Four Facts about Michael Finney
It has been my pleasure to have Michael Finney as a friend for many years now and I would like to share a few thoughts about this remarkable magician and even more remarkable person. I have every reason to personally be grateful to Michael, as he was very instrumental in shaping my career in the comedy world with his encouragement and generosity of spirit and sharing. I am currently in the middle of a 25 shows in 28-day tour of various performing venues in Arizona and it has been happily punctuated with visits with and from Michael and his lovely wife Lori. This seemed like a very suitable start to my upcoming contributions to ‘Magicana’ magazine.
Last night I watched Michael perform a 13-minute set in a production show at the Arizona Casino here in Phoenix. It was a wonderful lesson in how to charm and delight an audience. Finney is a larger than life character and gifted comedian who kept the crowd in stitches from the moment he walked onstage until his set was finished. What may be slightly less obvious to the less knowledgeable members in the audience is exactly what a superb magician this multiple award-winner is. In the course of his 13 minutes he performed just one trick and one mind reading gag. Nothing more was needed and anything else was superfluous. I truly do not believe it possible that more laughs could be packed into such a short performance time.
Michael’s handling of the ‘Cut and Restored Rope’ is unique and manages to get non-stop laughs while never once causing his assistant from the audience to feel embarrassed or any feeling that she was a ‘prop.’ She became a willing participant and a delighted partner in his handling of this classic piece of magic. The confidence with which her role was defined allowed no trace of awkwardness to intrude in the proceedings; every comedy magician should watch how Finney achieves this vital ingredient of comedy magic. There is more to learn here than a dozen DVDs of marginal performers adding ‘new’ tricks to the seriously bloated marketplace of potential material. However, enough about the magic and laughter that Michael brings to the table; let’s look at some of the core issues and standards that have shaped these elements.
Fact one: Michael Finney is a true Gentleman.
There is a decency and humanity within Michael that shines out and transcends everything that he performs. A genuine philanthropist and caring person, Finney has achieved more success than most people in the magic world can dream of. His charity work is not some tool to be used to shape his public image, but a deeply felt need to share his success and gifts to improve life for those less fortunate than himself. The large sums of money that Michael has raised for children’s charities through his ‘Dry Heat Golf Classic’ is just the tip of the iceberg—though it can scarcely feel that way to the scores of kids who have received life saving heart surgery from it. As I observed during this visit, if any charity needs a champion to give a helping hand then Michael is the first one there. If an ’At Risk’ youth can be made a little less at risk here is the person to walk that extra mile to do something practical.
Michael began his performing career while he was still a bartender and seems to have remembered everyone who has helped him achieve his success in the entertainment world. It sometimes amazes me how quickly magicians forget the mentors and people responsible for their development as performers. You often get the feeling that they leapt fully blown onto the scene and have been getting ripped of for their ideas ever since. Michael was taught his first trick and how to tend bar by Robert James Shaw and a few minutes looking at the photos and reading the attached notes on Michael’s Facebook photo page will tell you the full story about the way true friends show their gratitude and acknowledge their roots. Take the time to check it out and also to observe how Michael has chosen to encourage young performers in their magical path. There is a generosity of spirit here that should set the standard for every other magician.
Fact three: Michael Finney is a true patriot. As a Brit who has lived in America for over 35 years, patriotism is a slightly confused topic for me. Far to often you see a politicalized form of patriotism that I find less than appealing. Michael is a patriot of the right kind and his love of country is based on the people within it and his belief in them. A proud father of a decorated veteran, Michael wears a red suit to honor the troops every Friday night. His belief in his country is based on what it continues to do and will achieve in the future and not a sentimental or arrogant estimation of what has been achieved in the past. It is impossible not to feel a shared sense of pride when you encounter this kind of genuine vision for what can be achieved by a unified country.
Fact four: Michael Finney is a superb host.
If you don’t know it, Michael is a short order chef of no minor talent! To spend an evening at Michael and Lori’s beautiful home in Glendale, AZ. Involves wonderful little surprises in the culinary department. Little bowls of delicious food keep appearing filled with delicious goodies to eat. Back in the era of the ‘Comedy Club’ Michael would cook up meals for the entire ‘Comedy Condo’ and must have made him as popular as an enthusiastic new agent in the condo. Wandering around their home admiring the never-ending collections of memorabilia with one of his Margarita Martinis is a joy. The signed pictures, albums and guitars, amply testify to the length and scope of his career and overflow into a state of quietly controlled chaos. No sooner was I admiring his one of a kind Harley Davidson chopper than I found myself sitting on it while Michael and Lori snapped pictures of it for my Facebook site!
I hope this hasn’t sounded too much like a peon of praise to Finney, but it is how I see it. I certainly wouldn’t want to paint the full picture. Michael is also feisty, fiery, obstinate, opinionated and a pain in the rear perfectionist: all part of the package with this one of a kind character, however no one I know would change a thing about him. Oh, and if you were counting, you will notice I only listed four facts about Finney–you have to find out one for yourself!