Last week I was in New York City for Christmas. We went to check out some shows, one of them was Stomp NYC.
If you don’t know what Stomp is, it’s a show that’s percussion based and they use “everyday objects” for their instruments and there is no talking or singing.
There’s a lot to learn about performing from this show. For me the huge thing was relatability. The characters were relatable, but the bigger thing was all of the props were relatable. They were things we all see and touch almost every day in our lives. From things like a recycle bin, to a plastic chip bag, everyone has a point of reference for all of the props. This makes the show soo much more relatable than if it used some strange percussion instrument that was invented for and only exists in this show.
When you look at the props in your show, looking at relatability for your props is important. Keep in mind you don’t need to use things that exist in real life, that’s an artistic choice you are making. However when you do, I think they should be things that actually are when they look like, versus things that pretend to be something in real life. Once again this is an artistic choice An example of something pretending to be something real would be an illusion that’s painted to resemble a cardboard box. Everyone knows it’s not a cardboard box, they know it’s a stage prop.
If you look at my two appearances on Masters of Illusion last season, both use “everyday objects” that people have seen or interacted with before.
The first used a paper bag and some toy animals:
And the second used a inflatable dinosaur costume
The props in those two routines were much more relatable than had I used props that were created just for magic tricks. It gives them a simpler feeling than fancy props and that’s the vibe I’m going for. I’m an everyday guy, not someone solves problems with money. In the end it all boils down to your artistic choice for your show. I’ve made some very intentional choices, and while I don’t expect you to make the same choices, I do hope in my heart that whatever you choose to do, it’s intentional.
Last night I performed again appeared on The CW’s Masters of Illusion TV show. I was the opening act, which really surprised me as I’m not really a “flash act”, however the way they edited my act, I think it worked in that spot.
If you didn’t catch the performance, check it out here:
After watching the clip, the first thing I noticed is how much I give the stage to the guy on stage. He’s working it solo for a big chunk of the act. This is very high risk, high reward scenario for me. If the person the audience does something, like in this case where he had some sweet dance moves, it creates a sense of the audience watching a unique show that will never happen again. I really like this.
Here’s another example of taking a risk, where the kid delivered:
If the person does nothing, I have a plan for that. Honestly, the majority of the time they do something. Also in my show I don’t do these bits early in the show, I do them later when I can watch the audience, so I have a feel for who is more outgoing.
The trick is just an OK magic trick from a magical viewpoint. What the trick does have is spectacle and a huge sense of fun. I don’t think there’s really a way the magic trick can be better than me dancing with the guy in the dinosaur costume. It’s a trick that’s 99% energy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but if you do something like this, you need to recognize it for what it is.
Not too long ago I picked up a copy of The Truth in Comedy which is about doing improv. It’s an interesting book, and I’m about a third of the way through the book. One of the main concepts if trying to find the real moments and not shoehorning jokes into a real moment.
A real moment is always more interesting than a prepared joke. I very much agree with this. In the past I’ve been more about getting to the joke and forgotten to play. I try to be good about playing, but it doesn’t always happen.
The hard part is when you have a routine that was built on audience interaction, however the real moments have become so predictable, you are just jumping joke to joke.
For me a good example is my card catch routine. This was built on playing with the audience and for the first about 50 shows it was a lot of playing. Then I noticed the routine became very scripted, people pretty much reacted the same way the whole routine. Once I realized what the routine was becoming, I started working to phase it out of the show for a bit.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the routine regularly in the show. Occasionally I’ll do the routine and it’s playing much better as I’m able to get back into the moment during the trick. It was hard taking the routine out of the show, but it’s made the routine better!