Last week my wife and I had a tourist day in Seattle and part of it we went to see Ira Glass‘s talk called Seven Things I’ve Learned.
At the beginning of it he talks about the title and it’s really just a frame to write a talk around. That was interesting to hear him say that, because essentially that’s what every school assembly magician is doing when they put together a themed show.
At one point during the show, there was an interruption. Someone got up and started yelling that we shouldn’t be laughing when there were people dying in Sudan. I’m not going to call this person a heckler, because it wasn’t really related to what was happening onstage or the performer, it was someone shouting their message. It was unclear whether the person bought a ticket or somehow snuck in.
Ira handled this interruption in an amazing manner! The whole thing felt like it took 5 minutes, but in reality it was probably closer to 90 – 120 seconds. What Ira did was say that the guy is right, that people dying in Sudan was important and that it doesn’t get as much news coverage as it should. He was diffusing the situation. At one point people in the the audiences started booing the guy that interrupted, however Ira kinda shut that down. That’s the right tact, by encouraging the audience to boo, the guy would have gotten louder and louder. Towards the end of the interaction Ira said something like, “I agree with you, the media needs to do better…” and eventually the guy was escorted out.
Then to get the audience back, he did said “I’ve done stories about that…but didn’t feel it was appropriate for a saturday night crowd” and that got a laugh and tension started to leave the room. Then someone in the crowd yelled, “Welcome to Seattle” and Ira replied, “Thanks, so all of your shows have a guy yelling about Sudan…” this got a HUGE laugh and really got the rest of the tension out of the room.
That’s the thing with someone who is interrupting the show with an unrelated matter, no amount of heckler stoppers will do anything. Ira was right by diffusing the situation and not escalating it. Magicians are really bad about escalating their interactions with hecklers or interactions instead of deescalating it. It’s really the better choice in most scenarios, give it a try!
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.
In the new school assembly show I do a trick with apples and oranges. It’s based on Jim Steinmeyer’s Apples and Oranges trick from his book Conjuring. The concept is the same, the the routine is completely different.
I’ve notice that about every 2-3 shows I have kid in the audience when I introduce the apples and oranges that will yell out, “they’re fake” and the kid is correct, they’re plastic. What puzzles me is that kid will fixate on the fact that they aren’t real and keep yelling out “they’re fake“, even after I agree with the kid that they aren’t real fruit.
I’ve tried different ways to deal with this, and yesterday I wrote the line, “they’re not real, I got them from Ikea…So they’re made of particle board and Swedish meatballs”. The goal is to address the issue before the kids says anything. I’ve done it at 2 shows and so far I haven’t had anyone yell out anything.
One challenge with this line is that I’m in North Dakota and there isn’t a Ikea for about 700 miles! The line gets a small laugh from the adults, and not much from the kids. this is better than nothing, however I think I need to write a better line…
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 … Continue reading “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.
In my show I don’t do sucker tricks, and haven’t since I was a kid. A sucker trick is an easy way to get a reaction to a trick. It’s plug and play “comedy” except most people don’t think about what it does beyond the initial reaction. Here’s an example, let’s say you are doing the … Continue reading “Sucker Tricks are for Sucka’s”
In my show I don’t do sucker tricks, and haven’t since I was a kid. A sucker trick is an easy way to get a reaction to a trick. It’s plug and play “comedy” except most people don’t think about what it does beyond the initial reaction.
Here’s an example, let’s say you are doing the Egg Bag and you do the bit where you pretend to put the egg under your armpit, but it’s really somewhere else. For this bit to work you need someone in the audience to yell you how they think you did the trick. Someone has to say, “it’s under your arm”, if they don’t, the bit falls completely flat.
If everything is working correctly, the audience needs to heckle you, and you need to encourage it for the bits to work. Then you do the under the arm bits, and you continue to encourage the audience to heckle you for the next two minutes.
Guess what? You’ve just trained a room full of people to call you out when they think they know how you are doing a trick. This will be a problem later in your show. Is it worth the two minutes of “comedy”? Notice I put quotes around the word comedy, because the audience, isn’t laughing, they are heckling you.
Before you do a sucker trick, think of the larger implications in your show. Here’s a different example: You are working for an agent at an event. The only watch 2 minutes of your show and it’s when the audience is heckling you and telling you how the trick works. Do you think the agent will think you are worth big bucks on the next gig? Probably not.
Last night I performed at a gig that I’ve been performing at for something like 17 of the last 20 years. It’s now getting to the point where people who were kids when I first started doing this gig are bringing their kids to the show! While I was setting up the show a kid … Continue reading “Repeat Engagement…”
Last night I performed at a gig that I’ve been performing at for something like 17 of the last 20 years. It’s now getting to the point where people who were kids when I first started doing this gig are bringing their kids to the show!
While I was setting up the show a kid that was probably 10 years old comes in and asks if I’m the magician. I tell her “yes“, then she proceeds to start grabbing all of my props. I tell her, she can look all she wants, but she can’t touch anything. Her reply was, “why can’t I touch?” This is not the first time I’ve played this game with a kid, so I simply say, “There’s a lot of breakable things in my show and if anything gets broken before the show I can’t do the show.” That answer satisfied her and she left.
I knew she was going to be someone I’d have to keep an eye on during the show.
Once showtime hit, this girl wouldn’t shut up. She was playing with some sort of toy, not directly engaged in the show, but constantly yelling out things. I’m not going to engage with a kid where there is nothing to be gained. She wasn’t invested in the show and there really wasn’t anywhere to go with what she was saying. I chose to ignore her.
Instead, I decided to focus my energy on the kids who where paying attention. I let them shine brighter than her. I also played a lot more and the show went over great. I think the silver lining to having to deal with her, is it made me be more present in the show and to mine for gold a bit deeper and I found it!