Learning on Tour

Today is the final day of the school assembly tour, and after 5 weeks I’ve learned a lot!

The big change was the last time I did this tour, I disliked when the kids sat on the bleacher and I was in the basketball court. I was used to having my back against a wall and the kids sitting on the floor, which is how most school assemblies in the Northwest seat the kids. The advantage of having the kids in the bleachers is that they can see more. The disadvantage is that I don’t have a backdrop, so smaller props can be harder to see. Luckily this year’s show doesn’t really use any small props that the audience needs to see.

I’m much more comfortable with using a handheld mic, and use it most of the time during the show, except a few spots where I need both hands. Using a handheld mic I think is visually superior to a headset as you can use the mic as a prop. I use it to accentuate a spot where I laugh, or cue the audience to a spot where they are supposed to respond.

Using a handheld mic also helps create a certain image, it makes me look more like a stand up comic than “magician”. My warm up is doing “crowd work” where I talk to people and try to find jokes with what they say. It’s a lot of fun, but not easy, especially for kids. How I frame is while we’re waiting for the last class that’s 5 mins late to arrive, I tell them we won’t have time for questions, so they can ask them now while we’re waiting to start. Really the show has started, and I do the questions started at the show’s scheduled start time. Usually one of the early questions I’ll get asked is if I’m a comedian. That means the image I’m trying to portray is working. When I get asked that, part my response is that doing stand up come for kids isn’t a thing. What cracks me up is I then do 5-8 minutes of stand up for the kids!

I’ll probably have more reflections on things that I’ve learned on the 20+ hour drive home over the next couple of days…

-Louie

Sponge Tennis Balls…fixing lines

When I was putting together my tennis ball routine for this school assembly tour, I started using Sponge Tennis Balls by Daba Magic. I like these more than the Alan Wong Sponge Tennis Balls as the Daba ones pop open much faster.

After using them for 2-3 shows a day on this tour, I found one thing that I don’t like about the Daba Sponge Tennis Balls. The white line on them is tape or something like that, where on all the other sponge tennis balls I’ve tried, they are painted on. After about a week the tape lines started getting loose, and this week they started falling off.

Here’s what the lines should look like:

sponge tennis ball

And here’s what they looked like this week:

sponge tennis ball

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised that this would happen to them. I didn’t think that tape was good way to make the lines. I went to the store and bought some paint and redid the lines:

sponge tennis ball

It only took a few minutes to paint the lines onto the sponge tennis balls, and this should hold up for a lot longer than the tape lines.

-Louie

International Leg of the Tour

During this school assembly tour around the midwestern US states, I took a quick trip to Canada to performing a show…so technically this is an international tour?

I was performing in a variety show with Trevor and Lorena Watters, a baton duo (whose names I forgot) and Michael Dardant

The shows went great, but more importantly, after essentially being by myself for weeks, it was nice to hang out with friends!

Tomorrow I’m back to doing the school assembly, but my emotional battery has been recharged!
-Louie

Finding Little Things to Change…

Yesterday was the end of the third week on the road performing my new school assembly show. This week I was really focusing on getting more out of the people who help me onstage in the show and letting them “shine” more.

One bit in the show where I draw a picture of a kid. I have the kid face the audience and do different emotions. I was using and older kid in the 3rd to 6th grade range and they weren’t really doing much interesting. My reasoning for an older kid was they are standing on stage by themself, so I was worried a kid that a younger kid would be uncomfortable onstage alone. Turns out I think that was the issue with an older kid, they feel a bit self conscious.

This week I switched a kindergarten or first grade kid and the difference is HUGE! Every kid I’ve used was great, and really played up the emotions that I was asking them to do. Also there’s something that all ages love is seeing a little kid have fun. Their joy is infectious!

It’s little things like this that make a good show great! My show still has a lot of these little things to be fixed.

-Louie

Efficiently Loading In and Out

One huge thing with this school assembly tour is efficiency. Honestly, I’m not getting paid a ton, so wasting time loading in and out isn’t a good use of my time. The show loads in and out in one trip.

My road case has wheels on the bottom of it and I have handle that attaches to the front of it that I use to pull it.

One trip without a dolly or hand truck makes this a quick load in and out.

-Louie

Asian Magic Boxes…

Magic has a long history of appropriating Asian culture, from people performing in yellow face to props having random Chinese characters put on them to make them look exotic.

I have a prop that has Chinese on it that actually makes sense. A couple of years ago I made a production box out of a take out box from a Chinese restaurant. This idea had been in a notebook years earlier, but I finally got around to it in 2020.

This box is the first trick in the school assembly show and gets a huge reaction! In the show I use it to produce a tennis ball, while saying producing a tennis ball from a take out box doesn’t really make sense, in the routine it does make sense.

This little box is crushing it in the show!

-Louie

Setting Up The Show Quickly

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:

school assembly magic show

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:

school assembly magic show

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!

-Louie

School Assembly Tour Week 3

Today is the beginning of week three of this school assembly tour. One of the metric’s for figuring out how well you are doing is laughs per minute (LPM). My first show of the tour and first time doing the whole show for an audience I got 1.57 LPM’s. That’s an OK number, as this show has a lot of content in it, and isn’t a “just for fun” show.

Laughs per minute

I listened back to my last show on friday and it had 105 laughs in 45 minutes, giving me 2.3 LPM’s. that’s a huge improvement over the the first show. I added about 50% more laughs to the show!

If you don’t know how to calculate LPM’s, it’s super easy. Record your show, then listen back to it and count the laughs. I used a counter app on my iPhone. Then dived the laughs by the length of your show.

The question I always get asked is what qualifies as a laugh? That’s really up to you to decide.

Another metric is reactions per minute. In that you could count applause, or people going, “wow”. The thing I wouldn’t count are call and response, so anytime you ask the audience to do something and they do it.

-Louie

Tweaking a Line…

Yesterday I posted about writing a line to try to solve a problem where I had a spot in the show where a kid would frequently shout something. I needed to add a line to tell the audience that the fruit I was using wasn’t real. The line I wrote was, “they’re not real, I got them from Ikea…So they’re made of particle board and Swedish meatballs”. That line didn’t get huge laughs, but seems to have solved the problem.

I tweaked the line a little bit to be, “they’re not real, I got them from Ikea…So they’re made of swedish meatballs and sawdust”. This new line is getting a laugh from the adults AND the kids. I think both particle board and swedish meatballs is too much for the kids here to understand. However they do know what sawdust is!

A little tweak like that upped my laughs per minute and solved the problem of how to address the fruit not being real.

-Louie

Emergency Show to the Rescue!

Week two of the school assembly tour starts today, I was off on Monday due to the holiday. This show was written for elementary school audiences and is a language and literacy themed show.

On Friday of last week, at my second show of the day was for a small school, so they invited all grades, kindergarten through 12th grade! That’s a huge swing of kids. When I learned of the age range, I went to my car and grabbed my emergency show prop bag.

I took out the deck of cards and did ACAAN as the warm up and won over the high school kids.

One cool thing that I noticed was that elementary school aged kids were who the show was written for, it mostly works for high school aged kids. There’s some silly stuff that wouldn’t get laughs if I was doing it just the high school kids, but the every trick got a good reaction from the older kids. That means the magic in the show is strong!

This is something I’ve always said that a lot of kid shows are missing…strong magic!

-Louie