My fun mini-tour of Northern California
My recent Californian trip began with a corporate gig in Sacramento. There were only 36 people attending the meeting that I entertained at, to me this is a rather tiny event and it was interesting to adapt my show for the group. With that few members in the audience it is necessary to slow down the show a little and present your magic rather like a favorite uncle doing a family event!
The toughest part of adapting to a mini-audience was in adjusting to the way I had to present the stand-up comedy which is the heart of my show. When you have a small crowd you can find that your comedic timing is thrown off base by what appears to be a truncated response.
A simple technique to avoid the appearance that you are missing response to your jokes is to adapt your delivery so that you appear to be delivering your material as something of an improvised series of asides. It is much better if it sounds like a witty stream of dialogue rather than a comedy monologue that fails to be getting the laughs you expect. Standing in front of an audience looking like you are waiting for laughs is never a good thing!
The next leg of my journey took me to the California Magic Dinner Theatre in Martinez. What a delightful venue this is. Created by Gerry Griffin, the theatre is a perfect example of how to deliver a first rate magical experience to a lay audience. In the 10 plus years that the CMDT has been presenting shows (Over 800 of them) to the paying public, Gerry has mastered the art of blending pre-show close-up, a great meal and a three person stand-up performance. There is also a great deal of fascinating memorabilia adorning the walls of the club that will warm any magician’s heart
I was delighted to share the stage with Joseph Bartholomew who performed some very entertaining tricks including Tony Clark’s gypsy balloon effect. He was skilled and very likeable in his presentation and a real crowd favorite. The stage show was hosted by Griffin himself, who proved to be very witty and polished in this role, he has had lots of practice as he has MC’d every single performance in the Theatre. First-rate design made the venue a delight to work and top-notch (but simple) sound and lighting allowed the receptive audience to share the delight.
The magicians who dazzled the crowd with their close-up skills featured a fine assortment of performers including Jack Fowler, Jack Alexander, David Hirata, Timothy Jones, John Gardenier, Hank Morfin, Jeffrey Korst and Steve Goldstein. I will have more to say about them all in the full-length article I am writing about the Theatre. Stay tuned to my blog and a future series about smaller magic venues that I am writing for Vanish Magazine. The camaraderie that existed between the various performers was a delight and spilled out to the paying guests.
I had the honor to attend a special barbecue at the home of Jay Alexander, which was more like a miniature magic convention than anything else. Amongst the attendees were Jack and Jan Brown, Fred and Manya Castro, ‘Big Al’ Catraz, Jade and Mathew Holtzman, Bruce Koren and Rafael Benatar. The food and company were both great and I enjoyed every minute of the gracious and delightful event that Jay and his wife Meg hosted.
Another highlight of the visit was a luncheon trip to the Apple Campus in Cupertino—AKA Geek Heaven! This was a pure delight to an Apple fan such as myself and I want to thank Jay Alexander and John Signa for making it possible. An additional treat was a meeting with Apple’s Kim Silverman who entertained Susan and myself with some incredible magic. Kim recently recorded a Ted Talk about the nature of his role saddling the world of science and magic, it is very well worth checking out on the web. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5rwYnj2GZQ
Finally I recorded a 90-minute interview with Jay, which will be the basis of future articles. After 90 minutes I was left in no doubt why he is one of the busiest pros in the business. His grasp of both business and magic is astounding and it was one of those rare interviews that leave you much smarter after you finish conducting it. Jay knocked me out with his grasp of subtleties that many performers don’t even know exist!
Thanks to everyone for making this a very special week.