(Close Window)
Topic: Skill or Magic
Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (Jan 8, 2003 06:21PM)
Someone posted a video that showed Cardini doing some overtly impressive and amazing ball flourishes. I was taught not to show my skill, and that would make the effects seem more magical. And, usually, I believe that Cardini hid his skill in his character of a drunken guy who magical things happened to, suprising him as much as the audience.

My question is, on the street, does it help to put on displays of obvious skill? Does the crowd like to know they are giving their money to someone who is highly skilled? Or should we hide our skill to make the magical effect itself more mysterious? This also relates to what types of characters can work for a street magician. For example, can a bumbling, magician in trouble character work? Or would that undercut the hat? Do we need to be in-your-face, catch-me-if-you-can type of characters?
Message: Posted by: Kozmo (Jan 8, 2003 06:31PM)
the only thing that matters....the ONLY thing is....are they being entertained?....

then its up to you?....what do you want to do...what do you want your magic to look like....skillful...artful..poetic...or in your face....funny....aggressive...whatever style that's up to you...by the way...the stuff that cardini did wont work on the streets...because....to many angles....people all over you....behind you....unless you are very good at breaking the circle....

Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Jan 8, 2003 06:44PM)

First off you ask the best questions! You are going to do well me thinks. A couple of times I even thought you might be some kind of a plant, or writing a book!

To me, this is just my own opinion character must come first. If you do not know whom your inner guy is no matter what you will do you it will fall flat.

I think that most street magicians should under play their character. I think too much of an in your face style is just unattractive no matter what you are doing. If it wouldnít play well in life, it wonít do well on the street.

I am a funny guy, I have been considered funny my entire life. My character is funny. If I were not a funny guy to play funny would fall flat. If you are a mysterious guy I think your character should suit you as well. This goes for any combination in between.

I think displays of skill can be very useful in the right hands like Sonny Holiday for instance. But Sonny also does some stuff that looks like real magic. His character is very ďin your faceĒ and when he plays it right it is strong. When he goes over the line people leave. The great ones always play it close to the edge.

The same can be said for Gazzo. His character is a combination of hard backed wide boy and the type of bumbling magician you mentioned earlier. But even he still loves to hang it right over the edge and yank it back in at the last second. It really is amazing to watch him when you have even a small understanding of what he is trying to do.

I on the other hand am just not that good. I play it safe. My guy is funny without any danger. My hats suffer for it but I can usually work steady and make it up at the end of the day. I can push it and when I worked comedy clubs doing stand up I was either pushing the envelope to the very edge or blowing it out like a confetti load.

The act I am trying to build I want to be able to play anywhere. I focus on two things magic and comedy. According to Billy McComb, funny just pays better. Gratuitous displays of skill would kill my character but if my character was say, a riverboat gambler. I had better be able to handle a deck of cards like James Bond handles an Austin Martin.

For me it all depends on the character.


Message: Posted by: Carlos Hampton (Jan 8, 2003 09:34PM)
I was going to bring some of these points up.

I mean don't take me in the wrong way, the only exposure that I have to the guy is his performance in the Cellini video, and therefore I am talking from a spectator point of view.

Personally I don't think this is safe. I am talking about the challenging attitude of Mr Holiday, once again only based in the video performance I have seen.

I really never liked the magician that plays Look how smart I am and how stupid you are because you cannot catch me.

It is not good for the audience, they feel challenged and maybe they will stay as stated by Cellinis words, but I think is reasonable to look for another ways of catching the interest of the audience instead of challenge.

If they are challenged, they are never going to feel a magical experience, they will be seeing a juggler and on top of that they are going to be angry at the end, because they didn't catch you.

Even worst if they catch guess who is the fool.

More can be found in Strong Magic, by Darwing Ortiz.

I don't know about you, but I rather give my money to someone that does not call me stupid, even if he doesn't use those words. The persona portrays that.

I think that the performer should experience the magical happenings with the audience at the same time, and get amazed the same way the audience does. Or at least attempt.

It is a journey that we do together with them and we need to enjoy it also. It is not a jorney to see who is smarter, it is not a speed race either.

Also, this type of character keeps fueling the idea of the masses that magic is only a puzzle, not an art.

Just 1/2 of cent from someone clueless. ;)
Message: Posted by: Pokie-Poke (Jan 8, 2003 10:57PM)
On 2003-01-08 22:34, Carlos Hampton wrote:
If they are challenged, they are never going to feel a magical experience, they will be seeing a juggler and on top of that they are going to be angry at the end, because they didn't catch you.

Even worst if they catch guess who is the fool.

Hay! watch the juggler/fool bits! ;)

if you can get the audance to like you, you can call them anything you want. As long as thay still like you your ok.
make your act fit you, then make it fit the pitch, then wory about the tricks. You are the reason thay are watching not the cards, cups or what ever. if thay don't stay, it may not be the trick but the one doing the trick.

just a note from a juggler and a fool :jesterhat:
Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Jan 8, 2003 11:23PM)

Again you bring up a very tried, true, and very good thought on the performance of magic. I can only say it is different on the street. You need to be very aggressive to get them to stop stay and pay. You also need to temper that with a down play of your persona. I have stood next to Sonny in Harvard Square and the guy has no problem making money. If he were to take this same show indoors at say the castle they would hate it. It is very strange.

Gazzo at one point does come right out and call his audience stupid and they all laugh! It is amazing! The reason it works is they know he doesnít mean it and that can only be achieved by letting your audience know who your character is. On the street Gazzo does a one hour plus show. He only does 4 tricks! By the time he calls his audience stupid they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he doesnít mean it.

It is so hard to convey this stuff in just a short set that you might see on a videotape. When I work Harvard Square for instance my show may only be twenty minutes long but I stand out there 12 or 18 hours at a time with no breaks. I am a fixture to my audience. They feel as though I belong there. This gives me a lot of leeway. Since vaudeville died there is really no other place on earth where a person can do that many shows in one day and have an audience come back again and again to the point that they feel they know you.

You have to get out there and try it. It will really floor you. It is a completely different performer and audience relationship.


Message: Posted by: JamesinLA (Jan 9, 2003 11:39AM)
On 2003-01-08 19:44, Danny Hustle wrote:

First off you ask the best questions! You are going to do well me thinks. A couple of times I even thought you might be some kind of a plant, or writing a book!


Thank you for those kind words. It means a lot coming from you. Please keep that in mind when the time comes that I ask a really stupid question, which I'm sure I will!
As you have said, getting people to stop and watch and pay, and connecting with them in that quick and immediate way, is what makes the dynamic of the street different and facinating. That's why I asked the question. Also, I think it's exciting because, as Koz says, ultimately I agree that anything that is entertaining can work. But of course making it work is the hard and fun part. It's also exciting because I think there is space for new ideas, characters, approaches. But there is that special street dynamic. I can't wait to get back home (still away) to watch the Gazzo tape and see how he does it.
I was wondering if your father's background in vadeville has something to do with your instincts and knowledge about character? Thanks for your continued insights!
Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Jan 9, 2003 02:58PM)

Wow. To answer your question, my character is my father and I am my fatherís son. There is a lot of my dad (including some of his lines!) in my act.

My dad had a larger than life persona. He was a dreamer, he was an entertainer, he was a storyteller and he was a lover of humanity. He loved nothing more than seeing sheer joy on the faces of those around him.

I never saw his act as he retired from show business the year I was born. But to answer your question, I donít think my dad as a vaudevillian had much to do with it but my dad as a person had plenty. I think being around my dadís friends who were performers also exposed me to how important your character is as a performer. They all showed me by example that the audience needs to believe in the person you are portraying.

I donít feel as though I have any particular deeper knowledge of character I just think I realize its importance to any performance.


Message: Posted by: Carlos Hampton (Jan 10, 2003 09:45AM)

I uderstand what you are saying as far having complicity with your audience, that can push back the line of respect. No problems there, although I won't do it. I've seen many stage performers do the same thing and get away with it and people like it.

Also being agressive(I will call it proactive) in the streets for stopping your audience, it is also understandable.

But those two points to me do not relate in the way you present your show. I mean in your attitude towards magic.

Does he gets money? Yes. So as the people that play static statue, jugglers etc...(all my respects for all of them).
But..., does he gives or portrays the sense of magic to the audience?

From the performance I've seen, I don't think so.

Just a trickster, a good one I will say, a good manipulator as he called himself, a guy with quick hands, but not a magician.

We cannot justify that is all about the money, if is only that we can be thieves, or politicians both well related, but we are suposse to be magicians aren't we?

I still have to try it out there, and you bet I will. I am going to prepare a good act for those conditions and I will get out there and I will mess it up most likely, and probably I will not make good money. But I will try my best to keep the butterfly alive, and try not to lose focus of the final goal.

Money, yes but magic too. ;)
Message: Posted by: Danny Hustle (Jan 10, 2003 10:53AM)

I again agree point by point with what you are saying. I also like proactive better than aggressive and that is exactly how I meant it. Thanks for listening to what I meant and not what I said. :)

Sonny is hard to explain to someone who has only seen that small portion of what he does. I also agree that his style doesnít suit most magicians. But watch that tape again and this time listen to his audience when the knots come off the fope and when he reveals the fruit from under the cups. They gasp in magical awe. It isnít sleight of hand, and it isnít skill. It is magic.

What you didnít get to see or hear on that DVD is Sonny drawing his edge. He scoffs at his sleight of hand! He calls it juggling. He says stuff like, ďThis isnít really a trick, this is skill, itís just juggling. Itís crap truth be told but it is what you want to see. This is what you are going to pay me for because you like it. Iím also going to fool you, Iím probably going to fool your real bad, but thatís also nothing. An idiot could fool anyone if he knows how. Iím also going to show you magic, real magic. That is what the smart ones in the crowd are going to like. Because there is nothing else in this world like real magic. But most of you will enjoy the crap more. Thatís your problem.Ē

So I find it ironic that even Sonny would agree with you! Sonny Holiday lives a nomadic lifestyle but what people do not know is he spent years studying with Cellini, Frank Garcia, and Tony Slydini. All three of these men thought Sonny could have been one of the best.

Sonnyís style is not for everyone but he really is all magician. He loves magic as if it were a living and breathing thing. It bugs him that people on the street do not appreciate all the things you mention. It is tough when youíre competition is a guy who can juggle six balls while riding a 12 foot unicycle that is lit on fire and still play ďHakuna- MatataĒ on a Penny whistle at the same time. People want high-energy and if you are not a comedy magician you have to give them something else. Sonny gives them danger and a little angst. If you see it in context when it works it is brilliant. When it doesnít, it can be a train wreck. The streets are unpredictable.