Researching the Silk Thru…

Playing with the Silk Thru Microphone Stand concept, and starting to do some research on it, I’m amazed a how little there is about it out there. I guess that part of it is that I’m searching for a specific trick, that really only has two methods. It’s also a quick trick, so there’s a lot le

Then I realized I should be searching for a Ring and Silk routines, as that’s much closer to what I’m going to be doing. Once I searched that, I had a bit more success. Here’s a good example of something similar to what I want to do:

I’m not using a ring, but a coat hanger, however the moves are similar. The size and shape of the coat hanger lends itself to a couple of things that a ring doesn’t. This is what I find exciting. Also the routine I’m going to do, will probably be a talking routine, where I’ve only seen silent ones (not that that’s a huge differnce).

Play With Your Props

Playing with props instead of trying to learn a routine really makes a routine yours. You end up understanding the props much better than if you simply followed directions. Yes there is a place for following directions and learning from the people that came before you.

Personally one of the ways that I create material is to start with the prop that I want to use. I then learn the technical end of the prop and then start playing with it. The play helps me come up with ways to use it that are more based on my mannerisms and movements. Now that I understand the prop a bit, I’ll start to learn all I can about the prop or effect. How do other people do it, and why do I like or not like they way that they are doing it.

After playing with the “silk thru mic stand” a lot yesterday a routine has started to take shape. My routine uses something other than a mic stand, but essentially the same trick. I’ve got three phases for the routine, and that I think gives it a sense of build and each phase has a different texture. These phases came as a direct result of playing and then research, try it, you’ll be surprised at the results!

Silk Thru…

When I was a kid I remember reading in Tarbell Vol 4 called The Penetrative Silk. This was a handkerchief that you can pull thru and upright pole and used a very simple set up. I’m not positive if this trick predates the Silk Thru Mic Stand trick or not. They are essentially the same trick with different methods.

If you aren’t familiar with the trick, here’s what it looks like:

In my show I’m always looking for tricks that can be done solo, with just me on stage. I like the concept of pulling a silk through something. This is something that is visual, so would play big. I found a P & L fingertip reel at a decent price and started messing with it.

The hard part now is figure out a routine with it and what’s going to make the trick uniquely me. I’ve found a couple of interesting moves that I don’t think have been done before, or at least I haven’t seen before. Hopefully this ends up being something that gets used in my show!

Power Through It…

Before I went to bed last night I started feeling sick. I could feel the beginning of a cold coming on and this morning I’ve got a sore throat and a stuffy nose. I’m not dying, but don’t feel as good as I could, and this afternoon I’ve got a school assembly to perform at.

Luckily I’m not a singer, so a little bit diminished quality of my voice won’t hurt the show. There are a couple places where I do a falsetto voice that I won’t be able to do. The hard part of the show is going to be getting through the show and not showing how “tired” my body is.

Frequently you hear about performers saying they always rock the show when they are sick. I think this is because they are “acting” a lot more than they normally would in their show. They need to act well, they need to act for their reactions, they are acting the whole time.

Maybe in shows where I feel normal, I need to “act” a bit harder???

The Last Laugh…

One of the things that drives me nuts on facebook groups of magicians is when they get upset about common jokes that audience member have. Things like, “make my wife disappear“, “can you make me lose weight” or whatever.

I’m not sure why it drives magicians so crazy to hear this. Sure they hear it all the time, but these are the same magicians that use stock line, which is essentially the same thing these people are doing, but they actually had an original thought (to them). My guess is that the magicians are very insecure and that if someone gets a bigger laugh than them it diminishes their act/show.

A while ago I was having dinner with a pretty successful comedy magician and we were talking about giving away big laughs to audience members. I’m for it, he’s against it. His thinking was that the audience will remember the person onstage getting the laugh, and not consider it your laugh. My thinking is that the show is getting the laugh, and it’s part of the whole show.

The beauty of a live show is anything can happen, and by setting up people from the audience to get big laughs, it feels unplanned. How you respond then counts as well. If you are setting them up for the laugh, then you also know what your response will be. Sometimes your response isn’t a joke, it’s a reaction to their joke, letting the “win”.

David Copperfield used to do a great bit where someone asked him how a trick worked. David told the person, “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you” and the person form the audience said, “tell my wife!” That’s was a huge laugh, that he’s setting up and giving away. My point is that you should try to not be a selfish performer and let the person get the laugh.

Breaking In Tricks…..

Before my show at a library I did some tricks that I’m working on as my preshow. One of the tricks is a dollar production called Sketch Money by Joao Miranda. It’s a drawing of a dollar bill that turns into a real dollar bill and other I did was the gypsy thread.

Sketch Money played better than I thought it would, and I added a switch at the end to get rid of the gimmicked dollar bill. Basically I’m going an “under the box” type switch with the pad of paper instead of a box. It worked well, and I thought there’d be a ton of heat after the dollar production, but there was none. That was very unexpected.

The Gypsy Thread trick from a technical end is fine, I just need to work on selling the end. The trick is missing the magic moment. I think I need to verbally tell them what’s going to happen right before it does happen. I’m doing this trick for kids, and I think the moment of licking the string overshadows the restoration. The string licking is a very funny moment for the kids. I need some more separation between it and the restoration, and to give the restoration a magic moment, like a snap.

I’m happy with how these tricks are coming along and both are for my summer library shows, so hopefully they’ll be solid tricks by the end of the season.

Break In Time…

I’m frequently working on new material, and need places to try it out. that’s the thing with magic, it needs an audience to see how it actually plays. Frequently I break in new material as the “preshow” while the audience is waiting for the show to start.

Yesterday before a show I started breaking in the three ball trick that I’m working on. What’s interesting about the trick is that my method which is a little unusual for the three ball trick seems to work and be deceptive to the audience. Trying out an unusual method for a trick is one of the most stressful things that I do. You never know if people will see right through it, or not. I’m glad I tried it out, I’m going to keep moving forward with the trick.

Taking the leap and putting stuff in front of the audience is very rewarding when the trick plays out. You can learn a lot from a method or presentation that doesn’t. Whenever I”m breaking in new material I try to record it, so I can watch how the audience responds and use that info for future development.

Ball Trick…

One trick that I keep going back to over the years is the Three Ball Trick. It’s a great trick, and personally I really like the idea of these older tricks that are known, but not used as much as something like coins across, or linking rings. The slightly less common ground is good for me, as it allows me to find my version much more easily.

If you don’t know the Three Ball Trick, here’s a version of it:

There are a lot of variations of this, so it could be a “balls across” or “two in the hand, one in the pocket” type routine. Most routines end with everything vanishing. This for roving magic is good, it signals the end of the routine and doesn’t take up much pocket space. Some routines end with a production of a large item.

The version of this trick I’ve been playing with this week isn’t a close up trick, but for cabaret sized audiences. Unlike most versions of the trick that use a net held by two spectators to catch the balls, my version is just me onstage and no table.

Here’s the routine. Three balls go into the left fist, and one at a time they invisibly travel to the right hand. One is put into my pocket, then it travells back to my hand. All three are put into my pocket and three balls reappear in my hand, but these are large balls!

There’s not much to the routine, aside from the production of three large balls, where most routines only have a single production. I think Fernando Koeps has a routine with multiple large balls appearing. For me the fun of putting together a routine is having something unique, whether in method, or sequence. While I hate to call myself an artist, but that’s the artist in my that doesn’t really want to do someone else’s version of a trick.

Preshow Warm Up…

Before a show, I try to warm up…but what does that mean for a comedy magician? I’ll get to that in a minute. I got started warming up many years ago when I started working in variety shows with other acts. All of the physical acts like trapeze act, or dancers warm up a lot before the show, where the magicians just hung out.

I had a friend Noelle Wood who does an amazing pole dance act, she’d warm up for an hour to do an 8 minute act. One day before a show while she was warming up, she asked me what I did to warm up. My response was, “try to not get too drunk”. This joke answer, was the answer.

Before a show, I like to joke around and be playful, it gets me into the performing mindset of having fun on stage, but also gets my “comedy brain” warmed up. Here’s a quick example of something that happened before a show that helped me warm up:

It’s this playfulness that gets me into “character” and ready for the show. Sure, if I’ve got something new, I’ll run lines before the show, but it’s important for me to play before the show whenever possible.

People Love Magic…

There’s a stereotype that people think magic is for kids, or magicians are nerdy. That’s an older stereotype, and not a modern look at magic at all. David Blaine changed all of that, then people like Cris Angel and shows like America’s Got Talent cemented the idea that magic is good.

Here’s my proof. Frequently when I travel, I try to initially tell people that I meet that I’m a magician. I tell them I’m a performer, or variety act. When they want more specifics, I tell them I juggle, tell some jokes, magic tricks, balance things… They always stop me at magic tricks and ask more about that. That’s how you know the public is interested in it. Not the juggling, not the jokes, the magic.

Your job comes in here. When you show someone a magic trick, or perform, you need to be able to deliver. You should do good magic that’s not cheesy. Give the people a reason to continue to enjoy magic!