Recently I finished a road trip around the USA and I stumbled upon two live music concerts. This really surprised me as I didn’t think live, public performances are something that would be happening right now. One was in Arizona and the other was in California. Since I wasn’t seeking out live entertainment and came across two shows, I’m assuming a lot more is happening.
The first one was in Arizona and it was in the corner of a restaurant’s outdoor patio. The band wasn’t wearing masks, but they were “socially distant” from the audience. There was no seating within about 12 feet of their performance area. This one felt like it was within the area’s health district’s guidelines.
The second was in California at a “pop up art installation“. This one all of the band except the singer had face masks, however there was no real distance to the audience and the audience’s seating had no space between the chairs. This one felt like it was done with no regard to what their local health department is recommending (I could be wrong).
In addition to these two concerts, I ran across about half a dozen street performers. This tells me that people are ready and want live, in person entertainment. Is the time right to go out and start doing shows?
I don’t know.
Personally I’m following what the health department says. If they say I can do a show for less than 10 people with them all 6 feet apart, then I’m good with that. If they say I can do 30 people in a small room or 500 people outdoors, then that works for me.
Is this the right way to do it?
For me it is, it may not be for you. I’m trusting my the health department and in theory they’re more informed than me. This may or may not be true. They also may have an agenda or be directed by someone who does.
A few days ago I finally finished volume one of the book Scripting Magic by Pete McCabe. I’ll admit it took me a lot longer to read it that a book normally takes, that’s because I had a lot of projects I was working on, not because it was a hard read. I was really glad I read this book and it’s something that I think more magicians should read.
For me the main take away was the importance of writing what you say down. You can learn a lot from writing it, but it also makes you review it. You can more easily spot places for jokes and just looking at the words makes it easier to write jokes.
I really liked the interviews and while the book goes a bit into the author’s process for writing scripts, I really wish it had more activities to do, more like a workbook. I get that that’s a hard thing to do because everyone has a different process and style. I would have liked a bit more “hands on” type activities.
The last ten years a lot has changed in America, and your show should be changing to keep up. Right now I’m in a hotel and the 1980’s movie Overboard in on TV. This movie was remade in 2018, however I haven’t seen the movie. There must have been something there some production company felt the need to make it again.
There are a lot of old “bits” in the movie that aren’t really used anymore. In the beginning of the movie Goldie Hawn has amnesia, which is something that was in in every episode of a 1980’s sitcom and many movies of that time. It’s something that really isn’t an any modern shows. Of course at one point she faints, which is another dated movie bit.
What does this have to do with magic?
Simple, you need to look at your show, how does it fit in with where the USA is right now. Not too long ago I saw a video of a performer doing the break away wand. When it broke he said, “must have been made in china”. He mentioned that he got a complaint about the line. I told him the complaint was justified and it’s super insensitive.
Let’s pretend that I’m wrong, is the bit worth complaints, even if it’s not offensive? In the video the line didn’t really get a laugh, so it’s not a joke that I’d fight for.
When you look at your show, if you can’t justify a joke with a reason beyond, “it gets a laugh” if someone were to be offended by it, you should drop the joke. Now’s the time to go through your show before you get complaints.
Coming up on 7/16 at 5pm (pacific) Matt Baker and I will be hosting the third Odd and Offbeat Variety show. These are live variety shows that happen over Zoom. Each show features three acts, these are some of our amazing friends and this month’s show is going to be AMAZING!
Each performer will answer questions from the audience after perform their acts, then after the show we hang out a bit. It’s a lot of fun, and you should check it out!
Early on in the days of “shelter in place”, bookers who had magic shows scheduled were blindly switching to online shows. They didn’t really know what it would look like, they just needed another option. Now that we’re almost four months into having restrictions on large gatherings, people are starting to look into booking these, and not just converting existing bookings.
Because of the shift from converted shows already scheduled to scheduling new shows, I decided it was time to make a promo video for my virtual magic show. Here’s what the current version looks like:
I’m going to make another version, this was the first so that I have something to show potential bookers right now. As I compile more and more video, I’ll make another promo video.
Frequently something cool will happen to me and my wife will say, “how do things like that always happen to you?” The answer is simple, I’m present in life. I look at things, I talk to people and an generally aware of what’s happening around me.
Here’s an example of being present, I was at a history museum in New Mexico and saw this medical display. Can you spot the juggler’s prop that was put in there?
Here’s a closer loot at it:
It’s a diabolo! It even says it on the edge of it. How did it end up there? I’m guessing it belonged to a doctor and whoever was putting the display together just assumed it was medical.
Noticing this wasn’t a huge life changing thing, but it’s being aware of the things around you. When you are creating magic, or performing being aware of the situations around you can lead to some great discoveries!
For the last twenty years or so, I’ve tried to have a show that people don’t call “cute”. I want what I do to have some edge or be amazing, and not simply cute. However recently a show producer called something I did cute and I was excited for that comment! I was doing my new routine to my Polaroids to Envelope trick that I’ve written about on this blog.
What makes the trick “cute” is the story, it’s a personal story about my family. It’s a real, honest and true story. It’s also something outside of my comfort zone. I do joke based magic tricks, and while I do reveal personal things about my life, this is the first thing I’ve written that was more about the story than the jokes.
The show producer commented that she had a kid and the story was really relatable. Maybe it’s me getting older, but that comment really warmed my heart. Performing is about connecting with people. Usually I do that through fart jokes, but I did it through parenting this time. This routine took me out of my comfort zone and it paid off.
Is my show going to have a huge shift because of this one success? Nope. This trick does add some texture to my show and I will continue to explore writing like this in the future.
For some reason today I had the song Burn Down the Mission by Elton John stuck in my head. Here’s the funny thing, I’m not an Elton John fan and didn’t think I was familiar with the song. I found it on YouTube and it turns out I knew most of the words.
If you don’t know the song, here it it:
This is a song that relates to a lot of what’s going on right now in the USA. How does it relate to magic blog? Simple, the words have meaning, he’s telling a story and a very powerful story. When you do a magic trick that you bought or read in a book, are you giving it the same emotion that Elton John is?
Here’s an example of a cover version of the same song:
It’s a different story being told in this cover version of the song. It’s not a struggle of the poor versus the rich. It’s something else, something less powerful, and stripped of all of its meaning.
Before you say that Elton John’s version has more emotion because they are his words, remember that Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics. That kinda makes Elton John doing a cover of Bernie’s song.
Now listen to Phil Collin’s version of the same song:
The Phil Collins version carries heavy emotion with it and I think is true to the songs lyrics. He cares about what he’s saying. Think about the words you are saying in you magic tricks, they don’t need to be a heavy with emotion, but they need to be true and honest.
When I posted the nut and bolt trick the other day I mentioned that what I posted wasn’t quite what I had envisioned the trick to look like. Ideally it would be a penetration type effect, with the nut penetrating through the thread of the bolt.
I just recorded a quick video of sort of what I’d like it to look like:
That video isn’t exactly what I’d like it to look like, but it’s pretty close. I think that makes for a more interesting effect than a visual animation of the nut unscrewing itself. Moving the nut while it’s covered by your fingers allows the spectators mind to fill in the whats happening may make it more magical.
The important thing is that if you have a gimmick, you should play with it. Figure out what else you can do with it besides simply what the instructions say.
In this episode the Moisture Festival Podcast hits the road to Portland Oregon and interview funnyman Rhys Thomas. Recorded at Sisyphus farm Rhys tells us about growing up a few miles from the Oregon Country Fair and how seeing variety artist at a young age inspired him to follow suit.
We get to hear about what the first Moisture Festival was like and what the criteria was to perform. Rhys also talks about traveling the world with his science show, getting armed guarded escorts in Egypt and how difficult it is to do balancing stunts on cruise ships. A awesome and hilarious conversation with one of the Northwest’s premier variety acts.