This week is the final week of my “fair” season. I end my run on Saturday after performing 66 shows over 22 days at a State Fair. I really like performing at state and county fairs across the USA in the summer. One of the things that I really like about it is that in my preshow I get to work on tricks and jokes that aren’t ready for the main show.
In my show I have materials that’s A, B and C material. A is the stuff that’s finished and plays well. B are tricks that aren’t quite done yet, they’ll be things missing, like maybe the trick is there, but needs some jokes, or the routine is there, but the method or something isn’t quite right. Finally, there’s the C material, and that’s stuff that’s just ideas.
My goal for the summer is to move as much A material out of the show as I can. I do that by levelling up all the other stuff. I work hard at figuring out what’s missing from the B material, and try to move it up to the A level. Once that happens, I stop doing an A routine and put the former B trick in it’s place.
Then there’s the C material, I work on that during my preshow. The goal is to move it to B or drop it. Some ideas are just that…ideas. They may be great ideas, but they’re not for me or my show. It’s good to learn that fairly early on, so you don’t waste too much time with them. This is also why I’m a huge fan of getting material on stage as quickly as possible. That’s the easiest way to figure out if there’s something there or not.
It’s also crazy how quickly things can level up if you put in the time and effort and you have three shows a day for 22 days to work on them. For example the version of the Invisible Deck that I started doing this month (see an early version here) has moved from a C trick to B+ or A- routine in a few weeks. Once I got the technical side down and then found the presentational hook, it was just polishing it up. The routine works as is now, but there is on small technical thing I’d like to figure out…however if I never solve the problem, the routine works great in it’s current form.
I’m very fortunate to have a venue to actively work on new material!
When I was first starting out performing in comedy clubs in the early 2000’s I had to use a wired handheld microphone. As I progress through my career, I switched to a wireless headset. I’m now playing with going back to being able to do my show with a wired handheld microphone. The main reason is that it’s logistically easy. I don’t need to travel with my own gear, and it also makes trying out new stuff and open mic’s much easier.
I’m performing all month doing three shows a day at a fair, and aside from working on some new material, I’m also trying to relearn to use a handheld microphone. My preshow right now is a stand up set of jokes, which runs about 7 minutes, and I’m now doing that all with the handheld mic. I’m still wearing my headset during this, but using the handheld.
Right now my goal is every day to move the handheld one bit further into the show. Right now, I have my preshow stand up set, my two new “preshow” tricks and then first actual trick in the show all done with the handheld. The next routine is really three tricks in one routine. I was dreading figuring out how to add the handheld microphone to it as parts of it are pretty physical. Then it hit me, I need to look at it as three tricks, not one routine. Once I broke it down that way, it’s much easier to start figuring out how to do it with a handheld microphone.
I was chatting with the sound engineer at my stage about what microphone to get and he suggested the Shure SM58S. This is the version of the Shure SM58, but it has an on/off switch which is something I want. Right now if I’m jumping back and forth between the headset and the handheld, I need that switch so that I’m not being picked up by both mics.
If you’ve never used a handheld, I suggest you learn how, it’ll be helpful the one time your headset dies right before showtime.
I’m was home for a day and in the mail that had been accumulating was a book called Bingo Bango by Jeff Stone. It’s a book about the classic practical joke item that makes a loud bang and surprises people.
The book is a fun read and has over 100 things you can do with the Bingo Device. There are jokes, magic tricks, gags and more.
What surprise me was that apparently at some point I had helped Jeff figure out some of the history of the is joke. I know a bit about about, when I used to work at Market Magic Shop in Seattle, I sold a ton of them. They came in many different forms, sometimes hidden in books, or pens, or even on that is held on your hand like a joy buzzer.
It was very sweet of Jeff to send me a book, and he wrote me a nice note as well:
This is a fun book, and if you’re into practical jokes it’s great! Another fun thing about this book is to see how brainstorming on one idea can lead to soo many different ideas!
Something I try to be aware of is the content of my show and how it relates to the current world. An example of this is trying to stay about from politically charged topics, and not gendering people. I’ll be 100% honest that I struggle with not assuming someone’s gender, I’m getting better about it. The thing is I’m not just pretending it’s not a thing, I’m actively trying. Just breaking 40 years of habit is tough.
Right now I’m having a struggle with a line in my show where I say: “…it gives you the illusion of choice…like voting” The original intent with that line was my opinion on the electoral system. However with the political challenges the USA has faced in the last six months I can see how that line now carries very heavy political baggage.
Do I keep it or drop it?
Here’s the thing, it’s not a huge line in the routine or show. So dropping it won’t hurt the show. Also, it’s a probably pretty easy to write something to fit that format, just change “voting” to something else.
It comes down to how bad do I want to defend the punchline if someone gets upset at it? It’s not a joke or bit I would fight really hard for. There are other edgy jokes that I definitely would fight for, this just isn’t one of them.
Moving forward, I’ll probably drop the line, or rewrite it and a few years from now it may make it back into the show…
A couple of nights ago I performed at the Mostly Magicians Virtual Open Mic. It was a lot of fun and Ryan Kane is a great host for it. It’s an open mic, so a great place to work things out.
I was second to last in the show, and I brought two tricks, one that was pretty solid and one that I was working on. Unfortunately I only got to do one trick which wasn’t the one I was working on as I ran out of time.
It wasn’t a total loss as far as working on material goes. I did something I haven’t done in while…wrote some jokes about the other acts. When I MC in person shows I would write jokes about the acts and use them in the transition between acts. I didn’t plan on doing this, it’s something I just did.
One of the interesting things about doing jokes about things happening NOW instead of prepared material is that the audience is aware of that. Your joke doesn’t need to be the best joke, they will give you a lot of leeway. They can instantly relate to your joke, you don’t need to set up a backstory. I think any of the jokes I told, if you took out of context of the show would fall flat…even if you described the act before the joke.
The first half of my show was a stand up set about the show. It was fun, and good to flex that creative muscle.
Today is an extension of yesterday’s post. I’m working on a script for my Polaroids to Envelope trick. I’ve build upon the yesterday’s script and fleshed out the hook a little bit more. Here’s the script as of this morning:
This is some of the most important stuff in the world to my wife and I. These are Polaroids of our pets and our daughter.
We have Talia who is a dog. She’s a Lhasa Apso which is means food vaccum. Talia’s favorite things are belly rubs, long walks and playing call of duty…and we don’t even own an xbox.
Then there’s Taco Tuesday who is a cat. He’s loves cheese, milk and pineapple on pizza. Which is how you know he’s a rescue.
And finally we have loucy who is a rat, she loves bossing around the dog and cat. We’ve got a reverse Tom and Jerry situation.
Here’s a common day at the home, when I’m home…I turn on the vacuum turn on and Talia disappears!
Of course you’ll always find her in Ella’s Room…Her extremely messy room.
Then when the UPS guy knocks on the door, Taco Tuesday will won’t be found.
You’ll find him hours later buried under the blankets on Ella’s bed. A bed that I asked ella to make two years ago.
Later in the day when I go to feed loucy, she’s totally gone!
Of course she hasn’t been there for hours, she’s been hanging out on Ellas desk…distracting her from doing home work. Ella calls it “proRATstinating”
And that’s a normal day at home!
I need to go back and make a lot of the punchlines stronger. I also need to start doing the trick while saying the lines. That will help me rewrite what doesn’t flow naturally from my mouth. Still more work to be done, but the trick is making progress!
It’s the last day of January and I’m reflecting back on what I’ve learned so far in 2020. One thing is that you need to listen to your audience. I have two bits in the show that have gotten unexpected reactions that were unfavorable. Instead of the usual laugh the got a sort of “woah” … Continue reading “Look at Your Show”
It’s the last day of January and I’m reflecting back on what I’ve learned so far in 2020. One thing is that you need to listen to your audience. I have two bits in the show that have gotten unexpected reactions that were unfavorable. Instead of the usual laugh the got a sort of “woah” and pull back from the audience. Both of these bits got this reaction at different shows in very different venues.
There are a lot of performers who will brush off these reactions and attribute them to “snowflakes” in the audience. I think this is the wrong way to go. Personally I needed to try to analyze why the audience reacted the way that they did to see if they were over reacting, or if my jokes were becoming dated. The last thing I want to do is use a joke that was OK to say, but over the years society has moved on and the joke is no longer appropriate.
After looking at both of the jokes in my show, I’m keeping one without altering it. The other one, while I think is OK, I’m going to play around with rewriting it. The problem is that the joke gets misunderstood and that audience projected something that’s not in the joke into the joke. I also feel that the negative reaction I got had more to do with the specific situation of the show than it did with the joke.
One thing that I try to do in my show is eliminate dead spots. Places where nothing really interesting is happening. This is something that’s important to me, it gives the show a tight feel. Personally I really dislike it when nothing is happening in a show. Last week I saw went out to see … Continue reading “Dead Spots…”
One thing that I try to do in my show is eliminate dead spots. Places where nothing really interesting is happening. This is something that’s important to me, it gives the show a tight feel. Personally I really dislike it when nothing is happening in a show.
Last week I saw went out to see a show that was a bunch of side show acts. One thing I noticed was that in many of the acts there was a lot of dead time. For example someone did a strait jacket escape and during the locking in procedure, not much happened.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it’s your artistic choice to have spaces where nothing is going on. You could do it to build tension, or whatever. Whenever I find these dead spots, I try to add a joke, music or bit to fill the space. I think it really helps to move the show along.
Today is the start of the fourth day of coming up with a new bit each day for the show. This is an ambitious goal, coming up with 13 new bits over the next two weeks. The value of doing a ton of shows in a short amount of time is creating material. Yesterday’s bit … Continue reading “Another Day, Another New Bit!”
Today is the start of the fourth day of coming up with a new bit each day for the show. This is an ambitious goal, coming up with 13 new bits over the next two weeks. The value of doing a ton of shows in a short amount of time is creating material.
Yesterday’s bit was my break apart fishing pole. It worked great, it’s a small moment in the longer bit, but a good moment. Right now the two parts are just held together with magnets. I think I’m going to switch the magnets out for large snaps. Snaps will hold better and the person can’t just stick it back on.
Today’s new bit is something simple, but I think it will help out with a struggle I’m having with part of a trick. In the trick I have someone draw a picture of me. The speed bump I’m hitting is people are worried the drawing has to be good. I’m going to have drawing in my case that’s a bad stick drawing. When the person is worried about being able to draw, I’ll show them the “drawing from the last show“. I could tag it with, “and the person that drew it was only four…ty years old“.
Hopefully the that will get a laugh and speed up that moment of the show.
Today is my first day of the two week fair that I’m performing at. In the next two weeks I’ll be doing 58 shows! I’ll be doing four shows a day, plus a couple of volunteer things. That’s going to give me a lot of chances to work on new material. If I set a … Continue reading “”
Today is my first day of the two week fair that I’m performing at. In the next two weeks I’ll be doing 58 shows! I’ll be doing four shows a day, plus a couple of volunteer things. That’s going to give me a lot of chances to work on new material. If I set a goal of coming up with one new joke or bit a day for my show, that will give me 14 new bits, that’s a lot.
Hopefully this goal isn’t too ambitious. That’s a lot of writing that will have to happen in a day that’s already pretty full. I think I’m going to do my best to record (either audio or video) every show. Unfortunately the stage I’m on isn’t the best set up for video recording my shows. Video is the best way to learn and critique your show.
There’s a lot to be learned through audio recording. One thing you’ll really notice are dead spots. These can be harder to spot when you watch your show on video as there may be an action happening that makes the dead spot less obvious. So there is a lot of different information that can be learned from just audio.