Out here on this tour, sometimes the travel time between shows is very tight and I don’t have very much time to set or strike the show. I provide everything except electricity. Knowing that some shows I may not have much time to set, need to pack out quickly, or both, I have two set ups for the show.
The normal set up takes about 20-25 minutes to set up and I use this when I have plenty of time to set up and strike.
Here’s the normal set up:
The quick set up/strike takes about 10-15 mins and I use it when I have tight travel time.
Here’s what it looks like:
The big difference is that I don’t have the banner. It also doesn’t use a speaker stand for the PA. A difference you can’t see is that the quick set up doesn’t use a wireless headset mic. Those few things make a huge difference in set up/strike time.
I use the handheld mic with a stand or a mic hanger for when I need to use my hands. I’m really glad that about a year and half ago I decided to learn to use a handheld microphone. Having practiced with a handheld really makes me a lot more versatile!
Years ago when I was a teenager I saw Lee Earle lecture and he briefly mentioned his thoughts on performing mentalism for kids. It was only a sentence and it fully stated his position. Lee said, “In order to have your mind read you must have a mind.” He’s not wrong, however it doesn’t mean you can’t do mentalism for kids. You need to frame it differently.
In the school assembly show I’m out doing right now on this tour, I have two mentalism tricks that I’m doing. After writing the show, I realized they are the exact same trick, luckily they are 30 mins apart in the show and are presented very differently. Both are essentially one out of five predictions, but they aren’t predictions. The kid(s) pick an unseen item that turns out to be different from the rest of the items. There’s no formal prediction, but it’s clearly obvious that they picked the outlier.
After doing the show for a week and a half, I think the first effect strengthens the second one. In the first one, it’s a surprise however the second time, I’ve very blatantly foreshadowed what’s going to happen. When I finally get around to the second reveal, it’s a huge release of tension when it confirms what they were thinking.
This isn’t my first time doing mentalism for kids. I used to do a routine that used a billet switch and peek that was essentially me reading someone’s mind, but framed as a game. The general presentation was that I was the worlds best 20 Questions player and could guess what they were thinking of in 5 guesses or less. I had them write down the item so that they couldn’t lie and change their mind. I also did this as an open preshow. I would do it while the classes were coming into the show, but I did it on mic so everyone was aware. This routine is written up in the book Performing Mentalism for Young Minds Vol 2.
Mentalism can play very strongly for kids, as long as it’s framed with a presentation that they can understand.
At the beginning of the show I take out the alarm clock and say “It’s time to start the show” and the alarm clock rings. Then throughout the show whenever I say the word “time” the alarm clock rings. I don’t call attention to the connection of the word time and the ringing of the alarm clock. I let the audience discover that, and the do fairly quickly.
This gag definitely has it’s roots in Pee Wee’s Playhouse with their use of a secret word and when it’s said everyone screams. I like the gag because it’s not exactly a look don’t see as it’s an action that’s triggered by something else happening, so it’s funny, but the kids don’t feel a need to explain anything to you after the connection of the word and action are established.
I have a feeling this is going to be a great lead into the vanishing alarm clock once I have finished making the couple of extra props that I need for it.
Right now some of the only live, in person performing that’s available to do are masked, no contact, socially distant, small group magic shows. These are magic shows for kids. The big challenge with these shows is wearing a mask when performing for younger children (ages 3-5).
One thing that I’ve added to the show is a prop that I built for a show a couple of summers ago, but the routine never played well. The prop that I build are Remote Control Chattering Teeth!
I started out using them as a warm up, which is right out of David Ginn’s book Comedy Warm Ups for Children’s Shows. However, I quickly moved the routine deeper into the show, and it’s not a warm up, but part of a full routine that I was working on.
The teeth are now used in the Silk to Peach routine, and that routine has built out into a 7 minute routine full of laughs! I’m glad I dug the teeth out again and started using them!
Over the weekend I performed at a church camp for kids that were probably 10-12 years old. When you take kids out of their normal routine, they push a lot of boundaries that they probably wouldn’t push if they were at home, school, or their normal church. They are figuring out the rules, and the … Continue reading “Little Interuptions…”
Over the weekend I performed at a church camp for kids that were probably 10-12 years old. When you take kids out of their normal routine, they push a lot of boundaries that they probably wouldn’t push if they were at home, school, or their normal church. They are figuring out the rules, and the way a kid figures out the rules is to figure out how far they can go.
When the preshow started I had one kid doing yelling out things. If they are going to do that, that’s the time do it, not once we hit the body of the show. Also my preshow has good tricks and one of the reasons it’s there is to get the kid who is yelling out things to shut up.
The kid who was yelling things wasn’t being “malicious”, he was being a kid that didn’t know the rules, or lacked attention at home and needed to find a way to get it. When I was younger I used to be very confrontational with these kids. It worked, but it’s not the person I am any more. Currently, simply ignoring it and doing strong magic, that tends to work in most instances.
One of the things that I’m proud of is that when I do kid shows, I don’t really do any standard kid show tricks. There are no sucker tricks, or “clown props”. My show for kids is fun and funny, but the most important part is that the show is amazing. That said, this week … Continue reading “Sometimes You Have To Compromise…”
One of the things that I’m proud of is that when I do kid shows, I don’t really do any standard kid show tricks. There are no sucker tricks, or “clown props”. My show for kids is fun and funny, but the most important part is that the show is amazing.
That said, this week I’m making a compromise with my inner artist. I’m making a deal for cash. I’ve taken on a run of shows and two of them will be for groups of kids ages 2-3 years old. You can’t do magic for them, the concept of magic doesn’t really exist for kids that young. I’m dusting off my old Tipple Topple Wand, Nest of Wands and other clowny props for these two shows.
Unfortunately these two shows were part of the contract and if I wanted the contract, I had to take them. The compromise that I made was going against what I want my show to be for 10% of the shows, but for the other 90% I get to do share my art my way.
This week I’m doing a lot of local gigs and it’s nice to be home. In the summer I do many summer day camps for kids. Usually I’m doing them for school age kids, but this week I’ve been doing mostly younger kids in the 3-5 age range. This is a smidge younger than my … Continue reading “Make Them Come To You…”
This week I’m doing a lot of local gigs and it’s nice to be home. In the summer I do many summer day camps for kids. Usually I’m doing them for school age kids, but this week I’ve been doing mostly younger kids in the 3-5 age range. This is a smidge younger than my demographic, however the shows are doing fine.
One thing that I consciously don’t do in my show is any standard kids show material. No break away wands or anything like that. I want do make them come up a level. This isn’t something that’s easy to do. Making the wand break is easy, making counting pieces of string entertaining to a kid is hard. I’m purposely taking a harder route, but in doing that it makes me a better performer.
Challenging the kids to be more sophisticated separates me from most other kid shows. It also teaches the kids to be better audiences, and that listening is an important part of watching a show, and more important than screaming. Many kid shows are simply getting the kids amped up, and that’s it. They have one gear. I have some slower parts to the show, and some more high energy parts. Having texture in your show is important, even when performing for kids.
Ugh, this summer for my Library tour I needed a way to either force some information, or get a peek at it. The problem with a peek is this that I need pretty much real time info, I can’t preshow it. I also need it to fit an “educational” bullet point in the show. The … Continue reading “Magic Apps…”
Ugh, this summer for my Library tour I needed a way to either force some information, or get a peek at it. The problem with a peek is this that I need pretty much real time info, I can’t preshow it. I also need it to fit an “educational” bullet point in the show. The bullet point would be researching.
The nice thing about researching is that I could use a book. The downside is that I need to force specific information. I need to force the size of an animal. I was going to use Inject 2.0, however the need for two devices to have working internet was something that I didn’t want to get involved in. This is a huge the problem with most magic apps.
If internet isn’t an issue, then the other problem is why are you using your phone. I use an app on my phone in my show on cruise ships, and there’s a good reason. I make a phone call, and a phone call at sea is very expensive, so obviously I’m not going to use a borrowed phone. The cellphone thing is easily overcome in a kids show, because younger kids frequently don’t have phone on them.
This is the solution. They now scroll through an animal facts Instagram page and stop at one of the pictures and that’s the force! I created a custom Instagram page that has all of the force info in the picture in meme form. Having the info in the pictures makes it much easier for a kid “research”.
Recently I worked with an act at a family show that didn’t really have a clue as to how to perform for kids. His idea of a good routine for kids involves them screaming. By screaming, I mean that he told them to scream as loud as they could. It was basically 7 minutes of … Continue reading “Desired Reactions…”
Recently I worked with an act at a family show that didn’t really have a clue as to how to perform for kids. His idea of a good routine for kids involves them screaming. By screaming, I mean that he told them to scream as loud as they could. It was basically 7 minutes of kids yelling and rolling on the ground. Luckily his act was after mine, so I didn’t have to deal with the aftermath.
The screaming didn’t have any theatrical purpose, other than to make kids scream. There was no reason, like it made the magic happen, it was basically, “hey kids scream and do it whenever you want”. It really gives mixed messages to the kids in the audience for how to behave for the next act.
Some people may defend the performers, saying something like, “if the kids had fun, that’s all that matters”, but that’s wrong. It’s wrong thinking because it there were more than just kids in the audience. There were adults and the adults weren’t happy with it. Essentially the performer rolled back the clock on all of the audience training that this particular audience had gotten over the years. It hurts the venue in the long run, I wouldn’t take my kid back to that.
TLDR: Mindless yelling isn’t a desired reaction from kids.
Recently I was performing on the East Coast and had a great time watching John Swomley perform his show for a room full of kids and their families at an arts festival. What I really liked about the show is that it wasn’t based on “look don’t see” type of tricks, where the kids scream … Continue reading “Modern Kid Show…”
Recently I was performing on the East Coast and had a great time watching John Swomley perform his show for a room full of kids and their families at an arts festival.
What I really liked about the show is that it wasn’t based on “look don’t see” type of tricks, where the kids scream and get out of control. That’s one of the things that I don’t like about most kid shows, they are living in the 1980’s where screaming is considered a good reaction.
His show had the kids laughing, not screaming. All of the magic was good, and it makes me happy to see someone doing kids magic correctly! There’s an old saying for kids performers, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” What that means is how you get to the end of the trick is more important that the trick.
I totally disagree.
The trick has to be good. If the trick isn’t good, then the journey isn’t worth it. For example, if you drive to Disneyland, have a fun and exciting drive, pull into the parking lot, then turn around and go home without ever entering the parks, its’ a bad trip. Same with a kid show the trick has to be good. John’s tricks were good, and the journey was fun.
You may recognize John’s name, he makes a microphone holder called the Gim Crack:
This mic holder is awesome. Personally I don’t use a handheld mic often, but I always have a handheld mic nearby in case something goes wrong with my headset mic. I also always have a Gim-Crack within reach for when I have to use the handheld mic. It’s saved many shows! If you don’t have one, you need to have one in your case!