Yesterday I posted about writing a line to try to solve a problem where I had a spot in the show where a kid would frequently shout something. I needed to add a line to tell the audience that the fruit I was using wasn’t real. The line I wrote was, “they’re not real, I got them from Ikea…So they’re made of particle board and Swedish meatballs”. That line didn’t get huge laughs, but seems to have solved the problem.
I tweaked the line a little bit to be, “they’re not real, I got them from Ikea…So they’re made of swedish meatballs and sawdust”. This new line is getting a laugh from the adults AND the kids. I think both particle board and swedish meatballs is too much for the kids here to understand. However they do know what sawdust is!
A little tweak like that upped my laughs per minute and solved the problem of how to address the fruit not being real.
On New Year’s Day of 2020 I saw Darren Brown’s show on Broadway in New York. It was a great show and during the intermission the guy next to me was looking at the program and mentioned there were a lot people listed in the credits for a magic show.
Somehow that guy’s comment popped back into my head and got me thinking about who I would have to credit for my show. Looking at the tricks in the show, I’m trying to name the creator of the trick, move or principle that I’m using. For example, I use a classic force, and while Reginald Scot is not the inventor, he’s the oldest reference I could find for the move. For the technical end of things I’m calling the creators “magic consultants”. Then I have a column for “writers” and my criteria is if the line didn’t come out of my head, then it has to be credited to someone else. If I know who wrote the line, then their name is listed as a “writer”. If I don’t know who wrote a line or created a trick, then I’m going to list them as “unknown” and for each unknown I list, it will have a number after it. This also applies for moves/tricks/routines. For example, let’s say I use 2 stock lines and a trick who I don’t know the inventor of, then it would be “unknown (1)”, “unknown (2)” and “unknown (3)” listed in the appropriate categories.
Here’s what my credits look like:
Ralph W. Hull
When you read my list, you’ll notice that Jim Steinmeyer is listed as a writer, not magic consultant. This is because I use a gag from his egg bag routine, in a different context. I’m using the joke, not magic routine.
This was a fun thing to do, and made me think about who has contributed to my show!
Last night we recorded the whole show at the World of Wonders side show. Then later that night as a cast we sat down and reviewed it. It was really helpful and while I think I contributed a lot of notes for everyone else, I probably had the most notes for myself.
One of my notes for myself had to do with a joke, something that I had been working on taking out of the show, and adding a new joke. The reason I was taking it out was that it stopped playing as well as it had used to. The joke may simply have aged outof being funny.
For context, in the routine, I’m sticking spoons to my arm. Here’s the original line:
“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. I’m awesome at the airport, I always get the extra pat down”
It’s not the strongest bit, but when it was written, the TSA was in the news a lot with how they were hand screening people. At the time, it was topical and while still relevant, it’s not something that’s at the forefront of people’s minds.
A couple of weeks ago, I worked on writing a new joke to take it’s place with my friend Eric Haines (who is an amazing performer). Here’s the new joke:
“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. The bonus is if I ever get lost, my arm always points north!”
That’s a decent joke, and gets a laugh. The problem was I got greedy and would tell them together to try and get two laughs, instead of simply replacing the joke.
“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. I’m awesome at the airport, I always get the extra pat down. The bonus is if I ever get lost, my arm always points north!”
I think the first punchline didn’t hit hard enough, so the second one was starting off in a hole. By removing the old joke and simply doing the new one, it make the new punchline play stronger. It also tightened up the act!
This week, the Moisture Festival Podcast hits the road and travels to Berkley California where they are joined by Scotty Meltzer and Katrine Spang-Hanssen of Comedy Industries.
In this episode, Matt and Louie get into the nuts and bolts of comedy and discuss how custom script writing was the tool that would allow Scotty and Katrine to carve out their 30 year career in the entertainment industry, how they select jokes to put in their show, and the best heckler story ever. This is a fun interview we know you will love.
Something I try to be aware of is the content of my show and how it relates to the current world. An example of this is trying to stay about from politically charged topics, and not gendering people. I’ll be 100% honest that I struggle with not assuming someone’s gender, I’m getting better about it. The thing is I’m not just pretending it’s not a thing, I’m actively trying. Just breaking 40 years of habit is tough.
Right now I’m having a struggle with a line in my show where I say: “…it gives you the illusion of choice…like voting” The original intent with that line was my opinion on the electoral system. However with the political challenges the USA has faced in the last six months I can see how that line now carries very heavy political baggage.
Do I keep it or drop it?
Here’s the thing, it’s not a huge line in the routine or show. So dropping it won’t hurt the show. Also, it’s a probably pretty easy to write something to fit that format, just change “voting” to something else.
It comes down to how bad do I want to defend the punchline if someone gets upset at it? It’s not a joke or bit I would fight really hard for. There are other edgy jokes that I definitely would fight for, this just isn’t one of them.
Moving forward, I’ll probably drop the line, or rewrite it and a few years from now it may make it back into the show…
Yesterday’s blog post was about getting a Himber Pail, a prop I’ve been chasing for years and trying to figure out how to use it within my show. Last night I sat down and starting writing some ideas. Here’s what I wrote last night:
When I was a teenager I saw the most amazing magic trick, and the magician taught me to do it. I’ve been doing it ever since…so for 3 years. If it was on the mount rushmore of the greatest magic tricks, it’d be 17 miles down the road at Crazy horse…because he let me use it.
I bring you the milk bucket trick!
Did you know most asians are lactose intolerant? Shouldn’t surprise you, how many do you remember on the Got Milk posters in your elementary school gym?
I should mention that I used to be lactose intolerant. But now, I’ll drink white and chocolate milk.
Oh shoot, I messed up the trick…I forgot to put in the bottom
Hand thru bucket and show it empty
Let’s do the trick in reverse…
Lift the bucket like you are going to pour its contents into the bottle. Contine flipping so its upside down and pour milk into the bottom.
And that’s the greatest trick I’ve ever seen!
That’s not the very good, but it’s as start. I took action by actually writing, and that’s the first step. Waiting for something to just pop into my head randomly, isn’t an effective way to come up with a routine.
It’s interesting that the routine I wrote ended up having a them. When writing it was just some jokes I wrote around the hook of “the greatest magic trick I’ve seen” and the props , but the bit turned out to be a piece about racism. It’s not something I’d probably do in my show, but it’s a start.
What I do like is the “do it in reverse” part which motivates the pouring of the milk onto the bottom of the pail. I think that’s the keeper out of my first try to figure out what to do with the Himber Pail.