Last week I was at an event an MC’d one of their shows. When I’m an MC, my goal is to keep the show moving and not do time myself…but to be memorable. This is different from the advice I frequently be hear which is, “an MC should be invisible.” I think the MC should be the host at the party, and you should know the host if you’re attending the party!
When I MC, I have an opening warm up bit, a few bits for emergencies, and notes, lots of notes. I have the introduction for the act and ideas for jokes based on watching video or my past experience with their act. Then during their act I will write jokes based on what I see.
As I use up a note or joke, I crumble it up and leave it on the table.
The reason I leave them on the table is sometimes I need to reference something I’ve written before. By leaving a messy table, it gives me access to everything I’ve written.
At the end of the show, I have a table of crumpled up papers. I really enjoy working as an MC, however it’s a lot of work compared to just being an act in the show.
I think the key is to not make the show about you, but at the same time it’s your show!
A few days ago I performed in a variety show hosted by Snax. Snax is a rabbit who does stand up, here’s a video of them on The Gong Show:
Snax makes a good host, and it had a great mix of acts:
The only ones not picture are me and the burlesque act.
One of the things I love about performing in variety shows is all the different art forms and what every brings to the stage. I think seeing and working with all sorts of different acts helps make you more well rounded as a performer.
For example the two stand ups worked very slowly, where I attack the stage. I think that’s something I need to play with more, being a little more gentle. I’m getting older and attacking the stage may be something I’m aging out of.
I’ll be doing hand shadow act and probably my bullwhip act during the shows this weekend. One of the things that the festival likes about what I do is that it doesn’t really conflict with things that other magicians do.
One huge thing that’s really helped me with my career is having a “novelty” act that I can do. It really helps out when you are in variety shows, or even in just plain ol’ magic shows with other magicians. It makes you a lot more versatile as an act. -Louie
One of the biggest tips that I’ve learned about performing is being early to the gig. This is even more important when you are working with other acts in a stage show. Your “tech rehearsal” is soo much easier when you’re not the last person.
When you’re the first one to do their tech, you get the crew’s full attention and your full time slot. As more performers show up, the tech rehearsal always ends up running long and if you’re the last person to do tech, you will probably get an incomplete or rushed tech run through.
The tech needs for my show is pretty simple and when I’m on variety shows the producers like to have me tech last because my needs are simple. I suggest to have me first, to get me out of the way, and since I probably won’t use my full time slot, they’ll get ahead early on, instead of being behind schedule right out of the gate.
Even in situations where I have a later scheduled tech time, I try to show up first and try to be ready to do the tech rehearsal first. That allows me to slip in if an act isn’t ready to go at the start of their time.
Here’s a good example, recently I was in a show and the other act I was sharing the stage with was a band. The event had both of our tech times at the same time. I was there an hour before the shared tech time. I loaded in, got my show set up ran my tech and was done before the shared tech time. The band showed up at the beginning of the tech time. Oh, I should mention the tech time was an hour before showtime, so with doors 15 mins before showtime, the shared tech time was really only 45 mins. By the time the band had loaded in and set up their gear, it was 10 mins to showtime, meaning they were already 5 mins behind schedule. They ended up getting no sound check, and their show suffered.
I realize it’s not always possible to show up early, or get your tech done earlier than your scheduled time and that’s just how life is. For me, getting there early ensures that my show gets what it needs or at least it gives me a good reason for them to hold the doors while I finish my tech!
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…
Last weekend I went out and saw a variety show that had a magician in it. The magician did a “quiz show” type bit between a kid and his mom. In the bit one personal always get the easy question and the other always gets the hard question. In the version I saw the kid … Continue reading “Let the Kid Win!”
Last weekend I went out and saw a variety show that had a magician in it. The magician did a “quiz show” type bit between a kid and his mom. In the bit one personal always get the easy question and the other always gets the hard question. In the version I saw the kid got the hard question and in my opinion because of that the bit didn’t play as well as it could have.
There were a few factors that needed to be taken into consideration. First while he was in a variety show and your opener doesn’t have the same requirement as in a solo show, this was his opening bit. That means our first introduction to the magician was him picking on a kid. The second factor was that the kid was enthusiastic about coming onstage, until he got there, then he looked like he didn’t want to be there.
When you combine those two things, you are going to have a rough time with the bit. If you always plan for the kid to win, the bit will do well the majority of the time as you’ve removed the variables from the bit. If the kid onstage isn’t into it, but he still wins, that’s a win for you. It’s also easier for an audience to like you when you are nice to a kid.
After all of these years, I’ve finally seen Esther’s Follies in Austin TX. I’ve heard about it for years, and a friend of mine was the variety act in the show early on. This show has been running for 40 years, and there’s a simple secret to it’s long run…aside from talented performers and that … Continue reading “Best Show I’ve Seen…”
After all of these years, I’ve finally seen Esther’s Follies in Austin TX. I’ve heard about it for years, and a friend of mine was the variety act in the show early on. This show has been running for 40 years, and there’s a simple secret to it’s long run…aside from talented performers and that secret is that the show is stays fresh!
The show is full of jokes and sketches around current events. After the show I was chatting with Ray Anderson who is the magician in the show. He mentioned that every week they have a scheduled writing meeting.
The show keeps changing, and this goes against the “advice” I as given when I was a kid, which was to put together a show/act that you can do the rest of your life. I think that doing one thing and not changing it, is very antiquated advice. Times change and what was once edgy material eventually becomes either cheesy or offensive.
I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with the times, but I’m always evaluating my show looking for things to cut.
Unique acts are something that I always love seeing. They can be good, bad, or whatever, if it’s something I’ve never seen before, I’m in! Earlier this week I performed with the Marshall Shore the Hip Historian. He does an act based on Arizona’s history, and it’s run like a game show. His show has … Continue reading “Amazing Package!”
Unique acts are something that I always love seeing. They can be good, bad, or whatever, if it’s something I’ve never seen before, I’m in! Earlier this week I performed with the Marshall Shore the Hip Historian. He does an act based on Arizona’s history, and it’s run like a game show. His show has amazing “curb appeal”. The look of the show looks fun and exciting.
Let’s start with his costume. He wears boots with the Arizona flag on them, and his jacket also has the Arizona flag on the back of it. He’s looks like a cool version of Colonel Sanders. One of his props is a chicken bucket with his face in place of the Colonel’s face.
His show is a game show where people try to be the first to correctly answer Arizona trivia. I think this is something that could be expanded into a much bigger show. He could use some video elements, and different types of games, not just head to head trivia. This is something that would play really well in a hipster bar or black box theater. I also think this is something that if he packaged it right, he could get a ton of bookings in middle and high schools!
Variety shows are a blast to perform in, and whenever possible I try to be in them. Earlier this week I was in a show in Phoenix and got to work with a physical comedian, a hula hooper, a sideshow clown and a historian! What I love about these shows is how diverse the range … Continue reading “The Whole World Isn’t a Stage…”
Variety shows are a blast to perform in, and whenever possible I try to be in them. Earlier this week I was in a show in Phoenix and got to work with a physical comedian, a hula hooper, a sideshow clown and a historian! What I love about these shows is how diverse the range of skills the performers have.
One thing that I’m hyper aware of is when you’re not performing on a raised stage. Anything that happens below the armpit disappears for people beyond the second row. I’m aware of this because years ago when I used to do cups and balls in my show I noticed everyone that wasn’t in front having trouble seeing.
In the variety show the majority of the hula hooper’s first set was done with her on the floor, or lower to the ground. Her act was good, but not visible to the whole audience. Sure, artistically doing stuff on the floor makes sense, however moving it up higher in general will make it play better and bigger! This is why juggler’s build larger crowds than a magician, and usually end on something high up like a unicycle.