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!
Last week while performing at the Moisture Festival, I hosted one show. One of your jobs as MC is to read their announcements, which is a pretty long list that has to happen up front before you introduce the first act. The announcements are things like fire exit instructions.
During my MC spot, I took those on right away and did those the first thing out. It really fell flat, and I had to dig out of a hole.
After the show Jamy Ian Swiss pulled me aside and reminded me of something I already knew, but didn’t do. He said, “Never start the show with announcements“. He’s right, and I’m glad he mentioned it to me. It’s something I know, put didn’t put into practice. I’m 1000% glad he mentioned that to me, otherwise this could have been the beginning of starting a bad habit while MCing.
One thing I hate when performing is forgetting or mispronouncing an act’s name if I have to introduce them. Recently a show I was performing on had an performer whose stage name wasn’t the name I knew them by, and the stage name was unusual.
To make it easy, I put a cheat sheet on my table:
You’ll notice the name is spelled out phonetically. That helps me read it at a glance. It really makes a difference, rather than seeing how they spell it and trying to figure it out.
A couple of nights ago I performed at the Mostly Magicians Virtual Open Mic. It was a lot of fun and Ryan Kane is a great host for it. It’s an open mic, so a great place to work things out.
I was second to last in the show, and I brought two tricks, one that was pretty solid and one that I was working on. Unfortunately I only got to do one trick which wasn’t the one I was working on as I ran out of time.
It wasn’t a total loss as far as working on material goes. I did something I haven’t done in while…wrote some jokes about the other acts. When I MC in person shows I would write jokes about the acts and use them in the transition between acts. I didn’t plan on doing this, it’s something I just did.
One of the interesting things about doing jokes about things happening NOW instead of prepared material is that the audience is aware of that. Your joke doesn’t need to be the best joke, they will give you a lot of leeway. They can instantly relate to your joke, you don’t need to set up a backstory. I think any of the jokes I told, if you took out of context of the show would fall flat…even if you described the act before the joke.
The first half of my show was a stand up set about the show. It was fun, and good to flex that creative muscle.
Many years ago I started adding rules to what I do in my show. Sometimes I break these rule, but when I do it’s intentional. Usually these come about by me seeing something I don’t like in someone else’s show and want to make sure I don’t do it in my show.
One of the rules I have is that I don’t use the names of other magicians in my show. There’s a simple reason for that, I don’t want people thinking of other shows they could be seeing. Why would I talk about David Blaine in my show, the audience will immediately compare me to him.
Also when you mention another magician, you run the risk of people not knowing who the person is. I recently watched a show where someone mentioned Jeff McBride and I’m guessing most of the people had no idea who Jeff is. That just confuses people, unless you then explain who the person is, which in most cases.
Not too long ago I was in a variety show and provided an introduction to an MC. They didn’t use what I provided and used a “stock joke” intro that went something like, “you’ve heard of David Copperfield, David Blaine, Doug Henning…well so has he…” This is a bad intro. First of all it’s selfish for the MC to not use the provided intro without asking me. Second, that joke doesn’t move the show forward or provide any info on the act they are about to see. The intro I provided does.
What you do in your show is up to you, but is it really necessary to mention Houdini’s name or are you just being lazy?
Today, you can check me out doing some virtual stage hosting for the Coconino County Fair on their facebook page! I’ll be introducing their bands and doing some magic tricks.
When I was a teenager I remember in all of the Karrell Fox boxs there being tons of magic tricks that he used to introduce act. Things like a piece of rope ends up shaped like an acts name, or the chalk magically writes the acts name on a chalkboard. I remember thinking how that was very dated feeling. What I mean by that, is that it doesn’t (to me) feel modern in a live variety show.
Now that I’m doing some of this virtual hosting, things like that kinda make sense. In a virtual video, the trick can happen, then the bands video starts. There’s not lag between me leaving the stage, and the band walking on and getting ready. I’ve gone back and reread a lot of Karrell’s stuff and while the props need to be modernized, the ideas are solid!
This weekend at the sideshow festival, they have a pre-show and then the show. The people from the preshow stay for the main show. The MC did the same two bits for the two shows. I was kinda anoyed at that. To me that’s a lack of respect for your audience. Bring enough material to … Continue reading “Emceeing a show”
This weekend at the sideshow festival, they have a pre-show and then the show. The people from the preshow stay for the main show. The MC did the same two bits for the two shows. I was kinda anoyed at that. To me that’s a lack of respect for your audience. Bring enough material to fill the time.
Being the MC on a show is hard to do, especially a variety show. You’ve got to keep it moving and you’ve got to fill time. A good MC will talk to acts before the show to get an idea of their set up and take down. Based on that you’ll know what bits fill what spaces best.
An good MC is one of those things that you aren’t aware of, but when you see a bad one it’s obvious. The key to MCing is talking to the acts, and watching them. That way if anything happens, you can reference it in between…or are prepared for a mess, props moving behind you and with time to fill.