Hosting Contests…

Right now I’m out performing on the fair circuit for most of the summer. If you perform at fairs, at some point you’ll be asked to host a contest or two. When I do them, I have a playlist of music and sound effects for contests. It takes it up a level from just someone saying “go” to start the contest. I try to turn them into events.

I also have jokes that I’ve written for the contests and I add a lot of energy to them. Usually when I host one, they have me do a lot more. I turn a 10 minute contest, into a 30+ minute show. These are also fun for me to do because it breaks up the monotony of doing my show multiple times a day for months!

When I’m performing in any industry, I try to notice things that I get asked to do and try to come up with ways to make them better than simply being an announcer. I think of it as building up skills, then eventually I can justify charging for it, or including it within my scope of work.


The Moisture Festival Podcast – Curtis Carlyle

Curt Carlyle is one of the premiere comedy jugglers in the Pacific Northwest. He joins us in the clown basement in Portland and discusses all the things that led him to choose juggling as a job.

He tells us about his early days performing with a partner, how their comedy act of stripping down to speedos opened the door to a plethora of performances in the circus world. We discuss his affinity for tall bikes and what he is excited about moving forward. A great conversation with a fantastic act. 

Fun Pics….

I’m always on the look out for fun photo ops when I do my show. One of the things I do is the shell game, and whenever I see police officers, I always try to get them to play it.

With everyone now having a camera in their pocket, it’s super easy to get these pics. You just need to be alert and looking for opportunities. Right now is a good time to get pics of you doing tricks for Santa or elves.

When you start looking for photo ops, you’ll see them everywhere.


Getting Better Audio…

When I first got started doing promo videos for my show many years ago, I used the camera’s mic for the audio. That’s a horrible way to do it, it just doesn’t sound good at all. I just picked up a Zoom recorder that the mic line runs through so you get the audio straight from the mic you’re using.

It gives you better audio, that’s way more listenable than just using the audio off of the camera’s mic. Here’s a little video I made comparing the two, the camera’s mic and then direct from the onstage mic:

The nice thing is that the recorder isn’t very big, so it’s easy to travel with and once it’s set to the mic, those levels shouldn’t really change, so I can just plug it in and go!

Give Me Five!

The last couple of days at the fair I’ve been doing my trick that uses a giant foam hand as part of my preshow. It’s a counting trick that uses math. While I honestly don’t think these types of tricks are really amazing to an audience, they are fun little things. Anyone who puts a second of thought into the trick will come to the conclusion that it’s just a sequence that has you end up at the same spot all of the time.

Here’s my running the routine…also a quick note, the audience isn’t mic’d and the camera is in the way back at the sound booth, so you really can’t hear the audience:

I think the foam hand makes it more visual and look like something is happening onstage. You lose the “propless” advantage of using just your fingers, but you gain it playing a bit bigger with the prop. The foam hands, don’t weigh anything and pack down, so they don’t take up more room in your case.

The addition of the foam hand with just the pointer finger out adds a bit of a punctuation to the trick. The reveal of the finger is the ta-dah moment of the trick, which I think the previous versions I’ve seen lacked.

Short Visual Tricks…

Years ago I started working on a trick that used a silk and coathanger. It’s never really found a place in my show. It’s missing something. Every now and then I play with it in my preshow and I did it in my evening show last week on the opening day of the fair I’m working at.

I got a bunch of emails from people I know that I was on one of The Carpetbagger‘s youtube videos.

What he showed was the first phase of a three phase routine. The routine is fun, but a pain to do outdoors due to the silk and wind. What I like and probably why he used that clip of my show is that it’s a short visual thing, that really doesn’t need any explanation. I think in a show you need some stuff like that. Things that are just eye candy. I like longer tricks with jokes, but if everything is 5-8 minute bits, you show is lacking a lot of texture.


Some Card Trick Love!

One quote that soo many people like to say, which I dislike is

“A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.” 

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin

The reason I don’t like the quote is usually who says it. It’s a lazy way to say you don’t like someone’s routine. Not all people who do magic tricks pretend to have magical powers. The people who quote the above are usually the same people that dislike card tricks.

Here’s fun Houdin quote I came across the other day:

Of all the marvels produced by Sleight-of-hand, card tricks are, beyond question, the most amusing, and the most generally appreciated.

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin
Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin card trick quote

You can’t have one quote and not the other. They came from the same person. I think I’m going to try to popularize this quote whenever people show their dislike for card tricks!

The Moisture Festival Podcast – Nancy Levidow

The Moisture Festival Podcast is on location in Berkeley California and is joined by the amazing Nancy Levidow. Those of you who know Nancy, know that she is such a cool, interesting and amazing person. For those of you who don’t, get ready to meet someone awesome.

Nancy tells us about how she got involved in the WELL which is the oldest online community in the world. She also tells us about how she worked as a private Investigator, how she became part of the famous Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Band and her early performing days as a juggler. We had a great time getting to know Nancy and we know you will too. 

Knowing the Trick…

The fair that I’m performing at has me staying at a rental house with a couple of other performers. There’s another magician and a couple of musicians. The magician asked about my Take Up Reel one night and I got it out and chatted with him about it. The musicians asked what it was, and I explained what it did. One them them wanted to me to show them the trick, so I grabbed a coat and did the vanishing bird cage.

This led to something very interesting. The musicians knew how the trick worked, but were blown away when I did the trick. They knew the cage went up my sleeve, but had not idea how that was possible. The had seen the gimmicks, and how they operated and they trick still fooled them.

So what’s the lesson?

You don’t need to be super protective of every little secret in things that you do. Some tricks will stand the test of still being a fooler when the audience knows how the trick works.