It’s the last day of January and I’m reflecting back on what I’ve learned so far in 2020. One thing is that you need to listen to your audience. I have two bits in the show that have gotten unexpected reactions that were unfavorable. Instead of the usual laugh the got a sort of “woah” and pull back from the audience. Both of these bits got this reaction at different shows in very different venues.
There are a lot of performers who will brush off these reactions and attribute them to “snowflakes” in the audience. I think this is the wrong way to go. Personally I needed to try to analyze why the audience reacted the way that they did to see if they were over reacting, or if my jokes were becoming dated. The last thing I want to do is use a joke that was OK to say, but over the years society has moved on and the joke is no longer appropriate.
After looking at both of the jokes in my show, I’m keeping one without altering it. The other one, while I think is OK, I’m going to play around with rewriting it. The problem is that the joke gets misunderstood and that audience projected something that’s not in the joke into the joke. I also feel that the negative reaction I got had more to do with the specific situation of the show than it did with the joke.
Yesterday I wrote about using projection in my show. The key is to enhance the live action, not to replace viewing it from the stage to the screen. Basically the idea is to have the action happen live on stage and visible to the audience, but then using the screen to verify or highlight smaller details.
A good example of this would be a Signed Card to Pocket. The main props which are cards are large and can be seen in a large theater. The signature or specific card number is smaller. Having a screen to project the signed card onto will make the effect play larger.
My idea for working solo is to have a dedicated table with a camera on it and then the projector and screen. In a lot of venues I won’t need to provide the screen, as they will have one already, or I may be able to directly project the image onto a wall behind me. Projecting onto the wall as needed is the ideal situation.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about using projection in my stage show. I’ve been looking at how other magicians and performers are using it. It’s something that can make a lot of difference in how visible something is. For magicians, David Copperfield was the first that I was aware of to use in it his four ace routine. Currently using video is pretty common.
The best use of video that I’ve seen so far is Darren Brown in his Broadway show Secrets. Most people when it’s used, it feels like you are either watching the screen or watching the performer. When Darren did it, it felt like your attention wasn’t torn between two places. You were watching him perform and the video enhanced it.
That’s what I’m going for, using video to enhance what’s happening. Projection would be used for showing the signature of a card, but not the whole card trick. I think when the action happens on the table and the only way you can watch it is through the screen, then it stops enhancing the live show and becomes the audience watching TV.
When creating magic tricks, there are a few reasons why. Sometimes you’ll have a need to create something, other times an idea will just pop into your head. Then sometimes you will have something, or a lot of something and are trying to figure out a use for it. Somehow I ended up with a lot of chapstick and am trying to figure out what to do with it.
I have some issues with using chapstick, the main one is while it’s an “organic” item, it’s as out of place in a magic show as a toothbrush is. Sure you can justify it by needing it, but I can’t think of a ever seeing a performer use chapstick during their show. It’d be like a performer brushing their teeth in the middle of a show. That leaves it to informal situations and the drawback to that is that whatever you are doing needs to be fairly simple is set up.
I have an interesting idea, but it will probably end up as something in a magazine, simply because no one will do it. Essentially it’s a transposition with a signed coin and the lip balm inside the tube. It’s really too much work for an informal situation, and too out of place for a formal situation.
Last weekend I went out and saw a variety show that had a magician in it. The magician did a “quiz show” type bit between a kid and his mom. In the bit one personal always get the easy question and the other always gets the hard question. In the version I saw the kid got the hard question and in my opinion because of that the bit didn’t play as well as it could have.
There were a few factors that needed to be taken into consideration. First while he was in a variety show and your opener doesn’t have the same requirement as in a solo show, this was his opening bit. That means our first introduction to the magician was him picking on a kid. The second factor was that the kid was enthusiastic about coming onstage, until he got there, then he looked like he didn’t want to be there.
When you combine those two things, you are going to have a rough time with the bit. If you always plan for the kid to win, the bit will do well the majority of the time as you’ve removed the variables from the bit. If the kid onstage isn’t into it, but he still wins, that’s a win for you. It’s also easier for an audience to like you when you are nice to a kid.
One of the big things I need to do in the next couple of weeks is to write out two 40+ minute show set lists. I’ve written about working on new material to get to the two forty minute shows. I’ve worked pretty hard the last six or seven months on new material and think I have enough to make it happen.
Now that I think I have enough time in material, the next challenge is to lay it out into two shows. The idea is to have most of the routines alternate going from one solo trick to one audience participation trick. By audience participation, I mean using someone on the stage. If I’m talking to someone who stays seated in the audience, I still consider that a solo trick.
The final challenge is how to organize it. Do I put them out as one “A” show and one “B” show, or do an “A-” and a “B+” show? I think I’m going to go with an A show and B show and work to bring the B show up to an A show. That way I’m only polishing a 40 min show instead of 80 mins.
One thing I wish I had more of is music driven acts. These are acts that use mostly music and not talking to move the act along. The nice thing about these is that they pretty much run exactly the same every time you do them. With them timed to the music, you know a 3 min bit will be 3 mins.
One thing is that whenever I start to put acts like these together, I always end up talking. Partially because I think that’s me and what I do and partially I think it’s my insecurity and fear of doing something out of the norm for me.
Speaking is my favored way of connecting with people. That doesn’t mean I can’t do it without speaking, however it’s my default. I think I need to get out of my comfort zone and try some more silent, music driven acts!
Material cycles in and out of my show fairly frequently. One trick that has been out of the show for a while is my Applause Please trick. This is my version of milk in lightbulb that uses an applause sign instead of a lamp. I took this out of my show a bit after I started selling it to magicians.
Currently I have a need for the trick in the show. In my color changing handkerchief routine at the end when the original handkerchief is gone, the audience is left missing some closure to the trick. What I’m doing is using the applause sign throughout the show, then when it comes to the end of the color changing handkerchief routine the silk reappears from the lightbulb.
I’m hoping the reappearance of the silk will be a better end of the routine for the audience. Always look at your show and try to find things that don’t feel right and try to fix them, don’t settle for just OK.
When I perform, I work out of a case that sits on the floor. One of my agents said he doesn’t like the way a road case looks on stage. When it comes down to efficiency, it’s hard to beat a road case on the floor. I can look down and see everything.
My solution to not having a road case, but having a road case was to make a drape for the front of the case. You can see it in picture below:
Recently I recorded a few bits for a TV show and when I told them I work out of a case of the floor, they told me that’s not allowed. From a visual standpoint they don’t like that look. I showed them my draped case and it was immediately approved.
Thinking outside the box just a little to work around the problem really helped me out. The cloth takes up a virtually no space or weight for travelling, so it was a great solution!
The way I get a lot of work is by doing showcases. These are things where a lot of acts perform 15ish mins and buyers watch them to decided whether or not to book them. Here’s how today’s showcase wanted to run our music:
They wouldn’t let us plug into the board. I had to argue for about an hour with people all up the chain of command to get them to allow us to plug in. The organization thought holding a microphone up to your phone was a viable way to run sound for a show. Doing it that way is your Plan B, not your “professional set up” that’s provided initially.
Finally I convinced them that that was an unacceptable set up. We pay a lot of money to perform in front of these buyers, and the least they could provide us with was to be able to plug into the board. I finally got all of the showcase acts to tell the organization about why the sound won’t work. What changed their mind is when we all joined together to tell them why that set up was unprofessional.
I think I burnt a few bridges with people to get the sound right, but it was the right thing to do. If anyone insists that running sound that way is professional, I’m OK burning the bridge as I never want to work for them.