A few thoughts on performing ethics: or things I’m saying that shouldn’t need saying!




One of the most fascinating elements of being a magician is how much great material is published to assist you in developing your craft. Entire routines and comedy monologues are available to help you develop your show. However, this doesn’t mean that you can cherry pick jokes and routines from performers at will. Because the material is out there does NOT mean it is fair game for performers to steal. There are some definite guidelines that not only beginners, but also seasoned pros, like myself, need to remind themselves about on an ongoing basis.

If you buy a routine for cash that includes a book, DVD, script, performance footage etc. then, unless otherwise stated, you have every expectation of being able to use that material in your show. The seller is making money by selling that information and it is a fair exchange. Of course, if you have not paid for that information, and have just snagged an unauthorized dub of the DVD, then you don’t have the right to use it. In neither case do you have the right to repackage this information verbatim, or with minimal changes, and then resell it in the magic market.

All this applies just as strongly and immutably to things comedic. Just because you like a joke doesn’t mean you can take it and add it to your show. You could of course ask the performer involved if you can appropriate the bit for your own use. You might be surprised at how often he or she would be delighted by your courtesy and grant you the right to use the joke with their blessing. You might even find they help you develop and adapt the piece so that it works better for you, all of this merely because you had the good manners to ask.

Last year I removed a great many pieces of performance footage from YouTube that really served no useful purpose in being there. There is a strangely prevalent notion that if something is on YouTube it is in public domain and open for individuals to use at random. NO, this isn’t so. There are a new breed of magicians who make a living collecting YouTube clicks, however, this is not the case with non-YouTube vendors. Respect other performer’s rights and you will improve the industry. You wouldn’t go to a magic convention and steal props from the dealers table, so don’t do it with something less tangible like a comedy concept or a joke.


~ by Nick Lewin on January 16, 2018.

4 Responses to “A few thoughts on performing ethics: or things I’m saying that shouldn’t need saying!”

  1. Yes dear readers; What Nick Lewin is saying, “should not need saying.” He speaks the truth. Everyone should be honest, “play the game,” yet they all are not. Everyone; performers, authors, even “magic dealers.” Nick’s mentor, Ken Brooke, knew better than anyone. He was a victim of theft, time and time again. It almost killed him. And just who were these terrible thieves and criminals you ask? They were “icons” in the magic business; people like Bob and Tony, considered well-respected men who even today, have received special fellowship awards, honored and glorified for their great contributions to the world of magic…but not thievery. Gee, what great roll models. (How quickly we forget and forgive; yes, many people out there defend or pretend to forget their past actions….even today)
    But let’s not forget those artists, inventors and writers who get magically mugged, time and again for their brilliant creativity, just for the betterment of someone else’s wallet and ego. Nick Lewin, Don Alan, Carl Ballantine…the list of victims is endless. And just think, all of that was before the days of the good old technological empire that has helped explode the mass stealing and copying. It’s a wonder that an honest artist makes a dime today.
    All we can do is preach the motto of magic man, George Parker, from the Netherlands who says; “DON’T STEAL, CREATE!!!!”
    Thank you Nick for your wonderful essay,(no one else is saying this to the masses), and for giving me the opportunity to chip away, just a little, at this gigantic iceberg of problems!

  2. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but not in this case. Fortunately our community has membersthat do not hesitate to point out those that do not follow these niceties. It’s not being hateful, its forcing some to be more creative and a useful service.

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