Two Halloween shows are down and two more to go. Yesterday I did a show for kids and one for adults. They both ran into the challenges that I was anticipating and wrote about yesterday (you can read it here). Both shows went well, but I had to work hard at them.
The one thing that I notice this year, and hopefully it’s a trend, was that there were less masks worn, in fact I don’t think I saw a single person wearing a mask. I’ll never use (if I can help it) someone with a mask. This is good as it gives me a bigger pool of people from the audience to use.
The downside was that I notice more full face make up on people as part of their costumes. For the same reasons as someone wearing a mask, I avoid using someone with full face make up.
This year I’m only doing a total of four Halloween shows, so it’s not as big of a pain as when I was younger and would do two weeks of these shows!
The next couple of days I’m performing shows that are at Halloween events. If you read my post from yesterday you know that I don’t do a “Halloween” show, but my normal show. As a performer I’ve notice that Halloween shows reliably have the worst audiences.
Why are the audiences bad?
The answer is simple, they are wearing costumes.
When the audience is in costumes, they act strange. Some play their character, which if that’s the person you bring on stage that makes it hard for the audience to relate to them. Or in the case of kids (or drunk adults) if they are dressed as a wolf, they’ll just howl instead of talking.
Add that to costumes not being as comfortable as normal clothes and masks can limit vision and it makes the show hard to watch for the audience. Then you factor in that costumes can also make you hotter, or colder than normal. An uncomfortable audience isn’t a good audience.
I’ve got four of these shows over the next two days…yippee!
Frequently I’m asked to perform magic for a Halloween event and they want me to do magic for that theme. I don’t really do that (anymore). When I was younger and was being hired more because they wanted a “Halloween Magic Show” rather than a great magic show, I did them.
October used to be a HUGE month for shows. Over the years as I’ve stopped doing a Halloween or Harvest Magic show, the second half of the month has slowed down (I’m OK with that).
So why not dust off an old themed show for a couple weeks and make some money?
The answer is simple, doing them was never in my heart. I’m at the point in my career that I want to do the show that I want to do. Also a show you do dozen times once a year will never be as good as your main show. I’d rather work on my show.
The compromise that I’m willing make is that I can use props that fit a color scheme where appropriate. For example using black and orange handkerchiefs in a color changing handkerchief routine, or something like that. However the booker’s budget to buy new props in their color scheme makes this not happen very often.
While at the showcase last week, all off the other variety acts has problems with their vocal mics. In the three showcases prior to mine all of the headset mics cut out multiple times. I notice this and didn’t want it to happen to me.
The first thing I did when I went into sound check was scan for a free channel while the band that I was sharing the showcase with was doing their sound check. In theory they are going to have all of their wireless packs on, so my pack will find a channel they aren’t using.
The second thing I did was insist on using my mic pack and not theirs. I didn’t initially do this, I just assumed they’d be using mine. When it came time to tech me, they told me they’d prefer that I use their mic and pack and that all of the other acts used theirs. That told me that the problem was with their system, as that’s the thing all of the other acts had in common, using the sound company’s gear.
When my showcase came around, I used my audio gear and it went great. Nothing cut out, and my vocals went flawlessly! If you notice a problem with other acts audio, try to solve it before it’s your turn!
After my showcase last weekend at a conference, my agent relayed something that was told to her by someone attending. Someone in the audience said they, “I liked Louie because he doesn’t make fun of anyone.“
This is 100% true, however people frequently misinterpret what I do as making fun of people. I never make fun of people, I make fun of situations. I may ask someone why they did something strange, or comment on something that they do, but I never “punch down” to them. I create situations and play within these situations.
That’s the key, is to not “bully” people, but to create situations where your personality can shine. If you are a bully or an a-hole and that’s your instinct, then it will come out and it’s probably something you need to work on internally.
At the showcase that I was at last week, one of the performers wore sunglasses while he performed. Personally I think in 99.7% of all instances there’s no reason for a performer to wear sunglasses. The only acceptable reason is for a character thing, like Rudy Coby and that character must be strong. Other than that, you better be a huge celebrity like Metallica…and I’ve seen Metallica twice, they don’t wear sunglasses on stage.
The big thing is that sunglasses block your eyes. When the audience can’t see your eyes, it’s a lot harder for them to connect with the audience. You’ve essentially put up a wall between you and the audience, and you have to break that wall to connect.
If you are wearing sunglasses, take them off and look at your audience. Yes, even if you are outside with the sun in your face.
Right now I’m at a showcase for performers and last night a friend of mine performed. He uses larger props in his magic show. He does things like balloon to dove, dove to rabbit and walking thru a plate of steel. It’s crazy how much bigger his show feels than mine does.
Using larger props really fills the stage. In a show like mine, it’s just me and some hand held props. I think that my early days performing in comedy clubs and cabaret shows really molded how I perform. In those venues you really can’t have big props. Even something like a table is a lot of real estate on a tiny stage.
I’ve learned to make small props play larger (usually). For an act like mine, that’s important, keeping the props to a minimum. I want to the show to feel less formal and having large props makes it feel way too formal for me.
When I was performing a couple of weeks ago at a fair in California, I had a friend come out and see the show. He’s known me for a while, but never seen the show. His reaction to the show was, “it was just like hanging out with you”. I really liked this comment, as that’s the vibe I’m going for in my show.
The goal of my show isn’t to be a formal magic show, but to be a show where it feels like we’re hanging out. It’s a show like we met at a party…obviously more formal than that as I use props, but not too formal.
When I do roving magic my main tool is a regular deck of cards. The reason for that is you can do a lot just a deck of cards. Also they are larger than a rubber band or a coin and when someone walks by they know that you are doing magic tricks.
When doing roving magic I also try to pack one other thing to perform that’s special. Something that’s fairly unique, so something that they wouldn’t see another magician typically do. Frequently this is the Linking Pins or something I’m working on that uses a unique prop. I save this for special groups that fun to work for.
Last night at a roving gig in addition to my normal card set, I did a trick with a nut and a bolt. Basically the nut and bolt unscrew while covered by a cup, then you repeat it. It’s a great trick and something that I love doing, but more importantly, it feels special. People really seem to dig the special trick, and can feel that it’s not something from your normal set.
In my lecture for magicians, I have too many tricks that use sleight of hand. Yesterday I did a lecture and it hit me that there aren’t really any “self working tricks” that I teach. What I teach isn’t hard, the most difficult thing I do in the lecture is a two ball roll up for the three ball routine.
Being aware of this will make the lecture have more value to everyone who attends. Having something you can walk away doing is important for a magic lecture. My thinking when I put together the material for the lecture was that a thumb palm with a thimble is a pretty standard and basic sleight. I always forget that there are a lot of magicians that don’t do any sleight of hand at all. I need something in the lecture for them.
I’ve got a couple more lectures coming up and I’m going to be sure to add something self working to the list of things I teach and talk about!