One of the things that I noticed in the pictures of me performing at the Oddities and Curiosities Expo was how small I looked on that stage!
I’m guessing the stage was 16 -20 feet wide by 8 feet deep. That isn’t that big, I’ve definitely worked on stages that size or bigger. However the pictures I’ve seen really remind me how much bigger props matter.
Yes, you can fill the stage with personality, but you if you’re presenting a magic show and they can’t see the magic, your personality will only carry it soo far. At some point you’ll stop being a magician and become a stand up comic or monologist.
Last night my wife and I went to see Michael Buble, and that guy works his butt off onstage. He did just over two hours with no opening act, and the two hours flew by!
One huge thing to note is that it wasn’t all music. In between each song the told jokes. It was a mini stand up set that usually introduced the next song or was about the city we were in. Telling jokes between routines is a great way to add personality and time in your magic show. I used to do this more, and need to get back to doing more of it.
Basic math says if you do eight tricks in your show, and if you can add 2 minutes of jokes between those eight routines, you’ve added 12 minutes to your show without having to carry any extra props. That would turn a 45 in show into almost an hour!
A while ago my friend Monty Reed mentioned he was working on some comedy magic, and I suggested we go to an open Mic. Our schedules finally worked out and we went to one last night:
This was Monty’s first comedy open mic, and there are some “rules” that people need to know. It’s always easier to go with someone who has done them before, they can kinda show you the ropes.
There’s nothing crazy you need to learn, however if the concept of “The Light” is new to you, it’s important to know. The light is usually a literal light of some sort, so a flashlight, or phone, but can be something as simple as a someone waving to you or sitting in a chair. It’s a signal that you’re running out of your allotted time onstage. Usually they “light” you when you have one minute left. When you’re new or working on new material, it’s hard to tell how much time you have done and the light is really helpful…if you know what it means!
In my continuing effort to get better at using a handheld mic, I went out to a comedy show to watch how comedians hold and use the mic. It also helped that a buddy of mine was in town headlining the show, so it was a good chance to say hi.
All of the comedians in the show used a handheld mic, it’s rare to see a comic use anything else other than a handheld. One thing that I noticed I was doing and they all did was they used the mic as a prop. Kinda like how a conductor uses a baton, it was used to emphasize things they were saying. When I started using the handheld mic earlier this month, I noticed I was a lot more expressive with my hands. Normally my hands wouldn’t really have a reason to be near my face, and the motions I make holding the mic would look strange without holding the mic.
One thing I need to do now is watch my show and figure out where I can clean it up the unnecessary moves in and out of the mic stand.
A fun little side bonus is setting up my show is fast now that I don’t have to deal with my wireless headset mic!
P.S. If you are want to learn to use, or get better with a handheld mic, I recommend Michael Kent’s video Microphone Management for Magicians! He does a great job covering pretty much all you need to know and it will save you some time.
When I was first starting out performing in comedy clubs in the early 2000’s I had to use a wired handheld microphone. As I progress through my career, I switched to a wireless headset. I’m now playing with going back to being able to do my show with a wired handheld microphone. The main reason is that it’s logistically easy. I don’t need to travel with my own gear, and it also makes trying out new stuff and open mic’s much easier.
I’m performing all month doing three shows a day at a fair, and aside from working on some new material, I’m also trying to relearn to use a handheld microphone. My preshow right now is a stand up set of jokes, which runs about 7 minutes, and I’m now doing that all with the handheld mic. I’m still wearing my headset during this, but using the handheld.
Right now my goal is every day to move the handheld one bit further into the show. Right now, I have my preshow stand up set, my two new “preshow” tricks and then first actual trick in the show all done with the handheld. The next routine is really three tricks in one routine. I was dreading figuring out how to add the handheld microphone to it as parts of it are pretty physical. Then it hit me, I need to look at it as three tricks, not one routine. Once I broke it down that way, it’s much easier to start figuring out how to do it with a handheld microphone.
I was chatting with the sound engineer at my stage about what microphone to get and he suggested the Shure SM58S. This is the version of the Shure SM58, but it has an on/off switch which is something I want. Right now if I’m jumping back and forth between the headset and the handheld, I need that switch so that I’m not being picked up by both mics.
If you’ve never used a handheld, I suggest you learn how, it’ll be helpful the one time your headset dies right before showtime.
Last week I helped out a friend out at a drive thru zoo. It’s a lot of fun, I end up writing a stand up comedy set for each animal that’s about 3 minutes. It also forces me to be creative and write jokes for something that I don’t normally do.
One day it hit me to treat it like a magic trick. I need to let them take in what they are seeing before I start talking. They see animal and I get them some time to process what they are seeing…then I start talking. It’s just like performing magic, you have to let the effect rattle around their brain for a little bit, then you can start talking.
Once I started giving people more time to experience the animal before I started telling them my dopy jokes, people laughed more as their brains weren’t torn between doing two things.
One thing that carries a lot of shows is the performer being confidant. Standing tall and doing what they do with authority, even if what they are doing isn’t very good. Recently I saw an act where the performer’s confidence carried the show. He told some jokes and did some singing: His character was a … Continue reading “Confidence…”
One thing that carries a lot of shows is the performer being confidant. Standing tall and doing what they do with authority, even if what they are doing isn’t very good. Recently I saw an act where the performer’s confidence carried the show.
He told some jokes and did some singing:
His character was a space alien. He delivered his lines like they were the best lines ever, and people seemed to pay attention. In my opinion what carried the act was him selling the material like it was amazing, also a very friendly audience really helped.
However had he done his material with any doubt that it wouldn’t hit, the act really would have been rough. So go out there and portray confidence in your material!
A friend of mine was headlining a local comedy club for the first time, and a bunch of us went out to see her. Her show was great. She came out and was instantly in charge of the audience, she smiled and her act was version conversational feel. I didn’t feel like she was doing … Continue reading “Be Conversational…”
A friend of mine was headlining a local comedy club for the first time, and a bunch of us went out to see her. Her show was great. She came out and was instantly in charge of the audience, she smiled and her act was version conversational feel. I didn’t feel like she was doing lines.
Personally it’s always interesting to see the difference between the opener, feature and headliner. This difference shows how much experience and stage time really matters. It’s more than just the quality of a joke. It’s the pacing, it’s smiling, it’s reacting to the audience and their reaction to the joke.
While you are doing jokes and working off a script, you also need to be able to be in the moment. You need to react to how people react, and be in the moment. Magic works the same way, if you feel like you are doing lines, there’s a disconnect.
Later today I’m heading out to perform for a week in California. I’m using this week to get some work in on my show. In stand up comedy you go on the road to work on your act and less desirable venues so that you are good when you perform in good venues. Magicians seem … Continue reading “Road Work Ahead…”
Later today I’m heading out to perform for a week in California. I’m using this week to get some work in on my show. In stand up comedy you go on the road to work on your act and less desirable venues so that you are good when you perform in good venues.
Magicians seem to lack having “a place to be bad”. Well, these venues do exist, I think that most magician’s egos have a hard time letting them “be bad”. They are afraid to try new things, to push the envelope. Instead they do safe, hack tricks and that’s why magicians aren’t considered artists. It’s like they are a cover band of a cover band of a cover band.
My advice is to go out on the road, leave half of your A-show at home and bring some wacky ideas and force yourself to try them out. Out a few years ago I did a long tour in the midwest and my goal was to come up with a new 45 minute school assembly. By the end of the tour I had one and it was SOLID, but it took guts to leave my normal show at home and hit the road with a trunk full of ideas.