Reflecting back on performing with World of Wonders last week, it really got me out of my comfort zone. Performing in a three minute context isn’t something I really do anymore. When I was starting out I built my show at comedy open mics in 3-5 minute chunks, however it’s been a while since I’ve worked in that format.
The big thing for me is that it’s gotten me to edit. I was cutting out things that really didn’t need to be there. Also when you’re doing a routine as a stand alone bit, you’ll notice what’s a strong joke or bit and what felt like it was a good joke, but it’s just your momentum from the whole show that helps you get a laugh.
I’ve also written some new jokes and come up with some new bits for the routines I was doing.
I’m really glad I did this, it’s not my normal thing. I learned a lot!
One thing I don’t get is performers who wear sunglasses when they perform outdoors. It blocks your connection to the audience. I don’t care if you have a sensitivity to light, it hurts your show. I get that standing in the sun is uncomfortable, but so is sweating in 107 degree heat.
At the ND State Fair, on the stage next to my stage is a music stage. Daniel Kosel is performing, and all week he’s been wearing sunglasses for his shows. I want to note that his show is a lot less of a show than the other acts I’ll be talking about later in this post.
Daniel is just a guy with a guitar, who stands there and sings. He sings slower songs and mostly older songs. His performance isn’t very dynamic, there’s nothing he does that makes you want to watch him, he’s more of an ambient act, than a mainstage act. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I also don’t think this is the venue for that. He’d be better in a smaller, indoor type venue.
Yesterday on the same stage they had the 188th Army Band of North Dakota. This is one of the Army/National Guard Band, and if you ever get the chance to see any of the army bands, do it! They performers are all super talented and very dynamic. They do upbeat music, and their show is super tight! Any performer can learn a lot about watching these band.
If you look at the pic of the 188th band above, you’ll notice the guy in the center is wearing sunglasses. While I’m not a fan, I also give him a pass, as he’s not the front person, it’s the lady to the left that’s the signer. The guy in the middle was doing a guitar solo when the pic was taken.
The final show of the day was Sting Rays Jukebox Rock. This show is a high energy show that’s full of production and is a lot of fun. Sting Ray plays oldies, but songs everyone knows. He’s got a great look and a tight show. He does a good job connecting with the audience. He’s very likeable onstage.
You’ll notice that no one in Sting Ray’s show is wearing sunglasses. I know this pic was taken after sun down, but at his earlier shows while the sun was up, everyone’s eyes were visible.
I’ve always told performers you can learn more about performing by watching other shows than you can by doing your show. You learn what you like or don’t like, and once you know what you don’t like, you can try to avoid those things in your show.
One of the fun things work this week with World of Wonders this week is that I’m part of cast of performers. That means my duties are more than just my act. I’ve got a small part in another act. I pop my head through the curtain and say a couple of lines. This is something I’ve never really had to do before, aside from performing with my daughter.
In the middle of the run, I had another performer have an idea for my spoon act. This idea would use a second person to introduce my giant spoon. The idea took off! Backstage we then started riffing and before I knew it, it was a fairly fleshed out bit!
This is something that I can’t normally do in my spoon act, however I also don’t know that I’ll be doing the spoon act much longer as part of it probably isn’t very good for my health.
The important thing is even though I don’t know the future of the spoon act (I took it out of my show about 3 years ago), I’m still working on it. It’s got a brief life in the show for 9 days, but I still want it to grow!
One of the fun things in the World of Wonders show is they do the some great illusions! One of them is the headless woman. This is part of a larger routine, where a girl gets her head cut off, the head is displayed balanced on a sword on a chair (so you can see under the head) and then the body is displayed without a head!
It’s fun to get to slip into the illusions for fun, but it also gives me a lot more respect for people who do them. Not just sideshow illusions, but magic illusions as it’s a lot of slipping into places that don’t feel like they were designed for people to slip into!
I don’t do illusions, however I do think it’s important for magicians to try to slip into them. It’s easy to say, “I know how it works, she’s just in the base…“. the reality is that there’s a lot more to it than simply laying down.
Last night we recorded the whole show at the World of Wonders side show. Then later that night as a cast we sat down and reviewed it. It was really helpful and while I think I contributed a lot of notes for everyone else, I probably had the most notes for myself.
One of my notes for myself had to do with a joke, something that I had been working on taking out of the show, and adding a new joke. The reason I was taking it out was that it stopped playing as well as it had used to. The joke may simply have aged outof being funny.
For context, in the routine, I’m sticking spoons to my arm. Here’s the original line:
“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. I’m awesome at the airport, I always get the extra pat down”
It’s not the strongest bit, but when it was written, the TSA was in the news a lot with how they were hand screening people. At the time, it was topical and while still relevant, it’s not something that’s at the forefront of people’s minds.
A couple of weeks ago, I worked on writing a new joke to take it’s place with my friend Eric Haines (who is an amazing performer). Here’s the new joke:
“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. The bonus is if I ever get lost, my arm always points north!”
That’s a decent joke, and gets a laugh. The problem was I got greedy and would tell them together to try and get two laughs, instead of simply replacing the joke.
“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. I’m awesome at the airport, I always get the extra pat down. The bonus is if I ever get lost, my arm always points north!”
I think the first punchline didn’t hit hard enough, so the second one was starting off in a hole. By removing the old joke and simply doing the new one, it make the new punchline play stronger. It also tightened up the act!
This week I’m performing in Minot, North Dakota. I’ve worked out here many times over the years. When getting into town, I drove by a Menards hardware store.
Normally this isn’t a huge deal, but this is the hardware store where I bought all the stuff to create my Evaporation trick! It’s also the store where I bought a lot of the parts for all the previous unsuccessful versions of the trick.
Many magicians think that finished ideas just pop out of people’s heads, and while that does happen, it’s rarely the case. Usually it’s a idea, that eventually after a lot of work gets to the final idea.
The key is to trying to create a new method for a trick is to not give up. I tired many, many bad (in retrospect) ideas for how to make the trick bottle. However each bad idea taught me something, and they all moved me closer and closer to the final goal!
After a day, I’m starting to settle into the swing of things with the World of Wonder side show. It’s very different from how I’m used to performing as the whole show, or in a 15 minute chunk. The two acts that are about three minutes are outside my normal comfort zone. My show uses a lot of personality, and for it to work, I need you audience to like me, which can take time.
When I’m in variety shows and they want two shorter bits, I normally try to get them to do one longer chunk as if the audience doesn’t like me initially it gives me some time to try to win them over. With two short pieces that are separated in a show, if they don’t like me after the first one, it’s really hard to get them to like me at the second spot.
For my two acts during this run, I picked one thing that has a lot action and applause points, but also sells me a little bit. The second spot is uses a lot of attitude and hype, which works as a second spot, but not as a first. For the second one to work, you need to like me a little bit.
I think the two acts this week are finding their place…
This week I’m performing as an act in the World of Wonders Sideshow. One of the challenges for me is keeping my acts short. They have the 10 act format and each act is in the ballpark of about 3 minutes. Normally when I perform, I try to get as much time as possible out of a routine That’s the key to being a solo act that does a full show.
I’m working on cutting down a lot of the personality bits, it’s hard to figure out what jokes/bits to cut to keep the routine in the 10 act format.
I’m fighting the urge to simply do the bits as I normally do them and have them run 5 minutes. There was a time when I was younger where I wouldn’t have cut down the bits. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized you have to be a team player, but more than that, this is taking me out of my comfort zone. Maybe I could learn that a 5 minute bit in my show, is really an amazing 3 minute bit and I’ve diluted it by stretching it to 5 or 6 minutes.
I’m enjoying stepping out of my normal box and taking some risks!
Today was a fun day for the incoming mail, I had three different vanishing birdcages show up! The first is an birdcage from India, this one has the side bars made at a 90 degree angle difference from how most are made. It could have been made left handed??
This cage vanishes fine, it’s just got a lot of rough edges, that you’ll have to spend sometime filing down.
The second cage that came is an older “martin style” that once belonged to Bryce Chambers (inventor of the Bryce’s screen illusion). It’s damaged and ad an attempt at repair at some point.
The notches in the corner posts are interesting. They appear to have been put there by the manufacturer. The do make the cage a bit more sleek when collapsed, but it appears (to my eye) to be a negligible amount.
The third cage is an Owens Challenge Vanishing Cage. This one, I’m hoping to have be my new working cage. My current working cage is one that was given to me as a teenager, and it has missing bars.
This cage looks great, however it’s pretty stiff. It’s going to need some breaking in. I put in on a pull and it vanished way better than I thought it would have with how stiff it is. I’ll keep working with it and it should loosen up!