I was recently reading a thread on a magic themed FaceBook page that was triggered by a complaint about a female audience member who complained about the use of the term “You guys…” when addressing an audience of men and women. I was more than a little shocked to hear her described as dumb. While this particular case is obviously a “tip of the iceberg” example, I am continually amazed at the myopic viewpoint the magic world tends to display in its inability to keep up with current trends. What are we—a bunch of ’50s Borscht Belt comedians caught in a Twilight Zone time warp?
The American scene has become VERY politically correct. My youngest daughter used to be incredibly apt to correct my errors in this area. She is now an English professor at UC Irvine and is amazed by the level of political correctness in her students. The world has changed and if you don’t want to be left behind, considered inappropriate, or just old–grasp this fact.
If you don’t want to be considered old, rude, or maybe even irrelevant, then take careful note of some of these factors and perhaps re-think some of the phrases you use. Saying, “I have always said/done this,” is a pretty sad and sorry excuse for not evaluating the way you communicate. Think about how many words and phrases were used when you were younger that you would NEVER think of saying now! Jerry Seinfeld wrote a great article, well worth Googling, about this topic that is well worth reading at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/08/jerry-seinfeld-college-politically-correct-racism-sexism_n_7534978.html and now he will no longer perform in colleges because of the level of political correctness now demanded by the audience. He, of course, has enough money and fame to walk away from ANY kind of work he doesn’t want to do. Do you? Just as well worth reading is a letter that was printed in response at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-berteaux/jerry-seinfeld-politcally-correct-college-student_b_7540878.html
Comedy magic has a well deserved reputation for being sexist and politically incorrect, we each need to take a long, hard look at what we are saying and doing. I recently did, and made a few changes that were painless and appropriate. I am very glad I did and it has improved my work considerably. I’m lucky enough to still be getting “A level” gigs at great money, I want to keep it that way. If you still feel that being onstage and pretending to steal a woman’s bra, while she assists you in a routine, is so worth the cheap laugh it gets you—you may be seriously out of touch. There are plenty of other ways to get a replacement laugh that are more in line with contemporary thinking, “It gets a laugh…” is not a valid response, neither is “But I do it with a guy onstage….”
For every one person who complains about politically incorrect remarks in a show, there are many more in the audience who probably feel the same way. I do a magical version of the old vaudevillian “Doctor Sketch” in my show that I have left untouched in it’s full politically incorrect glory, as a tip of the hat to a roots element in our work—however, it is a very obvious choice/decision that is nothing to do with any “ostrich head in the sand” form of failing to observe current trends.
Do you want a large (and pretty darn sophisticated) segment of your audience to think you are out of touch or offensive? Just my personal opinion, but I am a pretty savvy entertainer who has made a good living for a lot of years and plans to continue doing so until I decide to stop. Magic is pretty damn dated at best — just look at how many props look like they were designed in the Victorian era. A conscious decision to keep up with the times politically is a smart move that loses you nothing but gains a lot commercially.