In the past I had made a 25ish minute emergency magic show that fits into a little pouch about the size of a sandwich bag. I keep this in my car and it’s come in handy several times since I made it.
In reading Doc Dixon’s book The Show is the Mother of Invention, it got me thinking of expanding this emergency pouch into a small show, not an emergency show. The emergency show was had tricks that I can do, but don’t do and were selected for the size of the trick, not necessarily if the trick was a good fit for my personality.
While I was killing time in a town the other day, I was walking through a junk shop and found a small doctor’s bag.
This bag was cheap at $20 and it’s still really small and won’t take up much room in the trunk of my car, but will allow me turn that 25 minute emergency show into a better show. I have a lot more space to play with and can put things that fit me better into it and things that will play for a larger audience.
Something that the larger size of the case will let me do that the pouch won’t is to put a couple of audio cables into it so the show will have music. This will add production value to the show.
I’m starting to put the show together, but I’m still on the road performing for another month and a half, so it probably won’t be done until I’m home and can add a few more props to it.
Here’s another packet trick I picked up from a magic shop’s junk bin. It’s called Liar’s Blackjack by Bob King. It’s sorta an all backs routine, but not really. You have five cards that have backs on both sides, then a few faces appear and one of them changes.
Here’s what it looks like with when the original instructions are followed and my update on the trick:
The big change is that I got rid of the cards with backs on both sides. That’s such a strange object that the routine really glosses over and I think detracts from the routine. Using blank face cards keeps the focus on the effect and presentation. Then a little change in the count as the Kiss Elmsley doesn’t really work with the blank face cards, so I used the Hypnotic Rumba Count.
This isn’t a routine that I would ever do, but I think that getting rid of the cards with backs on both sides is a HUGE improvment!
I had a day off last week and finally made a prototype of my custom props for The (W)hole Thing which is Daryl’s version of an Emerson and West packet trick.
The main differences is that the circle around they hole is a donut, the spots are arranged like an X and the cards are black. The main reason that the cards are black is that I might have a line about a black hole. With the cards in black I’m sacrificing some visual clarity of what’s a hole and what isn’t. I think if I end up not using the black hole line, I’ll switch the colors back to red as it visually pops!
One thing I’ve noticed that I do is over write my patter for my tricks. The early versions of the tricks are full of stuff that ultimately will be cut. I do think that’s a good way to do it, over write and figure out what’s good and what isn’t. I try to initially fill a lot of verbal space, then cut out what doesn’t work, leaving only the best parts.
The trick I’m working on that’s essentially a clock prediction:
The presentation hook is about my cat, and that seems to be something that people really connect with!
I think that another huge part of putting together routines is finding some sort of presentation hook that people can relate to. There are definitely people who are a lot better at this than me, but I’m trying…
When I was stage hosting a couple of weeks ago, one of the things that I was asked to do was a contest for the sponsor on the mainstage at the event. One day’s entertainment was geared towards a Spanish speaking audience, and I don’t really speak Spanish, but wanted to try.
I had one of the people on the catering staff who was from Mexico help me translate the beginning of my script.
That’s the opening of the script, but then I needed to figure out how to transition into English. So we wrote a little joke:
That was a great little transition joke, and the first joke I’ve written in another language.
The lady helping write it also helped me with my pronunciation. I think people really appreciate when you make at attempt to communicate with them in their native language.
When I fly to gigs there’s always a little bit of a shopping list of things that I need to get for my show.
It is inconvenient to have to try to find these things sometimes, however it’s better than packing them for travel. I can fly with all the thing above, as I only need the matchboxes, not the actual matches. However the boxes can sometimes trigger a search and I want to reduce that chances that someone will go through my gear.
The things like the paper plates and the wipes are just dead weight and nothing specialized. I’d rather simply buy them when I arrive than have them make my bags overweight.
One thing I don’t do is ask the booker to provide these and there’s a simple reason why I don’t. That’s because just because you ask for something specific doesn’t mean you’ll get exactly what you need. For example the bananas need to be yellow, so that they open easily. If they provide me a banana that’s too green it makes the trick not play as well as it’s a struggle to open it.
It adds a bit of time to my day, but for me totally worth it!
This morning I’m heading out to AZ for my first fair gig of the year. When I do fairs, I try to work on new material. I’ll be doing something like 15 stage shows, plus I can do as much close up as I want in between shows.
The presentation is based on a old myth that was popular during the WWII era myth that Asians can tell time by looking at a cats eyes. I had some posters made of my cat and someone is going to try to guess the time and that’s the time on the clock.
I’m hoping the idea of having a cat and talking about my cat will suck people into the trick. I’m not sure how it’ll play, but I have five full days of shows to try to figure it out!!
On Saturday night I headlined a bar gig with a few comedians. The feature act was Morgan Colis and she had written a whole chunk of material about magicians because she was working with me. She went as far as to borrow a coat from her grandma for one of the jokes.
Things like that remind me that I’m not working as hard as I used to. Years ago when I was younger, I’d research all of the other acts I was working with, write venue, city, act specific jokes or bits for the gig. I don’t do that very often anymore, especially for a one off gig.
Working with younger acts (by younger I mean performers who are newer) reminds me that I need to work harder to keep up with the “kids”. There are many performers that phone it in the back half of their career, and it’s passable, then there are acts that keep working on their show.
I want to be one that keeps working on their show…
Today is the final day of the school assembly tour, and after 5 weeks I’ve learned a lot!
The big change was the last time I did this tour, I disliked when the kids sat on the bleacher and I was in the basketball court. I was used to having my back against a wall and the kids sitting on the floor, which is how most school assemblies in the Northwest seat the kids. The advantage of having the kids in the bleachers is that they can see more. The disadvantage is that I don’t have a backdrop, so smaller props can be harder to see. Luckily this year’s show doesn’t really use any small props that the audience needs to see.
I’m much more comfortable with using a handheld mic, and use it most of the time during the show, except a few spots where I need both hands. Using a handheld mic I think is visually superior to a headset as you can use the mic as a prop. I use it to accentuate a spot where I laugh, or cue the audience to a spot where they are supposed to respond.
Using a handheld mic also helps create a certain image, it makes me look more like a stand up comic than “magician”. My warm up is doing “crowd work” where I talk to people and try to find jokes with what they say. It’s a lot of fun, but not easy, especially for kids. How I frame is while we’re waiting for the last class that’s 5 mins late to arrive, I tell them we won’t have time for questions, so they can ask them now while we’re waiting to start. Really the show has started, and I do the questions started at the show’s scheduled start time. Usually one of the early questions I’ll get asked is if I’m a comedian. That means the image I’m trying to portray is working. When I get asked that, part my response is that doing stand up come for kids isn’t a thing. What cracks me up is I then do 5-8 minutes of stand up for the kids!
I’ll probably have more reflections on things that I’ve learned on the 20+ hour drive home over the next couple of days…
Today is the beginning of week three of this school assembly tour. One of the metric’s for figuring out how well you are doing is laughs per minute (LPM). My first show of the tour and first time doing the whole show for an audience I got 1.57 LPM’s. That’s an OK number, as this show has a lot of content in it, and isn’t a “just for fun” show.
I listened back to my last show on friday and it had 105 laughs in 45 minutes, giving me 2.3 LPM’s. that’s a huge improvement over the the first show. I added about 50% more laughs to the show!
If you don’t know how to calculate LPM’s, it’s super easy. Record your show, then listen back to it and count the laughs. I used a counter app on my iPhone. Then dived the laughs by the length of your show.
The question I always get asked is what qualifies as a laugh? That’s really up to you to decide.
Another metric is reactions per minute. In that you could count applause, or people going, “wow”. The thing I wouldn’t count are call and response, so anytime you ask the audience to do something and they do it.