Ambient Entertainment

Recently an aerialist that I’ve worked with posted a picture of themself working at a corporate gig.

aerialist

It’s a great picture and she’s an amazing act.

However the picture also highlights what’s wrong with many corporate gigs. They pay a lot of money to the acts, then they just waste them. I cropped the picture above, below is the uncropped picture:

corporate ambient entertainment

They have her performing while no one is watching. Everyone is chatting with other people at the table, virtually no one is facing her. Whoever booked it is really throwing away money on an amazing act.

YES, I do understand that it’s ambient entertainment. However, if she wasn’t there the event wouldn’t be diminished, or if they had he do a formal act it’d be much more memorable.

I’m writing this as we get into the corporate holiday party season where pretty much every magician has work. When you book that gig, are they booking your stage show during the meal? If so, then you’re ambient entertainment.

Personally, I won’t take these holiday parties if I’m performing when food is being served or there’s still food on the tables. This is because my show doesn’t work as ambient entertainment, the audience needs to pay attention to my show for it to work. Sure, I’ve taken shows where I’m performing during the meal, but usually not during December when there’s soo much work that I can decline them and something will fill the spot.

Think about what your show needs to succeed, and ask for it!

-Louie

Making Props…

As I’ve been showing magicians the trick I’ve been doing where I peel the face off of a signed card, one of the comments that I’m frequently getting is that it must be a lot of work making the cards.

Full Face Peel Off Magic Trick

Honestly it is work, but not that much work. I’m frequently in hotels or AirBnB’s and have plenty of downtime. I can make big batches of them while I watch movies on Netflix.

Also, it’s worth mentioning how lazy and cheap many magicians are. Soo many magicians are amazed that I spend about $5 per show in things that get used up, or that I have to roll up balls of yarn for my show. That little bit of effort is what sets people apart from the pack!

-Louie

I’m Not Sorry…

One of the reasons that I’m not a fan of stock lines is that 99% of the people who use them only use them because they have heard other people use them. Not because they fit their performing persona or move their show forward, but simply because other people use them.

Recently I saw a magician and he asked where I was from, and I said “Seattle” and he replied “I’m sorry”. This is a very old gag and not a good one. I replied with several reasons why Seattle is an amazing city and he had no follow up. Was I “heckling” him? NO. He asked me a question and opened up a dialogue by putting down where I live. Had he had a joke set about why he dislikes Seattle that wasn’t connected to asking me question, then I would have been heckling. However he asked the question to me, which opened a dialogue…and he didn’t have the point of view or comedy skills to follow up. I wasn’t even funny, just factual with my response.

My point is that if you ask a question only to have your “comedy” response, you might want to rethink why you ask. Especially if your comedy response potentially insults someone. That brings me back to why I dislike how most stock lines are used, the performer doesn’t think about them. So if you use stock lines, think about them…what they are really saying beyond the laugh (if there is a laugh).

-Louie

Keep Track of Your Gear!

I frequently leave my show gear and other things in my car at airports around the country while I fly home on my days off between gigs. I lock up my gear inside my car with a bicycle cable to the car, to make it inconvenient for someone to steal, but that’s no guarantee.

I recently bought some Apple AirTag‘s and put one in my car, one in my suitcase and one in my show’s case. It gives me some peace of mind to be able to check in on them and to see that they are all still at the airport!

apple airtag to keep track of magic show props

If you travel and leave your gear in your car, I really recommend having an Apple AirTag or something similar with your gear to keep an eye on them while you’re away!

-Louie

Card Split Routine

Yesterday I posted a video of a method for a “card split” effect. I mentioned I don’t think I’ll ever do it, however last night I thought of a routine for it, or at least a way to give it some context and it’s not just showing an 8 of hearts and turning it into two 4 of hearts.

Here we go:

You start with a prediction envelope on the table and a deck of cards. You drop cards onto the table and someone from the audience stops you at any point and you show the card they stopped at. It’s the eight of hearts.

You open the envelope and take out a card, it’s the four of hearts. You admit you messed up and that it’s a trick envelope and you opened the wrong side. You flip the envelope over and open the other side, but that side also has a four of hearts!

You admit you really screwed up the trick and put the same card in both sides of the envelope! You then realize that an 8 is actually two 4’s, so technically you got it right!

You then rip the eight of hearts in half and each half then turns into a four of hearts!

There’s not much to the routine, just a drop force and a double envelope…well that and the gaffed card for the card split.
-Louie

Simplifying Show Set Up

I’m trying to carry less stuff with me when I’m on the road with my show. I used to carry a powerbank, USB micro cord, lightning cord and a USB wall adapter. I use this to plug in the show’s iphone that I run my music off of.

Recently someone showed me a powerbank that has the wall adapter and cords built in!

The nice thing is everything folds into the power bank, so I’ve eliminated carrying two cord and a wall adapter. I’m a fan of this, simplifying what I carry to it’s more direct to set up and strike the show. Sure eliminating two cords and a wall adapter isn’t much…but it’s less to haul.

-Louie

Match Magic…

A long time ago I wrote an idea in a notebook, and it’s something I’ll never do, but even those ideas are important to write down. It needs a gimmick that I don’t have and have fallen out of fashion. A few weeks ago I was digging through the bins of broken and incomplete magic at Hocus-Pocus and found the needed gimmick to make the gimmick for my idea!

Here’s the trick (my idea is at the end):

I don’t think anyone has really used a match pull for a reproduction of the match after the vanish in a thumb tip. Usually they are used simply for the production of a lit match, then used to light flash paper/string in a stage manipulation act.

Unfortunately I think this trick is 50 years too late as magic with matches is really out of fashion with there being virtually no venues that allow smoking and with fire getting more and more difficult to insure. Had I thought of this in the 1970’s I would have a sure fire hit!

-Louie

Too Much Tech…

Last night we watched the production show on the Cruise Ship we’re on vacation on. It’s essentially a dance show with some singing, but the whoever wrote/designed the show decided to highlight the tech over the people. While not an always bad choice, for me (and I’m biased as I make my living as a live performer) watching special effects on a screen gets old…especially when you have talented humans on the stage.

There was a lot of the time they had dancers doing their thing in the dark while the screens overpowered them.

robot cabaret show

I totally understand what they were going for, which was a high tech show. I think there were ways to do it, like simply lighting the live performers while still keeping their futuristic theme.

Then at then end something strange happened. The cruise director came out (which is normal) and mentioned that the six moving screens cost a million dollars each, so six million total. It was, as my wife said, “a strange flex“, where he was giving props to a robot. For six million dollars, you could have an insanely amazing show with minimal tech! In my view, the cruise director trivialized the humans in the show. A better thing to say would have been something like, “let’s not forget a round of applause for the million dollar robot screens…and another round of applause for the cast of Pixel’s Cabaret that came from 7 different countries and 3 continents to entertain you.” He’d still get to brag about how much the TV’s cost, but also honor the performers. Without them, I don’t think anyone would watch the 40 minute show of just flashing lights.

Look at your show, is the technology overpowering you?
We’re in a time where it’s easy to add production value to your show, but is it always necessary?
Does tech in your show get in the way of you connecting on a human level with your audience?

I could be old school and out of touch, but that’s my opinion.
-Louie

Creating With What’s Around You…

Right now I’m on a cruise ship and it’s pretty bumpy out, and I noticed that all of the floors at the stairwells have “sick bags”. These look like paper lunch sacks, but are made of plastic and have a tab at the top to seal them.

I grabbed one and took it back to my state room to see if I could figure out something to do with it. Here’s my brainstorming from this morning:

  • Chew up some food, spit it in…then blow up the bag and pop it and it’s confetti
  • Someone reaches into the bag and pulls out a single cookie (it’s the only thing in the bag). You take a few bites and spit them back into the bag. Shake the bag and dump out a whole cookie
  • You have the bag sealed. You tell the audience you breathed into the bag after breakfast and have someone try to guess what you ate. You have a note that confirms they are right!
  • Someone from the audience breathes into the bag, and you tell them what they had for breakfast
  • you have a line of people onstage. With your back turned, someone breathes into the bag and seals it. It’s handed to you and smell the bag and tell whose breath it is
  • You put food into the bag and it turns to rubber vomit
  • You say you opened the bag on the plane and captured the air at your seat. Someone smells the air and guesses your row and seat number.

What I like about this is the specific property of the bag, it being plastic and sealable ended up taking me away from tradition paper bag tricks. I really like the idea of trapping air in the bag. I think that the row and seat number might be the winner as it doesn’t involve anyone’s breath, so it’s not cringy.

I don’t know if I’ll ever do this stuff, but it’s a fun creativity exercise.
-Louie

A Tight, Loose Comedy Magic Show

When watching Phil Cass’s show the other night, and I’m such a magic nerd, I saw the early and late show on the same night, I was amazed at how tight the show felt, while still feeling loose and unscripted.

phil cass magician

Phil has a ton of verbal and physical jokes and bits to use when the occasion presents itself, but he doesn’t always use. These gags are what fill the dead spots in the show and give it a sense of happening now, versus him just saying the same lines every night over and over again.

This tightness is something that takes years to develop and you need a mental toolbox full of jokes, bits and gags that you can pull from whenever a situation happens. It also makes you stay present is your show, as sometimes you’ll use a joke from later in the show because it fits something that just happened.

If you get a chance to see Phil Cass, I recommend it, there’s a lot to learn from watching his show!

-Louie