New Rules for Magicians (The rest of my top ten!)

IMG_4923Here is the second half of my top-ten list of ‘New Rules for Magicians.’  As I mentioned in my recent blog I was lucky enough to work with ‘New Rules…’ creator Bill Maher in the early days of his career.

Back in the seventies and eighties one of my favorite places to work on new material was ‘The Horn’ in Santa Monica. This was a gloriously eclectic little Californian nightclub that boasted a house band and a widely divergent group of entertainers. If you managed to score one of the highly sought after performing slots, you never knew whether you’d be following an opera singer, a jazz musician or a comedian. It was a splendid place to hone your craft.

Amongst the comedians who performed regularly at ‘The Horn’ was David Letterman who would walk to the club with his large sheep dog. The dog would remain tethered at the door of the club while David dashed in and performed a short set.

The first time I met Bill Maher was on an evening that I was acting as M.C. at the iconic LA nightclub ‘The Horn’. I was in the green room discussing the running order with the club’s booker when I spotted an unfamiliar name. I asked the booker in what I hoped was a suitably quizzical manner; “What exactly is a Bill Maher?” At that moment a short and rather crumpled chap walked through the door and with a big smile said; “I am you A%?@#$ !” I have been a big fan ever since.

Here are the next five ‘New Rules for Magicians,’

Rule #6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               If you aren’t funny don’t tell jokes. Not everyone is funny. This is an honest to God truth: believe me I know I was there once when Franz Harrary addied a dash of verbal comedy to his act. Comedy may not be pretty but it shouldn’t be painful. If you are not a naturally funny performer then put away that Bob Orben joke book and instead find a trick that creates a situation which is humorous.

 New Rule #7                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Take a good look in the mirror and decide the kind of performer you actually look like. Not what you want to look like but what you actually look like. Don’t fool yourself—your job is to fool the audience! Make a realistic appraisal of what you see in that mirror and perform accordingly. Of course if you look at yourself in the mirror too early in the morning, without shaving and are wearing the clothes you slept in—well hey, maybe that David Blaine thing is the way to go.

New Rule #8.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Just because you paid a bunch of money for a prop doesn’t mean you have to extract an additional amount of time from it in your show. In spite of owning that solid gold thumbtip you bought from Joe Stevens (which was individually crafted by Joe Porper and modeled on Pete Biro’s actual digit) you don’t have to stretch the cigarette in jacket to 30 minutes.

Use that one of a kind prop in the manner in which it was intended: keep it in a box at home and only show it to magicians to make them jealous.

Rule #9.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Don’t treat your audience like idiots! Your job is to deceive and the spectator’s is to be deceived. There is no need to assume that an audience is comprised of morons just because they fulfill their half of the mutual bargain. Be grateful they know the rules. Let’s be honest you might not want them to really tell you how deceptive your double lift is after they have seen it 4 or 5 times in the course of a routine.

Rule #10                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               If they ask for 20 minutes then do 20 minutes! Go on be a professional, there may be a reason that they asked for 20 minutes. Because you are going over well does not constitute a better reason for doing 40 minutes. It is a fine exercise in self discipline to stick to your running time and at worst will result in you getting home 20 minutes earlier and/or not irritating the act who has to follow you

~ by Nick Lewin on February 19, 2014.

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