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!
Currently I do several shows for different venues or audiences. Each of these shows has its own case, however there are some props that I only have one of, so I need to move that prop from case to case. I’m in the process of building or acquiring the multiples of that prop.
While I was putting the remote controls into the Applause Please V2‘s that I’m building, I wired up a second alarm clock with a remote control.
I use this prop in my Incredible Idioms school assembly show and in my general kid show. By not having to move it from case to case, it saves me time and I don’t have to worry about it not being in the case!
If you do multiple shows, having a dedicated case and props really saves a lot of time as there’s no packing to do the show, just grab the case and go!
Every show that I do, I write out a set list. This helps me with packing, set up and general planning, like not having similar effects back to back in the show.
Here’s a recent set list for a 60 min corporate holiday show:
I also have notes as to who to thank during the show. By the end of the show, I’ll probably won’t remember the names of anyone helping me out without a note.
I’m always amazed when I work with people that don’t use set lists. But those are usually people who don’t really have a set show and just go up and “wing it” every time. Personally I know my show, but the are many different configurations of the show, I’m not always doing 60 mins for adults, the show length and audience make up changes.
Last week I was at an event an MC’d one of their shows. When I’m an MC, my goal is to keep the show moving and not do time myself…but to be memorable. This is different from the advice I frequently be hear which is, “an MC should be invisible.” I think the MC should be the host at the party, and you should know the host if you’re attending the party!
When I MC, I have an opening warm up bit, a few bits for emergencies, and notes, lots of notes. I have the introduction for the act and ideas for jokes based on watching video or my past experience with their act. Then during their act I will write jokes based on what I see.
As I use up a note or joke, I crumble it up and leave it on the table.
The reason I leave them on the table is sometimes I need to reference something I’ve written before. By leaving a messy table, it gives me access to everything I’ve written.
At the end of the show, I have a table of crumpled up papers. I really enjoy working as an MC, however it’s a lot of work compared to just being an act in the show.
I think the key is to not make the show about you, but at the same time it’s your show!
One thing I believe in is that when everyone is good, it’s better for everyone who performs in an industry. I was at a conference last week and there’s not a lot of content for the performers who want to get better. A buddy and I came up with the idea of a problem solving session. It wasn’t on the official program or even endorsed by the conference, so I had some flyers made and we distributed them and made it a word of mouth thing.
We had a great turnout, my picture below is about half of the room:
What was really cool is that a lot of the people who book entertainment showed up. They were able to hear what our challenges were, and able to have a dialogue with use about how to solve them!
There are some people who have asked me why I’m helping my competition, and the answer is simple:
We’re all on the same team.
I don’t look at anyone as competition. Not because I’m better than anyone, we’re all on one big team. When people hire good entertainment that’s easy to work with, they want to hire entertainment more and that’s more work everyone!
I just wrapped up showcasing at a booking conference. Usually at these the MC isn’t the best, so a couple years ago my agent started having her acts use video intros which play right after the MC intros the act.
It really does a lot more to set the tone and energy for the showcase. I’m really glad I started using a video introduction!
One thing that always surprises me the fear that magicians have about spending money on things that will help sell their show. I get most of my work through booking conferences. I needed to make a new banner for one of the agents that I work for, so while I was doing that, I also made a generic one for me.
These were made in a rush, and they’re good enough. If I had more time I would make a couple of changes, but the more important thing is that I have the one the agent requested by the date they needed it!
In less than two weeks I’m showcasing at a booking event and my retractable banner is missing. I needed to order another one ASAP, but of course, I’m on the road and can’t find the original files.
Working off a picture of the old banner, I had it recreated with a couple of more recent pictures and some new credits.
Having to remake the banner was sort of a blessing in disguise as it needed to be redone anyway. That and the retractable base was getting pretty banged up, it didn’t work very smoothly.
If I was at home I had pictures on a hard drive that I would have rather used, but sometimes you just need something that’s “good enough”. This will get me through the event and with banners at about a hundred bucks, if I only use it once before I redesign it, it’s totally worth it!
If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know that I’ve learned a lot about protecting the magic that I sell and that I’ve been very successful in keeping knock offs of my magic products off of sites like ebay and aliexpress.
I think this is something that all magicians should read, it not only covers the different types of intellectual property (IP), but how it applies specifically to magicians. Hopefully it will inform idiot magicians who don’t know about IP from commenting in social media groups with factually inaccurate information about IP.
My favorite is when a magician says a trick is protected as a “trade secret”. Sure it can be, but if I’m not a party to the trade secret agreement and can figure it out, I’m (legally) free to use it. Trade secrets only apply to those who have signed the agreement.
If you’re a creator, I hope if gives you a base for where to start to protect an idea for a trick and the different processes for doing it. For example, I personally don’t want to patent a trick due to time and expense. I choose to copyright the art and instructions. That allows me to remove knock offs from popular sites because they are using my text and art. Most of the people knocking off don’t want to spend the time it takes to write ad copy and create art, so it narrows down the amount of knock offs out there.
If someone uses my idea and creates their own art, text and ad copy they are legally free to do make my product. Sure, I’d rather they don’t, but I’ve accepted that’s how it is based on what I was willing to do to protect my products.
I’m always amazed at how many magicians have taken the basic step of registering the text and art of their instructions and ad copy. It’s less than $100 and easy to do online.