I’m Not Sorry…

One of the reasons that I’m not a fan of stock lines is that 99% of the people who use them only use them because they have heard other people use them. Not because they fit their performing persona or move their show forward, but simply because other people use them.

Recently I saw a magician and he asked where I was from, and I said “Seattle” and he replied “I’m sorry”. This is a very old gag and not a good one. I replied with several reasons why Seattle is an amazing city and he had no follow up. Was I “heckling” him? NO. He asked me a question and opened up a dialogue by putting down where I live. Had he had a joke set about why he dislikes Seattle that wasn’t connected to asking me question, then I would have been heckling. However he asked the question to me, which opened a dialogue…and he didn’t have the point of view or comedy skills to follow up. I wasn’t even funny, just factual with my response.

My point is that if you ask a question only to have your “comedy” response, you might want to rethink why you ask. Especially if your comedy response potentially insults someone. That brings me back to why I dislike how most stock lines are used, the performer doesn’t think about them. So if you use stock lines, think about them…what they are really saying beyond the laugh (if there is a laugh).


Match Trick Patter

A couple of days ago I wrote a couple of posts about a vanishing and reappearing match trick idea and method. It’s a decent idea for 20 or more years ago when matches were common. Bars don’t give away matches anymore and most smokers have lighters now and not matches, so it’s a trick that missed it’s time.

I wrote out a little script for the trick to try to make it relevant for our current time.

Here’s the routine:

Start with match box in left hand under cover of a handkerchief

“This is the most dangerous trick that I’ve ever done. It’s soo dangerous, I was kicked out of my third grade talent show for doing it when I was 13 years old!

More dangerous than running with scissors or putting honey on my chest to try to breast feed murder hornets…it’s playing with matches!”

Pull the handkerchief off your hand to show the matches.

“I thought I’d be the hottest act”

Strike match and put it into handkerchief covered fist (and into thumb tip)

“but my show went up in smoke”

Squeeze the tip to make a puff of smoke come out.

“Luckily the trick didn’t leave a mark on my permanent record”

Open handkerchief to show the match is gone and not damaged

“The crowd was fired up”

Reproduce the match from the handkerchief

“To this day I can still taste the excitement”

Put the match out on your tongue.

It’s got a little bit of a presentational hook and a couple of chuckles and justifies using the match. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it, but it was fun making the routine.


Magician Talk…

Every few weeks on one of the social media magic groups someone will post something like, “stop saying, what I want you to do” or something similar. When that’s posted, I usually ask what the original poster says instead and never get an answer, or at least one that’s better than “what I want you to do“.

Last night in the hotel room I had the TV on while I was returning emails and I there was a ghost hunting show on. One guy was inside the haunted house and the other guy was outside monitoring whatever sensors they had and giving the person inside instructions over a walkie talkie.

The conversation went like this:

Outside Guy: “Can you do me favor and stand in the corner behind you?
The guy inside moved
Outside Guy: “Perfect

That just confirmed to me that saying the things that a lot of magicians say are sometimes the best way to get a point across. Then at the end the confirmation of them doing the correct task by saying something like perfect or excellent is just how people talk and has nothing specifically to do with magicians.

Feel free to use other phrases, but don’t feel bad if you say the things that some magicians say annoy them.


Verbal Card Magic…

There’s a lot I don’t like about how a lot of card magic is presented. A lot of them are “magiciany” things that we think everyone knows. Let’s start with the fact that there’s a chunk of people that don’t know what the spade and club suits are called. We assume they know that, they don’t.

The one that gets me is that magicians expect people to know what the “mate” of a card is and they use the word “mate” which really is an industry term. It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but when we use industry terms it doesn’t really help. Recently I watched someone do a card trick, they showed the seven of spades and they asked, “what’s the mate to the seven of spades?” The person didn’t know what they were talking about. It would be easier to say, “that’s a black 7, so we’re looking for the other black 7, which would be the seven of clubs…” There’s really nothing gained by asking them what the mate is, and not telling them.

I think “mate cards” are the card magic version of calling scarves “silks”. It still works to convey the idea, but it doesn’t work really well.


Learning Zoo…

Last week I helped out a friend out at a drive thru zoo. It’s a lot of fun, I end up writing a stand up comedy set for each animal that’s about 3 minutes. It also forces me to be creative and write jokes for something that I don’t normally do.

One day it hit me to treat it like a magic trick. I need to let them take in what they are seeing before I start talking. They see animal and I get them some time to process what they are seeing…then I start talking. It’s just like performing magic, you have to let the effect rattle around their brain for a little bit, then you can start talking.

Once I started giving people more time to experience the animal before I started telling them my dopy jokes, people laughed more as their brains weren’t torn between doing two things.

To Keep or to Delete…

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…

Even More Ring On Rubber Band

Last week I started working on a routine for the Ring on Rubber Band trick. I learned that my initial opening line didn’t play how I wanted it to. I added in a line at the beginning that’s was in a routine I used to do in the show, but don’t do anymore. It kinda works as an opening line, however it really doesn’t answer the “why am I showing you this” question.

I’ve performed this trick across America, including it’s minor outlying territories, Guam, Puerto Rico and Canada. The ring represents the 18 years I’ve been married and the a rubber band which memorializes the one time I bought broccoli just to let it rot in the crisper”

Show ring and rubber band. The rubber band is around your left index and thumb. Point to the sides of the rubber band as you say:

“This rubber band has two sides, just like congress…the Senate and the deep state. And this ring also has two sides, a left and a my wife is always right side.”

“The ring will go through each side of the rubber band defying the restraining order I got from the laws of physics.”

Push the ring through the first side of the rubber band

“Through one side, that’s the easy side. It’s the bunny slope of the rubber band. The second side is the most difficult, it’s the Mount Everest of Magic. Three men have died trying this next part, but they all had preexisting conditions…and latex allergies.”

Push the ring through the second side of the rubber band.

“Like Coachella, we’ll take it off one band at a time.”

Pull the ring off the rubber band one side at a time.

“and that’s how I wrote my wedding off on my taxes!”

I also added in a joke about the ring having sides which is a tag on the first joke. The routine is starting to take shape. The current sequence of moves I’m doing makes the routine feel more like filler to me, than a solid, good routine. It’s still lacking a punctuation on the ending.

Cutting a Joke…

Last night I popped into a virtual magic club meeting and got to try out the Ring on Rubber Band routine that I’ve been working on. I was kinda surprised at the reaction the opening joke got. Here’s the opening joke:

“This is the most expensive trick I do. The rubber band cost me 37 cents, but the ring cost me half of everything I own.

The reaction was an “oooh” and not a laugh. I think the problem is the background that I’m projecting onto the line is different from what the audience is projecting. The audience I think is assuming that I’m getting divorced or am divorced and it’s not a good split. What I’m saying is in the state I live in, because I’m married, my wife automatically owns half of everything that I own.

Is the joke worth trying to save?

Probably not. There’s a lot of background info that I would need to provide, or I’d have to figure out a tag or follow up joke to explain better that I’m still happily married.

I think I’m going to try to come up with a new opening line…

Ring on Rubber Band…

The trick I’m working on is Ring on Rubber Band. I’ve got the technical end of Russ Niedzwiecki’s Pinnacle routine figure out. I had to make some adaptions to how he handle the ring and band. In Russ’s routine he holds the ring and band at belly button height. I want to move it up closer to my face, so a couple of the hand positions needed to be tweaked.

Now that I can technically do the routine, I need to figure out what to say. One way to do this is start by writing what you have to say, then figuring out how to make it funny. Here’s what I need to say and the important actions that accompany them:

"I've got a ring and a rubber band."

Show ring in right hand and rubber band looped around the index finger and thumb of your left hand. 

"The ring will pass through each side of the rubber band, one side at a time.  The pass back through each side of the band"

Ring passes through each side to have the rubber band in the middle  of it, then passes back through to be completely free of the rubber band

There’s really not much to say right now, and it’s clear to me that the routine needs a presentational hook, and some sort of ending. That may be a joke at the end, but simply going onto the rubber band and then off lacks an ending.

In tomorrow’s post I’ll start to write some things to say.


Yesterday in the car I was listening to CNN and one of the people being interviewed kept saying “ummm”.  I suspect the reason people say this is because they are thinking, and it’s a word to stall while your brain is figuring things out and sending them to your mouth. A while ago a buddy and … Continue reading “Ummm…”

Yesterday in the car I was listening to CNN and one of the people being interviewed kept saying “ummm”.  I suspect the reason people say this is because they are thinking, and it’s a word to stall while your brain is figuring things out and sending them to your mouth.

A while ago a buddy and I started doing a podcast called the Odd and Offbeat Podcast. When listening back to the episodes and editing them, I noticed how much I say, “ummm”.  It’s not just me, it’s my cohost and guests that do it. Being conscious of it really helps cut it down. I’ve now developed a couple of new stalling words. Ideally I’ll have none, however they are better than “ummm”.

There are techniques to help you stall while you think. Contestants in beauty pageants uses these all the time. A common one is restating the question, and that gives you time to think.

Using stalling words is less of a problem in a scripted routine. This is also why routines should be scripted, so you don’t have to stall to think, you know what’s coming next. If you watch an amateur show and a professional show, the main difference is the tightness. They profession know what’s coming next. It’s not just in speech, but prop management, etc.

TLDR: Learn what’s coming up next in your show.