Harry Anderson. A needle in the arm to comedy magic.
I have the greatest respect for Harry Anderson and in all honesty have to say I think he really won the lottery in the comedy magic world. With two successful syndicated television shows he actually won the lottery twice. Harry was a comedy magician who had a very carefully developed image. From his hat to his ties and right the way to his material onstage everything about Harry contributed to his unique persona. When I first met Harry he was working in a white suit and already a very funny guy.
Billy McComb always told me I would love Harry and should get to know him and Billy was usually smack on in his opinion of magicians. However before I met Harry in person a very good friend of mine, during a visit to the Magic Castle, was deeply offended by the comedy magician in the white suit. Due to this I became rather negative about Harry and kind of snubbed his friendly overtures. Years later I discovered that it was Larry Wilson (another white suited comedy magician) who had inflicted the insult upon my pal. Oops!
I was working the fledgling comedy club circuit and it was amazing how much reaction Harry was getting with his act. His wise-ass persona and strong magic were making a huge impact on the scene not to mention the incredible audience response to his delightfully icky ‘needle thru arm.’ It was a truly shocking piece of visual magic that left the audience screaming.
What was even more impressive was the way Harry honed in on his stage character and developed a multi-dimensional creation that worked well with the very strong act he was performing. His exploration of the swindler/con man style of presentation coupled with his ‘needle thru arm’ slightly gory effects must certainly have been a serious influence on a fledgling Penn & Teller.
Harry really clicked with the television audience and his style and attention to detail made him a very powerful TV performer. His success in ‘Night Court’ and ‘Dave’s World’ allowed him to take the style and personality he had forged in nightclubs and slot them into the world of sitcoms. Younger performers would do well to study his carefully developed stage persona and the way he created such a commercial vehicle for his skills.
I have always respected the way Harry has kept his love of magic right upfront in his personal life. He always seems happy and proud of his magical roots, I really like that. It was a lovely bonus for Magic Castle members when Harry visited last year to lecture and perform for a night in the Parlour. He has another visit scheduled this year, but arrive early if you want to catch a show as seating vanished quicker than a birdcage up the sleeve last year!
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