Learning By Cutting…

Reflecting back on performing with World of Wonders last week, it really got me out of my comfort zone. Performing in a three minute context isn’t something I really do anymore. When I was starting out I built my show at comedy open mics in 3-5 minute chunks, however it’s been a while since I’ve worked in that format.

The big thing for me is that it’s gotten me to edit. I was cutting out things that really didn’t need to be there. Also when you’re doing a routine as a stand alone bit, you’ll notice what’s a strong joke or bit and what felt like it was a good joke, but it’s just your momentum from the whole show that helps you get a laugh.

I’ve also written some new jokes and come up with some new bits for the routines I was doing.

I’m really glad I did this, it’s not my normal thing. I learned a lot!

Getting into a Cast…

One of the fun things work this week with World of Wonders this week is that I’m part of cast of performers. That means my duties are more than just my act. I’ve got a small part in another act. I pop my head through the curtain and say a couple of lines. This is something I’ve never really had to do before, aside from performing with my daughter.

In the middle of the run, I had another performer have an idea for my spoon act. This idea would use a second person to introduce my giant spoon. The idea took off! Backstage we then started riffing and before I knew it, it was a fairly fleshed out bit!

This is something that I can’t normally do in my spoon act, however I also don’t know that I’ll be doing the spoon act much longer as part of it probably isn’t very good for my health.

The important thing is even though I don’t know the future of the spoon act (I took it out of my show about 3 years ago), I’m still working on it. It’s got a brief life in the show for 9 days, but I still want it to grow!

Joke Swap!

Last night we recorded the whole show at the World of Wonders side show. Then later that night as a cast we sat down and reviewed it. It was really helpful and while I think I contributed a lot of notes for everyone else, I probably had the most notes for myself.

One of my notes for myself had to do with a joke, something that I had been working on taking out of the show, and adding a new joke. The reason I was taking it out was that it stopped playing as well as it had used to. The joke may simply have aged out of being funny.

For context, in the routine, I’m sticking spoons to my arm. Here’s the original line:

“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. I’m awesome at the airport, I always get the extra pat down”

It’s not the strongest bit, but when it was written, the TSA was in the news a lot with how they were hand screening people. At the time, it was topical and while still relevant, it’s not something that’s at the forefront of people’s minds.

A couple of weeks ago, I worked on writing a new joke to take it’s place with my friend Eric Haines (who is an amazing performer). Here’s the new joke:

“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. The bonus is if I ever get lost, my arm always points north!”

That’s a decent joke, and gets a laugh. The problem was I got greedy and would tell them together to try and get two laughs, instead of simply replacing the joke.

“…I had to surgically implant magnets into my arm. I’m awesome at the airport, I always get the extra pat down. The bonus is if I ever get lost, my arm always points north!”

I think the first punchline didn’t hit hard enough, so the second one was starting off in a hole. By removing the old joke and simply doing the new one, it make the new punchline play stronger. It also tightened up the act!

Short Sets…

After a day, I’m starting to settle into the swing of things with the World of Wonder side show. It’s very different from how I’m used to performing as the whole show, or in a 15 minute chunk. The two acts that are about three minutes are outside my normal comfort zone. My show uses a lot of personality, and for it to work, I need you audience to like me, which can take time.

When I’m in variety shows and they want two shorter bits, I normally try to get them to do one longer chunk as if the audience doesn’t like me initially it gives me some time to try to win them over. With two short pieces that are separated in a show, if they don’t like me after the first one, it’s really hard to get them to like me at the second spot.

For my two acts during this run, I picked one thing that has a lot action and applause points, but also sells me a little bit. The second spot is uses a lot of attitude and hype, which works as a second spot, but not as a first. For the second one to work, you need to like me a little bit.

I think the two acts this week are finding their place…

Tighten It Up!

This week I’m performing as an act in the World of Wonders Sideshow. One of the challenges for me is keeping my acts short. They have the 10 act format and each act is in the ballpark of about 3 minutes. Normally when I perform, I try to get as much time as possible out of a routine That’s the key to being a solo act that does a full show.

I’m working on cutting down a lot of the personality bits, it’s hard to figure out what jokes/bits to cut to keep the routine in the 10 act format.

I’m fighting the urge to simply do the bits as I normally do them and have them run 5 minutes. There was a time when I was younger where I wouldn’t have cut down the bits. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized you have to be a team player, but more than that, this is taking me out of my comfort zone. Maybe I could learn that a 5 minute bit in my show, is really an amazing 3 minute bit and I’ve diluted it by stretching it to 5 or 6 minutes.

I’m enjoying stepping out of my normal box and taking some risks!

Bird Cage Day!

Today was a fun day for the incoming mail, I had three different vanishing birdcages show up! The first is an birdcage from India, this one has the side bars made at a 90 degree angle difference from how most are made. It could have been made left handed??

vanishing birdcage

This cage vanishes fine, it’s just got a lot of rough edges, that you’ll have to spend sometime filing down.

The second cage that came is an older “martin style” that once belonged to Bryce Chambers (inventor of the Bryce’s screen illusion). It’s damaged and ad an attempt at repair at some point.

The notches in the corner posts are interesting. They appear to have been put there by the manufacturer. The do make the cage a bit more sleek when collapsed, but it appears (to my eye) to be a negligible amount.

The third cage is an Owens Challenge Vanishing Cage. This one, I’m hoping to have be my new working cage. My current working cage is one that was given to me as a teenager, and it has missing bars.

This cage looks great, however it’s pretty stiff. It’s going to need some breaking in. I put in on a pull and it vanished way better than I thought it would have with how stiff it is. I’ll keep working with it and it should loosen up!

Spoon Stunt…

Last week I was hosting a stage at a fair. One of the things that I was doing on stage while the band set up was relearning to do my spoon routine. This routine ends with me sticking a giant spoon to my face. I took this routine out of the show about 2 1/2 years ago, and I’m playing with putting it back into the show.

At this particular fair, I wasn’t expecting to be stage hosting, I thought I was going to be doing roving magic. I had the spoon act and lots of old video of me doing it with me to relearn it at night back at the airBnB.

The first time I put it on the stage, it was a disaster…well not that bad, but it wasn’t good. There were soo many little things that I had forgotten to do or say. However after struggling through the act once, I quickly remembered a lot of the logistical things. Then through out the day, lines started coming back to me. Finally at night when I was back at the house and I got to watch video of it, it all started coming together.

I still have a lot of lines to learn, and some confidence to build up!

Simple Solutions…

This week I’m performing at a fair and here’s the view of the audience from the stage:

The table and chairs are for the judges of the pageant which happens at the end of the day (after my shows). Also all of the chairs have notes that say “reserved on them”.

This particular fair has trouble getting audiences to watch shows at this stage.

Can you guess why?

If you answered there’s no where for the audience to sit, you are correct. Most people given the choice will choose to not sit on the grass.

For my first show, I told people they could sit on the chairs. Quickly I filled all of the chairs for my show. With the success of giving people somewhere to sit, for my second show I drug over a bench. That bench filled. For my final show I drug over two more benches and those benches filled.

The solution was soo simple, give the people somewhere to sit, and they’ll watch the show.

Formal Practice…

Thinking back on visiting The Magic Garage last week, it’s a really cool resource for magicians in the Bay Area. In addition to a hang out, there’s a theater in the garage.

While I was there we helped a magician workshop a routine. It’s great to be able to work on your show in a theater setting. Practicing in your living room works, but doing it in a more formal setting changes your mindset. That shift puts you more into work mode.

Still Figuring it out…

This week is challenging with performing outdoors in a noisy environment for people who are far from the stage and masked. I can’t hear them, or if someone says something I can’t tell who is saying it. I can also have no one on stage. I’ve been working on no contact material for a while, but the not being able to hear people is really throwing me for a loop.

I’ve been leaning heavily on jokes to add length to my show. The nice thing is that they require no props and that I can do and tell them without needed to hear anyone. It’s almost like telling jokes on a zoom show…but you can’t see people laughing.

I’m remembering reading in Wise Guy, Harry Anderson‘s book about performing band breaks at concerts and not being able to use the audience onstage. That’s where he developed his mismash card, and the monarch monte.

I’ve got a couple more days of stage shows before I shift back to doing just roving. It’s fun trying to figure out how to work these shows…hopefully I won’t have to deal with this ever again.