A little linkage is a great thing…….

KenBrookeWhen I lectured recently at a magic convention I was really surprised by the interest I had in one of the topics that I touched upon. I had many questions about this, in my opinion, very simple area of linkage. I hope I get a few useful thoughts down in this blog that will be of general interest.

I made a reference to the fact that the late Ken Brooke had some very specific ideas about this topic. In fact it was one of his favorite talking points when he was teaching you how to construct a really commercial act. It was a large part of his ‘Journey not the destination theory.’

What exactly is linkage? To put it very simply, it is all the gags, jokes, tricks and bits of business that act as the connecting tissue that hold together the major elements that constitute your show. Not the main part of your performance but the bits that hold them together and make them more fun to watch.

One of the easiest ways to spot magicians who work a great deal, and those who don’t, is to look at the linkage that they use to frame the key tricks in their show. A real pro tends to have an act that is seamless while an occasional performer appears to perform a trick, and then begin another one. It has a very different effect upon an audience.

If you are a talented comedic performer then an easy solution is to tell a couple of jokes that take you from the topic involved in one effect onto the next trick. Watch how very carefully good stand-up comedians segue from topic to topic in their shows. They are very aware of the positive role of good linkage in their act; they would probably refer to it as transitions though.

The idea of successful linkage in a show is to transfer the audience’s attention throughout your performance, without letting the climax of one trick contrast with the slower pace that is often needed to set up the next effect correctly. It is a rather subtle concept and needs to be worked at on an ongoing basis.

As a simple pair of examples, let’s discuss two pieces of linkage that Ken used during his own shows. The first of these ‘bits’ was from his close-up show and the second was in his cabaret show. Neither sound particularly funny in cold print, however each of them contributed greatly to the over all impact of his show.

When Ken had finished a trick in his close-up routine he would glance at his watch casually as if checking whether or not he had time to do another trick. Ken Brooke-Magic in his HandsApparently the watch had stopped because he began to wind it up—in a very extreme manner. Ken was a very visual performer and his use of the old ‘watch winder’ gimmick was an exercise in physical humor.

As Ken was ‘winding’ the watch up in a loud fashion, he would gradually slow down the speed at which he was achieving his goal. As the winding got slower and slower it seemed that the spring inside the casing of the watch was about to explode. While this was happening Ken appeared to be holding his breath and seemed to be quite literally over winding himself. His face appeared to go red and it was only when he wrenched the last “Click” out of his watch that he allowed the air to burst from his mouth.

I told you that it wouldn’t appear funny in print, but this little bit of business used to grab everyone’s attention and create a warm laugh in a spot in the show that might have been an awkward transition.  This moment could have been made extremely mundane in the hands of performer who just said, “Now for a trick using three cups and a ball….” Descriptive patter is a poor substitute for entertainment.

As a running gag during his stand-up show, Ken would often run off stage and out into the audience between tricks and then speaking directly into the ear of an audience member in a loud voice (as if they might be very hard of hearing) say, “I’ll do the card trick in a minute!” Then hustle back on stage and continue with his show. By the third or fourth time it started to get a huge reaction from the audience. He never did a card trick!

These are just two tiny examples of how Ken created linkage during his show, these bits suited him perfectly and were highly individual and quirky— just like the ones you should create for yourself. These are the little secrets that can take an act to another whole level.

~ by Nick Lewin on October 18, 2013.

5 Responses to “A little linkage is a great thing…….”

  1. Great reading Nick hope you are well

  2. Right on… Ken was a great teacher too.

  3. Excellent information = Good health & good luck = Neil Mcintyre from downunder in Australia…neilmcintyre571@yahoo.com.au

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