long way to move you up the ladder. It just makes you look bitter. Other bookers may take notice and might not want to hire you either. If you think comics talk, bookers talk even more and want to protect themselves from hiring a potential nightmare act or someone who is going to turn on them if they don’t get what they want. You might be funny but they don’t want the headache, as there are far too many great acts that are easy to work with. Besides, if you’re opinion is so valid, go open up your own club and then you can hire whomever you want to but until then, you have to play nice.
Are you scared someone might say no and crush your dreams or overinflated sense of comedy genius? Welcome to the club. Get over it and send your info anyway. If a club doesn’t hire you, you can always ask why but you better be prepared to hear the truth. I see too many comics that don’t ask why they’re not getting book and choose to blame the club or booker and even worse I’ve seen other comics go ballistic when told the truth. Maybe you’re just not really as good as you think you are. Maybe you’re not the right fit for the club or the club was already booked up. If you don’t get booked right away, wait a bit and send in new stuff. Rinse and repeat and keep doing it again and again and again. Get better and resend your stuff. Set up another showcase. Don’t go off in a huff, get all pouty and trash the club or booker because the comedy world didn’t open up and say, “Come on in, you’re the one we’ve been waiting for.” We all have to pay our dues but if you’re doing the same act and not getting better or booked, maybe it’s time to change it up.
There is no club, booker, agent or manager in the country that wants to book a bad act and we all want the best talent we can afford. I am flooded with emails from professional comics that work 30-40 weeks a year that want to come to Vegas but I’ve only heard from a few Vegas acts actually asking for work and I read a bunch more about how they’re overlooked. Nobody goes to McDonald’s looking for a steak. You, the talent have to actually go to where you want to work and seek employment, it’s doesn’t work the other way around. A local guy I hadn’t seen in awhile recently emailed me and asked to do a set to show me what he’s doing. He came in, did great and got booked. It’s that simple and that’s how the business works. If you’re funny and not an asshole there’s a good chance you’ll get hired.
Don’t complain about the acts that are getting booked and paid. Maybe it’s time you should go out and watch them and see why they’re getting hired and you’re not. Model your behavior after successful people and ask them for help, advice or what it is that you can do to get better. Network and learn from each other.A great case in point is The Ice House. On their comedian submission page they put it bluntly. “We will only reply and contact you if we have work available for you.” That’s it. No reason just if they have work available. Took them a few years to get back to me and then they did, they finally gave me headline weeks. I didn’t trash talk and bash them in the mean time, I just got better so I was even more prepared.
Now, if you’re interested in being on our Monday Showcase, I encourage you to send me your info at bookings@donbarnhart.com
If I don’t get back to you right away, follow up in a few weeks. I wish you all success in your journey.
Don Barnhart

The Magic Secret! Adding Texture and Dynamics To Your Show.

•April 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

One common fault when watching comedy magicians, who haven’t had a chance to perform enough to perfect their craft, is that the pacing and general tone of their act does not vary enough. It is not uncommon to see a performer find a pitch and pacing for an effect and then repeat it for every trick in their show. It is just as common to see a show where every trick runs about the same length. This kind of thing certainly achieves a kind of consistency but really can make for an uneventful show lacking in true theatrical impact. While consistency in your performing persona is a sign of assurance it is just plain boring to be repetitive in what you do with your material. I have seen performers present several routines in a row that require bringing assistants onstage–this becomes a crutch. A little re-thinking and adjusting the running order might make the show a lot more interesting and less formulaic. Maybe for one of those effects that requires bringing assistants onstage the performer could go into the audience and perform a trick front of house. Breaking the fourth wall in this manner would be a surefire way to add texture and variety to the show.

In a well-balanced show you need to add texture and dynamics to paint a truly vibrant picture. Some effects need to be longer and some shorter in order to keep the mix interesting. Not every effect can be “killer;” you need to manipulate your running order to maximize the effect of each item. In a fancy dinner they often serve a sorbet between main courses to cleanse and refresh the taste buds and you can do the same in your show. Variety is the spice of life, and this applies especially well to a variety act! Look at the tone and approach of each effect and make sure you are not falling into the trap of being repetitive in tone or content. Shaking things up visually, verbally and mentally quite simply make you a better and stronger performer. If you talk a great deal in your show it could benefit you greatly to perform an effect that is silent or backed just by music. If you perform wacky comedy then perhaps one more serious effect can create a contrast that will heighten the impact of the lighter material.

This concept of texture and dynamics is a somewhat more abstract idea than is generally discussed in articles on comedy magic, however, in my opinion it is a vital one to consider. There is a great deal of emphasis placed in magical theory on Robert-Houdin’s quote, “A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.” While valid on a certain level I feel this statement needs very careful re-examining. I think it has lost something in the translation, and often seems to lead to an element of self-importance and preciousness entering into a performance. It is more important to be a good magician with a strong act than a half assed actor. Let’s balance Robert-Houdin’s quote with a little Shakespeare; “The play is the thing!” It is no good working at being an actor unless you have a worthwhile vehicle to act in. Focusing on texture and dynamics is a splendid way to turn an act into a genuine performance and before you know it you end up with an arc and a subtle storyline to improve your show.

 

An old video promo from the ’90s!

•April 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

People seem to be enjoying some of my old videos on the blog — so here is an old video teaser from the ’90s. Don’t expect to see me doing any of these illusions nowadays! Oh, and the residuals from the TV shows are down to about 16 cents a piece, they were great income for a a long time though….

Putting Your show Together Block By Block……

•April 11, 2017 • 2 Comments

Let’s take a look at how to put together the various building blocks that make up a strong show.

Opening.

One important thing to realize is that your show begins before you say a word or begin performing any magic. Famously the most vital thing to remember is that a huge part of your audience’s opinion about you is formed during the first 60 seconds they are watching you. Therefore what you a wearing, how you look, and your overall attitude as you hit center stage are of key importance. You must exude confidence and competence as you walk out from the wings to begin your show. No matter what your chosen persona is going to be, the audience need to grasp it immediately and then you can successfully be off and running in that first 60 seconds.

Other vital aspects of a good opening can involve the correct music and lighting to set the tone of what is to follow. Certainly a good spoken introduction is an important consideration that influences your opening. Have a short and effective introduction printed out on a small card for the emcee to read, and then try and make sure that he says it rather than reads it! Don’t fall into the trap of letting the emcee, “Just say anything” or you will almost certainly hate the result. If you don’t care what he says about you then why should he?

Make sure your microphone is working and turned on! Bad sound at the top of your show can be a short cut to looking amateurish and awkward; don’t be so caught up in your props that you cease to remember that your microphone is the most important of them. I could continue with variations on themes like this for quite a while but I think you probably are getting the drift of what I am lumping into concept of the “opening” to a show.

First Trick.

The first trick in your show needs to be a very strong one. In many ways it needs to be stronger than your closing effect, which should be more geared towards the role of achieving applause. That first trick has the most important job of all as it has to establish your style and personality with the audience. Everyone will have a different idea of what does that the most effectively. General rules of thumb are that it shouldn’t require bringing an assistant onstage with you and it shouldn’t be too long or to complicated. My old mentor Billy McComb used to swear by doing a fast visual gag effect upfront because he didn’t think the audience was particularly focused at that point. I am very fond of a “sucker” or “explanation style effect such as the Color Change Silks or Spotcard. A “story” type of effect such as The Six Card Repeat also achieves this result very nicely.

The one important caveat I would apply to any trick in this opening slot is that you should be able to perform it without needing to look at your hands or the props you are using. This allows you to keep in eye contact with the audience at all times. There is no better way to establish a good rapport with your audience than putting a smile on your face and letting your eyes scan the entire venue and encompass the assembled crowd. I am certainly not implying that you shouldn’t look at the props you are employing when you want the audience to specifically focus on them, that is just good stagecraft.

 Feature Trick.

Somewhere inside your act needs to be a feature trick. By this I mean an effect that achieves a particularly strong reaction and one that you aren’t afraid to spend enough time to fully explore. This effect can be handled like the centerpiece that your various other tricks frame. It is particularly nice if this effect is one that evokes some strong emotional response from your audience. Comedy magic generally triggers very little emotional response, and allowing one item to appeal to the heart as well as the mind and eyes is very strong theater. Emotion is greatly to be desired in performance. The touching concept that all lay audiences are thrilled with the experience of mystery and being fooled is simply not true: some audience members are and many more are not.

By having several tricks that function as feature effects you can rotate them in your shows and build up a series of shows that are primarily the same format but appear quite different to audiences. Once you have started to build up a repertoire of strong feature effects you can begin to re-examine and revisit them, a good technique is to see how much you can speed up their presentation without losing the impact. Over time it is inevitable that feature effects become somewhat bloated with jokes and business that can be pruned and tightened to good effect. When you have reinvented and retuned them they can be placed back in the act surrounding a new feature or signature trick.

 Signature Trick.

As desirable as it might be it isn’t really possible to set out to create a signature effect. These wonderful gifts have a way of arriving in your act and it is your job to discover if one is lurking under the surface of your show. A signature trick is one that fits your style and personality so well that audiences identify you with it, and it with you. It is the strongest piece of performance branding that you can achieve and the sign that you are finally becoming the performer you always wanted to be. Usually these are strong magical effects that have a powerful impact on those watching. However, they can also be a unique little trick or gag that just “clicks” with your audience in a special way.

You will know when you have found a signature trick because people talk about it more than other effects in your show–sometimes even effects that you consider much stronger. When you see this happening it is important to really focus on this effect and work on how to showcase it the most effectively in your show. Always take it very seriously and be aware when it arrives that you have moved to another level as a performer. I am not saying you have to make it a heavy sell in your show, just be aware that it is different from the others and treat it that way.

I found my signature trick in the Linking Finger Rings. This was the trick people wanted to discuss after the show; this was the effect that bookers requested I include in my performance. To this day I never go onstage without being prepared to perform this trick, even if I have absolutely no intention of including it in my show. It is just special. This one routine has resulted in more re-bookings than any other item in my repertoire. It has also resulted in more standing ovations than any other effect, in spite of the fact I almost never close on it. Finding a trick that does this for you is like discovering the pot of gold under the rainbow. Be on the lookout for it!

 Linkage.

Nothing shows the difference between an experienced pro and an inexperienced magician more clearly than the way they link the tricks together in their show. If you watch a magician who has the opportunity to perform frequently you will notice how seamlessly they glide from effect to effect. Very often a less experienced performer will seem to present a trick, stop, and then begin another. There is an enormous difference in the reaction of an audience to these two different performance styles. Sometimes, of course, a real pro wants to draw a line or place a period between two tricks and he deliberately breaks the trajectory of his show. He does so, however, in a very deliberate manner totally planned and carefully executed.

Please note that I am not specifically talking about “good” or “bad” performers in the previous paragraph; I am primarily referring to the amount of stage time that the performers have under their belt. It is not easy to add the “linkage” that can make a show run smoothly and effectively. It takes a great deal of practice and planning to create the words, jokes and business to bridge the more obvious tent poles in an act. The first step towards success in this endeavor is to observe the way entertainers you admire tackle this task and then watch less experienced performers. Note the points in the less experienced performer’s show where the energy suddenly dissipates. Then look at the written script of your show (you do have one I hope!) and co-ordinate the “linkage” to make your show glide along as smoothly as a P & L Reel.

An analogy that is always worth thinking about when taking the long view on your show is the time honored one that compares it to a journey. It isn’t just the final destination that counts but all the steps and stages of the journey that get you there. Linkage is the invisible element that makes things go smoothly and cleanly from point A to point B, whether it is a joke, a suitable line of dialogue or a fast and unexpected piece of magic. Linkage will improve things greatly in any show since nothing is more jarring than a sudden awkward pause that lets your audience hear your magical gearshift grinding.

 Closer.

Even the best show must come to an end, hopefully before it has overstayed its welcome, which means you need a strong closing effect. It should be a powerful effect that has an obvious applause point at its conclusion. Many performers, and I am certainly one of them, would agree that it is wisest not to end your show with a spectator onstage with you. The reason behind this classic stance is that getting the spectator offstage and back to their seat in the audience causes a delay and visual diversion that takes the attention away from the performer and results in diminishing that all important applause. I have certainly seen performers break this “rule” and have a great closing ovation. However you need to know your timing and have a strong trick and even stronger stage presence to pull it of really successfully though.

Another well-established “rule,” is that a closing trick should not tax the brain too much–because thinking people don’t applaud as readily. I have mixed thoughts on this theory I do believe that it is probably easier to get an audience on their feet and cheering with something more visual than cerebral. My long time closing effect is The Torn and Restored Newspaper. I perform a slow motion restoration and cheerfully inform the audience that the slowing down of the effect makes it much more difficult. While this may not be strictly true, the slow motion, and stage-by-stage restoration of the newspaper, allows the audience to fully appreciate and then react enthusiastically to the effect. The flash restoration of a newspaper is a beautiful thing to watch but my slow motion variation certainly gets me the applause and standing ovations that have established it as my major closing effect for over 35 years.

 Bows.

It always amazes me how many variety acts do a great show and then throw away the full impact by giving a terrible bow. Like everything else in show business, a good bow is something to be researched, planned and perfected. The music and lighting must be right, but above all the performer must have the correct mental attitude to apparently effortlessly milk every last “applau” (singular for applause) from his audience. I could give you further ideas and examples about the art and science of taking a good bow but it would be much more beneficial to spend a few hours researching on YouTube. Watch some of the great stars take their bows after a show and observe how carefully and effectively they do it. I referred to it as an art and science for a good reason! Keep watching some of those London Palladium and Ed Sullivan acts until you grasp my idea of a true bow—then go forth and do likewise.

 

 

Creating A Performing Persona That Really Works For Your Show.

•April 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

There are two basic ways to settle on a performing persona for your comedy magic show: This is mine!

There are those two basic ways to develop a performing persona for your comedy magic show:

1          Create a fictional and larger than life character and run your material through that lens or filter while performing. Be prepared to be two very different people onstage and offstage. A perfect example of this approach is the outrageous character that Jeff Hobson has created so successfully. Mac King establishes himself as a “hayseed” character and turns this misconception to his own advantage almost instantly. When I was growing up I used to marvel at the wild onstage antics of Ali Bongo, to meet the quiet and reserved gentleman behind the “Shriek of Araby” was quite a shock.

2          Take your own personality and enlarge it so that it assumes the vehicle for a stage-filling entertainer. This is the more common, and I would suggest easier route. If you meet Michael Finney offstage you are basically talking to much the same person you were enjoying onstage; he is just a little bit more so when onstage. Justin Willman and Michael Carbonaro are perfect examples of magicians who project their offstage personalities adapted perfectly to their performing environment. Many of the more exaggerated magical performers still fit into this category fairly easily; from Tommy Cooper to Amazing Johnathan the “what I am is what you get…” approach is clearly part of their appeal. This is what I have chosen to do with my approach to comedy.

Take a good long look in the mirror and view your videos before deciding if you are more suited to doing funny things or saying funny things. Maybe it is a combination of these two approaches that you should make your goal while you perform your magic. Do you plan on performing “situational comedy magic” where the nature of the magical elements in your show does the heavy lifting in getting your laughs? Do you plan to tell a stream of jokes that keeps the audience laughing while you are performing your magic show? At an early age I became a big fan of the late Billy McComb and the seamless way he combined really strong magic with traditional stand-up comedy and I personally chose this route and have never regretted it.

Once you have adapted your performing persona then you need to use that as the template to shape the rest of your personal style, such as costume and material. When you have established a good persona you are well advised to keep it as a solid and consistent one and it isn’t worth damaging the integrity of it just to accommodate a one off joke or trick. Look for something else that works just as well but allows you to remain in character. There is an unlimited amount of material out there to choose from and one of the weakest reasons to select something is because it works well in someone else’s act. It is a nice goal, but not particularly practical to have every element in your show 100% original, however, if you can integrate something into your work that is true to your character then it gives a holistic originality to the act in general.

Working with, and knowing, as many comedians as I do I am constantly bombarded with negativity about how “stock” most magicians’ material is. Sadly there is way too much too much truth in this opinion for me to defend our community too vigorously. Comedians usually work endlessly to update and perfect their comedy while comedy magicians are often more interested in adding a new trick. One easy solution to this is to make sure your persona is unique and not fall back on any stock smart ass magician stereotype.

 

 

 

 

 
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