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Topic: Stand Up Comedy in Magic
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Aug 16, 2008 07:56PM)
Since this section of the Café has slowly switched focused to games and in jokes, I thought it might be nice to start a thread that brings us back to magic and stand up comedy.

I started doing 'straight' stand up comedy in 2000 and found it very hard from the start. After many years of performing magic comedy I found that my magic and comedy had become crutches for one another.

I would allow poor magic into my act because of the laughs I was getting. For exmaple, I would perform the vanishing bandanna to peels of laughter knowing full well that a large percentage of the audience knew *** well where the banana was. However, thinking myself the new Tommy Cooper, I let it pass. Likewise, I'd slip in jokes that were not that funny and let comedy mishaps slip from my mind rest assured in the fact that I was a magician and not a comedian. The words "No, not that hand, the clean one." have passed my lips too many times.

So by performing straight stand up comedy, I suddenly realised that a) I was not as funny as I thought I was and b) my magic was not as strong as it needed to be. Living in a small city with no open mike spots, I would devoured every text on comedy I could find and write and rewrite material. I became obsessed with 'punch words' 'laughs per minute' and other comedy 'rules' I learned from experience to be more theory than practice. My first joke: "I want to open a company that sells clear coffins. I'll call it "Remains To Be Seen." "

Each fortnight I would travel three hours to Sydney to perform in the open mike sections at the Comedy Store and the other open mike nights. I also started my own comedy room at home, padding the bill with musicians, poets and magicians to get stage time. I won a couple of comedy competitions where the competition including a homeless guy reading from Mills and Boon novels and a DJ obsessed with toilet paper.

At the same time, the local agents got wind that I was doing stand up and started asking me to do gigs. Mostly small scale stuff, I was doing 10-15 spots and sales conventions for $300-$400. Unfortunately, at this early stage I was not ready to strike out with pure comedy. While I wasn't dying, I was merely average and soon lost confidence. I was a small fish in a big pond.

Slowly, as the skills I learned from stand up started to pay off in my magic, I stopped performing straight stand up comedy. Without regular writing and performing, I lost even more confidence and it became harder and harder to get back into it.

However, 2 years ago, I moved in Melbourne, a thriving city and home to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I saw 35 comedians perform in one month, I've started writing again and I've even begun taking the occasional five minute spot at a few of the local clubs. I've even told the remains to be seen joke. Still gets a laugh. I've started a new variety night (The Catchpenny Club) each month and use it try out new material both magic and comedy.

The main lessons I've learnt in the past ten years are

1) If it's meant to be magic, make sure its AMAZING.
2) If it's meant to be comedy, makes sure its FUNNY.
3) Don't call yourself a comedy entertainer until you can perform ten minutes of original comedy without magic.
4) Always write new material even if you don't use it.
5) Find a good place to die.
Message: Posted by: jocdoc (Aug 17, 2008 12:07PM)
Good advice, Nick. In my opinion, the magic is merely a vehicle for one to express their personality via performance. It's not about the trick(s); rather, it's about you having fun up there and sharing the experience with those around you using magic as tools for your mayhem.

I suppose that the same thing could be said about jokes i.e. it's not just telling individual funny jokes in front of people; it's about bringing out things that are true to you (Have you come across the book "Truth in Comedy"?] and sharing these with an audience in a (hopefully) funny way that may use jokes as tools, as well.

It comes down to the fact that we're performers trying to make people around us have a good time by spending time with us. The tricks/jokes are merely a means to an end.

That being said, I recently performed two new effects in my office: Signed card to prostate and another that I'll simply call "At your cervix." [And, yes, I really did perform these effects on my patients.] Both of these were indeed a means to an end (so to speak)...

jeff in san diego
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Aug 17, 2008 12:25PM)
Ever thought about putting together a good magic act first. Next, read a one-liner comedy book ("Sleight of Mouth" for example) and adding good one-liners to the magic act?
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Aug 17, 2008 12:30PM)
Remains to be seen. Heh. Made me smile.

That's a great post, Nick. Ive been trying my hand at open mike spots the last few months. It's still pretty scary! I didn't think there were many open mike nights in Belfast I certainly couldn't find many on the internet but when you do a spot of networking with the other open-mikers they seem to be able to sniff nights out.

Setting up a variety club sounds like a great way to try out new stuff and have a lot of fun and make some friends while you're at it. Theres a few nights like that here I should get more involved. I quite like compering.

G
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Aug 17, 2008 12:37PM)
Dynamike. I can't tell if you're being ironic or sarcastic or neither.

I'll go with sarcastic and say you make a good point. As Nick mentioned earlier the good thing about stand-up is it forces you to think for yourself as it takes away a magicians 2 main crutches:
Magic and other peoples jokes...

George
Message: Posted by: jocdoc (Aug 17, 2008 12:42PM)
I personally wouldn't compose an act of all one liners, but they can be helpful as "improvised/spur of the moment thoughts/recalls" when an opportunity presents itself.

Aldo Colombini put out some great one-liner pamphlet style books (e.g. Keep 'em Laughing). They can be purchased for just $10 on his site: http://www.wildcolombini.com/cart/index.php?cPath=3&osCsid=3c03e5b94fe56c71f728245eb3b874c8 Well worth the price!
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Aug 17, 2008 01:08PM)
Anyone ever had the book Bill Palmer mentioned?, "How to Be Funny" by Steve Allen: http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/search_post.php?topic=267529&forum=6&post=5673236
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Aug 17, 2008 01:23PM)
Yes, I have the Steve Allen book.
It's quite good. It has some nice concise methods for joke construction. I've written quite a few jokes with his book in mind.

Sorry Jd, but I'm really not a fan of the Colombino books. I find them a dull mix of old, bland and cheesy.
You'll probably get big laughs from them but you'll feel dirty afterwards.

George
Message: Posted by: NJJ (Aug 17, 2008 06:30PM)
[quote]
On 2008-08-17 13:25, Dynamike wrote:
Ever thought about putting together a good magic act first. Next, read a one-liner comedy book ("Sleight of Mouth" for example) and adding good one-liners to the magic act?
[/quote]

I pray that Dynamike is being sarcastic too.

While some of those books of one liners can be funny, they make for lazy comedy and bland entertainment. To my shame, I have all those books and even used to edit an internet newsletter called "The Old Chestnut" dedicated to one liners and gags for magicians.

However, I have found that, even when these lines DO get a laugh, they don't lead anywhere creatively. If I say "What's your name? Really? That was my name when I was a little girl." I will get a laugh. However, it doesn't make me a better performer, a better magician, a better writer or a better comedian.

I'm still trying to ween myself off the stock gags and lines so I am by no means a pure vessel of original material. My stand up act combines about half a dozen stock lines which are such a perfect fit that I still can't bring myself to give them up.

Here is a little exercise which I do occasionally that you might enjoy.

1) Find a comfortable Café or coffee shop.
2) Sit and write 100 jokes off the top of your head. Don't censor yourself. Don't worry about being funny. Just write 100 jokes.
3) Cross out the 80 worst jokes.
4) Go to your local stand up night and perform a 5 minute set in which you tell those 20 jokes.
5) Die horribly.
6) From the wreckage, pluck the 5-10 jokes that survived the carnage.
7) Repeat.
Message: Posted by: jocdoc (Aug 17, 2008 07:44PM)
I personally don't use any of those one-liners when I perform. I just submitted Aldo's compilations of literally 1000's of one-liners in response to Dynamike's post for persons that may be interested (and I personally like watching Aldo perform so I threw in a plug).

I make up my own stories/scripts to go with my effects except for the few times that I demonstrate Bob Elliott's handling of something. I do have a penchant for puns and work many into my performances such as when I'm showing people that I have a set of blue balls (sponge, of course!) and proceed to make them appear and disappear in their hands.

If anyone is bored enough, I've posted the scripts for two fun effects that I perform one after the other (Voodoo trick, followed by Cannibal Kings) on my "magical" web page posted below. [For the record, no, I don't really use the line "I'll be here all night, tip...." at the end of the voodoo trick.]
Message: Posted by: critter (Aug 18, 2008 10:32AM)
Screwing up the tricks can be funny, if you are good at screwing them up. That is to say, you should make sure it is planned and a decidedly funny screw-up. And sometimes a screw up can be turned around. Like Amazing Johnathan's newer pan ending to the torn and (un)restored bill trick. It's way better now that he really fixes it when you think he won't.
See also: The Great Tomsoni.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Aug 18, 2008 11:02AM)
[quote]
On 2008-08-17 13:37, magicgeorge wrote:
Dynamike. I can't tell if you're being ironic or sarcastic or neither.
[/quote]
You mean I am that good of an actor? Well thank you, George.
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Aug 18, 2008 11:42AM)
Yes, that's exactly what I mean as typing sentences into a keyboard is just like acting...
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Aug 18, 2008 12:27PM)
LOL

Ok, you won. I surrender.
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (Aug 18, 2008 07:47PM)
Nicholas,
Thanks for an interesting and refreshingly honest and open post.

Just by way of showing an interest in this type of contribution I hope you won't mind me joining in by adding my own thoughts to your 'main lessons learnt'.

1) If it's meant to be magic, make sure its AMAZING.
The key words here are 'if it's meant to be...'. An act can be anything the performer wants it to be... but if it's meant to be magic then it's hard to see how having a strong and effective magic content could be anything other than better than having an act with a weak magic content. A strong magic content gives an added depth to a comedy magic act. Forgoing this can mean you end up being more of a clown for grown ups.... which is fine if that's what you're aiming for but not so good if that wasn't what you were aiming for.


2) If it's meant to be comedy, makes sure its FUNNY.
One of the things that makes some comedy magic acts not as funny as they'd like to think they are is, what in my opinion is their misplaced belief that the magic will, or should, act as a substitute for the comedy. Their thought process is one of; 'I might not be as funny as the stand-up comedian on the bill but look... I'm also doing some magic'. One of the 1st lessons I learnt when I started performing professionally was that as a comedy act you're primarily judged on how funny they find you to be. Aim to make yourself funnier than any stand-up comic who you might find working on a bill with you.


3) Don't call yourself a comedy entertainer until you can perform ten minutes of original comedy without magic.
I understand your thinking on this one but don't necessarily subscribe to it in those terms. I certainly agree though that stepping outside one's comfort zone and abandoning the security blanket of the magic means you have to rely on other aspects of your performance to get you through. These are the very aspects often found wanting. Character, style, etc. I think though that, if I have correctly grasped the essence of the point you are making, an alternative way of articulating it is to say; The magic does not and cannot act as a substitute for an engaging identifiable performance character and/or style.

4) Always write new material even if you don't use it.
This is a great idea.

5) Find a good place to die.
And this is probably the most important piece of advice for anyone wanting to break into the market. The best way to improve an act is to work it and work it and work it. When you're just starting out or trying something new you're inevitably not going to be great performing it. You need somewhere to be bad, find out what works and what doesn't; find out how to change things that don't work so they do, develop a style and a character; and be able to crash and burn and still have the chance to take to the stage again the following week or month or day. I suspect it's harder now to find such places than it was 5, 10 or 20 years ago.

Cheers again for making your post Nicholas.

Neal
Message: Posted by: RickVancouver (Aug 18, 2008 10:48PM)
Nicholas,

I'd like to add another...

6) Find a comedy writing buddy. Find someone who will commit to meeting once a week, where the two of you can bounce your new jokes off each other. This will not only keep it interesting, but it will also be a great tool in consistent writing habits.

ps) I took a Stand-Up Writing course myself, a couple years ago. I've signed up for the same course, starting in next month in Sept. It's a combination refresher course for me, as well as, I'm hoping to find another comedy writing buddy.

Rick
Message: Posted by: MetalBender (Sep 11, 2008 07:34PM)
Nick, I love you baby. I'm like you in that I left magic for a while to be stand-up comic. I still do stand-up (I've even appeared on XM Radio and The Second City stage in Toronto with not one magic trick contributing to the act.) It's nice to hear somebody say something I've been grousing about for a while.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. If you can't be funny without a deck of cards in your hand, what makes you think you are funny with a deck of cards in your hand?

Lets also remember the lesson that Stand-up, Sketch, Improv, Clown, and other forms of "pure" comedy have taught us. We're allowed to be funny in a dark way. We're allowed to be acerbic. We're allowed to push the boundaries of taste and dignity. We're allowed to use our magic and our comedy as a sort of cathartic therapy, becaue when we do that we reveal our true personalities to the audience. As Eugene Burger so eloquently put it, "The force of the real human personality is the only thing that can compete with special effects."

Only giving magic audiences the light fluff of the typical comedy magic performance is doing them a dis-service. We are on the cusp of a new age in comedy magic. We are so very close to seeing an age when there are no more comedy magicians, and oh what a happy day will be. We are so very close to seeing an age where we have comedians who happen to be magicians, and what a glorious sunrise that will be.

Don't be a comedy magician, be a comedian who happens to be a magician.

The future is here kids, lets take it by force, and show everyone what is truly funny, and scatter the broken, charred, and desecrated remains of hippity hop rabbits over the country side as we do!

Sorry... sometimes I get excited... and when that happens I build bonfires out of hippity hop rabbits....
Message: Posted by: tommypockets (Sep 11, 2008 08:30PM)
Metalbender you couldn't have said it better. I also consider my self a comic first, magician second. Don't get me wrong I adore magic, and prefer to perform it, but my goal was to be able to perform anywhere, any time, any place, on a moments notice without having to load six doves, and a rabbit in the box. When I first got into stand up comedy I decided doing magic kept me unique and original, until I started watching multiple comedy magicians do the same act with the same jokes, with the same style day in day out. Successfull comics were able to make a connection with the audience while being completely entertaining at the same time. I then decided to write my magic routines so that the magic added to them, but the jokes could be performed without props, and still get a favorable reaction. I have done purely stand up comedy and there is just something about making people laugh that's just addictive. The fact that you can get laughter from a thought, from your own mind has an advantage over any "funny" "comedy" trick you can buy. Plus by being yourself it doesn't matter what trick you perform. Many comedy magicians pull the head off a dove, that can still be done, but have a reason or a joke or an idea of why you are doing it. Let the trick be a bonus, let the entertainment be you.
Message: Posted by: Mac_Stone (Sep 11, 2008 11:02PM)
[quote]
On 2008-09-11 20:34, MetalBender wrote:
Don't be a comedy magician, be a comedian who happens to be a magician.
[/quote]
Message: Posted by: Rory Diamond (Sep 12, 2008 12:46AM)
I am a huge fan of stand up comedy, and often go to see both well known stand up comics, and local comics on the "Comedy Club" circuit as well. I rarely see any comedy magician who I thought was even remotely as funny as Ron White, Dave Atell, Frank Caliendo, Jim Gaffigan, or some of the good stand-up comics out there today. Sorry guys, I am including all of your "Magic Comedy Heros" you see at conventions and at the Magic Castle. What I see in magicans nowadays is comedy that was funny 50 years ago: slapstick, old time vaudville, mime,and juvenile silly humor. I see the "gay guy" comic magicians, who are doing Rip Taylor or Paul Lynde from 1970's, I see the "Mr. Wacky" Steve Martin wanna-be comic magicians with thier stuffed racoons or bird puppet, I see the "Harpo Marx/Charlie Chaplin/Red Skelton/Buster Keaton" mime type silent guys (why do these guys always have to use a whistle?),the bumbling magician with the tricks that never work, the old guy with the English accent who is supposed to be so funny because he burns some guy's twenty dollar bill, the "con artist" with the fedora, the "big band" zuit suit guy, etc. yeah, yeah, SO WHAT? These guys are funny if all you ever do is go to magic conventions and read magic rags, and you live under a rock in the 1920's. Otherwise, they couldn't punch thier way out of a wet paper bag when it comes to working in a REAL comedy club. Oh sure, you can argue that they are some big deal at the Castle or in some afternoon show in Laughlin or Branson, but there are a thousand or so "Elvis" impersonators who are at about the same level on the entertainment totem pole. None of the comedy magicians I see are ever as funny or talented as good stand-up comics, like you would see on Comedy Central or the Tonight Show. I never see these "comedy magicians" you read about in these magic magazines ever playing big theater tours sponsored by beer companies and being promoted by the Bob & Tom Radio Show. They are just not that funny to the general public.
Message: Posted by: jocdoc (Sep 12, 2008 01:47AM)
Have you ever been to Mac King's show at Harrah's in Vegas? It is pure fun and you'll be laughing the whole way through. He has a great way of pulling everybody along in the audience along for this fun ride. He has some great set ups and the pay offs are very rewarding. The magic is integrated into the act and everything dovetails perfectly.

I can't wait to see it again next month.
Message: Posted by: Ian Keable (Sep 12, 2008 04:42PM)
Personally I think trying to compare stand-up comedians with comedy magicians is like chalk and cheese. They both require different skills. For instance the majority of comedians tell 'jokes' (stand alone material that doesn't even require you to watch them to find them funny) whilst most comedy magicians say 'lines' (which goes along with whatever they are doing at the time). Also the majority of comedy magicians get much of their laughs from audience participation; whilst very few comedians do. I therefore think the argument that you are only funny if you can be funny without performing a trick is nonsense. Great comedians have their own way of being funny, great comedy magicians have their own way. What they both have in common is an interesting character that the audience can identify with and relate to.
Message: Posted by: MetalBender (Sep 13, 2008 12:45PM)
Ian, with all due respect you are absolutley wrong an every and all accounts.

First of all the stand-up comic requires a huge amount of participation from the audience. Just because the comic isn't wading into the masses and asking them to examine his pack of cards doesn't mean he isn't using audience participation. A comedian doesn't talk at his audience, he talks to his audience. What you are seeing is a highly refined conversation that only appears to be one sided. The type of audience participation is very different. If they are not attentive and responding then the comedian must change his tact, style, cadence of voice, rythem, posture, ect. in order to make the act work. Just because it is not overt in the sense that the audience has to hold something or do something that the magician requests does not mean that the comic has no audience participation. What occurs in that type of show really is a give and take relationship. The comic asks questions, and though the audience doesn't always give an audible response they do participate by responding. The comedian doesn't ask a rhetorical question, he asks a question of the audience, and they give him permision to answer it.

On the second count, comedy magicians almost never get laughs from their audience participation. Because, when they are very young as performers some older and wiser magi has usually taken them aside and said, "Listen here sonny boy, pull your socks up, and don't insult your audience. Be polite and ingratiating to them. Never embarass your volunteer infront of a crowd." Then when that young magician blossoms into a fully fledged comedy magician his audience participation is usually polite no matter how crass or rude the rest of his show is. There is the occasional joke about his volunteer's pants and shirt not matching, but that's not funny, and if need be I will prove why that old standard joke isn't funny with an eight page analysis. Next time you watch a comedy magician pay very close attention to how he deals with his audience. There is almost no humor that emerges that is different from the comics act. Here I am not insulting the comedy magician, I am pointing out that the subject of audience participation is the same. There are the standard, "Where are you from?" "What do you do for a living?" "Is that a venerial disease on your left shoulder?" questions.

Secondly I'm sorry, but you are so sadly mistaken about funny and performing tricks. I don't mean this to insult you, but you really are wrong. Every statement I make in these posts comes from a place of deep respect for both the art of comedy and the art of magic. However I have sat on the sidelines and watched as so many people ruined these two arts at the same time that I would be doing a disservice to the performance community as a whole if I didn't say something.

Here's why you are only funny if you can be funny without performing a trick. A trick in and of itself is not funny. I posted this over in the card trick section and I will repeat it here as it bears repeating. Someone asked what some good comedy card tricks were, and there aren't any. Because magic is not inherently funny. Magic is a mystery, when something defies the natural laws of physics we know that either there is something supernatural about it, there is some sort of trick to it, or that we must reexamine what the natural laws of physics are. That's what magic is. There is nothing inherently funny about card to mouth, six card repeat, or even that stupid card that has the entire deck printed on one side. Case in point take a look at Rob Zebrecky, a very very funny man who presents his act in a very creepy manner. I don't want to give away his show, but he does some classic magic that creeps you out. In fact we do some of the same effects but I take them in a completely different direction. His is more theatrical while mine is more club driven. That's not to say that one is better than the other, but it illustrates that there's nothing specifically funny about the effects that we are doing.

If you do a sight gag within your show then it's not the gag that's funny, it's you that is funny. John Carney does a brilliant sight gag in his parlour show where it appears as though he is shot in the chest with an arrow. It's brilliantly funny when he does it, but remember it's not the sight gag that's funny it's Carney that's funny. Think about that sight gag, it's a very tragic one. An audience doesn't like a performer so much that they chose to shoot him in the chest in the middle of his show? That is a very sad thought, and deeply disturbing, but Carney makes it funny. Why? Because it's not getting shot in the chest that's funny, it's Carney.

If you do someone elses presentation of a trick and get laughs on it, then you're not the one who is funny. Ever since Michael Finney published "Live From Tahoe!" I've seen a lot of people doing six card repeat the way he does it, verbatim. Remember my original point. There is nothing funny about six card repeat. It's actually very boring if you think about it, but in Finney's hands it's hillarious. Now if I were to do Michael's version of six card repeat and get huge laughs I'm not funny. It's Michael that's funny, he wrote that stuff, he crafted it. I'm just using what he's allready proven to be funny. I would be doing "lines" and that's worse than telling a joke that I wrote that didn't get any laughs.

Do not for a second think that I am saying that comedians are better than magicians. Sure, as a whole comedians are better paid, but that's not the point. I know some brilliant comedians, and I know some dreadfull comedians. I know some wonderfully funny magicians, and I know some droll magicians who deserve to have their wrists slit with their own deck of cards. What I am saying is that magicians bang on all the time about how magic is an art and a craft, and this and that. Then they go and put comedy into their act without realizing that comedy too is an art and a craft, and magicians have a tendency to crap all over comedy because they don't put in the work.

The reson I compare the act of a comedy magician to a comedian is because one of them is connecting with an audience in a very real and personal way, and the other one as you put it, is just doing lines. Why would anyone want to be a comedy magician? Why would anyone want to be called a comedy magician when most people look at comedy magicians thinking, "Well he's not a very good magician and he's not a very good comedian... well I guess combining the two sort of saves the act."

Be honest with yourself, how often do you see a comedy magician with an interesting character that the audience can indentify with? Almost never. I'm not talking about the big names in comedy magic and the guys we all look up to, they are up there because they are good at one they do. I'm talking about the vast majority of what we see. Most of what I see, is a person I wouldn't waste my time walking out on.

I got into a fight with someone last night at the castle because he called be the best comedy magician he'd ever seen. I told him I'm a comedian who happens to be a magician. He responded, "No you're not you do very good magic!" Without being to pompous, I do some wonderfull magic. I do very high end sleight of hand while I do comedy. I don't tell jokes, I DO comedy.

Comparing comics and comedy magicians is not comparing chalk to cheese. It's an examination of our craft that is required to put on the best possible show. If we as a community aren't willing to take the time to do that examination then what business do we have in front of an audience. None.


Sorry to all if I start to get insulting or mean. I mean this all as an academic excersize, and a discussion of performance theory. I'm just speaking the truth as I see it.
Message: Posted by: Ian Keable (Sep 13, 2008 05:34PM)
Hi Metalbender – sorry, I don’t know your first name. You clearly speak with passion and I respect your opinion. The first thing go say is that I’m from the UK and maybe the majority of comedy magicians are different from those in the US. Having said that I’m very familiar with the likes of John Carney and Michael Finney – both of whom have appeared several times in the UK.

Also I should say that when I use the phrase 'comedy magician' I am using it with the utmost respect. So under my definition a 'comedy magician' who is either not funny or doesn't do particularly good magic, isn't a comedy magician.

I agree that comedians use audience participation of sorts. But most of the time to my mind it’s a very different type of audience participation from those used by comedy magicians who actually get assistants (I hesitate to use the word ‘volunteers’ as they rarely are) up on stage.

I have analysed the skills that comedy magicians use in extracting humour out of audience participation and have come up with five principal ones. Potential embarrassment (a subset is making audience members do silly things), destruction of property, magician error, insult humour and asking questions. I could write a book on these – well in fact I have, but that’s another story! Of these I would maintain that only a magician could use the first three – and the final two are uniquely suited to the magician (although clearly a comedian could use them).

You will notice that insult humour is in that category – a type of humour extremely popular in the UK. All the top comedy magicians over here use insult humour of some sorts. Some use it a lot (Graham Jolley, Mel Mellers, John Archer), some not so much, but still extensively (Paul Daniels, Wayne Dobson, Paul Zenon).

[By the way the joke about the volunteer’s pants and shirts not matching – if it’s the one I occasionally use – is very funny. Someone comes up on stage with the trousers and jacket not matching and you say: ‘couldn’t decide what suit to wear today then?’]

Much of what you write about the likes of Michael Finney and John Carney I wouldn’t argue with. I absolutely agree with you that it is the performer who is funny, not the trick. It so happens – and maybe this is where we differ - I just happen to think there are some performers (and I would include myself amongst them) who can be funny with magic; and yet, if they didn’t have the magic, wouldn’t be funny. And I think this is because – going back to my last posting and this present one – that they do require different performance skills.
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (Sep 15, 2008 07:31PM)
Metalbender,
Starting a post with; " with all due respect you are absolutley wrong in every and all accounts." certainly got my attention especially as you directed it at one of the most original, thoughtful, creative, clever and funny comedy magic acts (read:'comedian that happens to be a magician') out there.

In a post above you wrote,
[quote]"If you can't be funny without a deck of cards in your hand, what makes you think you are funny with a deck of cards in your hand?".....and.... "you are only funny if you can be funny without performing a trick."[/quote]

Honestly, as a stand up I absolutely suck. But also honestly,(to borrow your phrase - Without being pompous -) .... as a comedy magic act I'm one hell of a funny performer.

My personal experience just doesn't square with what you say.

I can see from your posts that you have a background in stand up and I assume you have a successful and effective act that includes and combines comedy and magic. I don't though, see that as reason enough to make a claim that one can't be funny without being a stand up?

I'm also an act that successfully and effectively includes and combines comedy and magic and I don't have a background in stand up. So it can be of no surprise that my experience and my opinion based on it is that (although it might well be very useful and helpful) one doesn't HAVE TO be a stand up to be able to create either a 'comedy magic act', or 'be a comedian who happens to be a magician'.

This is another point where we have a differing veiwpoint as I find this distinction particularly redundant. My audiences inevitably refer to me as 'the comedian' rather than 'the magician' even though I do nothing stand up like in my act which is very much a comedy magic show. Being called a comedian rather than a magician when I am in fact doing a comedy magic show hardens my belief that the only distinction that has any merit is, Are you funny or not?

If your target audience laughs, as a minimum, to the same degree as they do for the best comics that work the same audiences then to my mind you're a comedy magic act or whatever else you want to call yourself. If you're not getting these kind of laughs then you're falling short of being as good a comedy act as you need to be. In the end it's not an 8 page analysis that's going to decide if you're funny or not it's the people who have paid to come in to see you.

Your post gave an interesting reasoning behind why one can, "only be funny if you can be funny without performing a trick." Namely because; "A trick in and of itself is not funny."

You go onto explain that it's the performer that is the 'funny' ingredient. Well on this point we can certainly agree 100%, the person is absolutely the act. However a person just being there isn't the whole act.....the act consists of the person doing something..... and whatever it is that they do is the material.

Material is just that...material. Your post made point out that tricks aren't inherently funny and I agree they're not, but then neither are; the ups and downs of relationships, falling for someone, puberty, marmalade, railway timetables, cats or anything else that a stand up might use as material. It's what the performer does with the material that creates the comedy and that's true for both the stand up and the comedy magican. The same is true for the potential to "connect[] with an audience in a very real and personal way."

It seems obvious to my mind that different material suits different performers. Magic effects sit comfortably with me, stand up about, people, hamsters or anything else I can think of doesn't.

Stand ups use a whole range of skills to sell themselves on stage through their material and many of these skills are used by many stand ups. Likewise the material of a comedy magic act (ie magic tricks) often lends itself to certain skills. Some of course will overlap with those of the stand up but some are more specific to the magic effects.

These are the differences, the chalk and cheese, that Ian Keable was referring to.

As I said previously, your posts suggest that you are a successful performer who has an edge to their act and a drive to champion your kind approach. There's nothing wrong with that. I've been known to do a bit of flag waving for my own style. And, as a big fan of Jerry Sadowitz's magic and stand up I can certainly enjoy an approach that as an edge to it and, in your words, "push[es] the boundaries of taste and dignity", and Jerry does way more than just push it. However just because one sees ones own style as standing out from the crowd doesn't mean that the crowd aren't blocking a view of other performers who are not only different but equally as adept at delivering the goods.

Neal
Message: Posted by: Rory Diamond (Sep 16, 2008 10:57PM)
I agree with 90 percent of what you are saying, Metalbender, however, I have never found Michael Finney's Six Card Repeat to be all that funny. You could call it light hearted, comical, amusing, but please explain to me where it is so funny? "He threw a card.. to-ward the hat..." what is supposed to be so funny about that? I don't think he does the trick any better or worse than any of the 200 other magicians I have seen do six card repeat over the last 30 years. Maybe I am missing something, please clue me in. On the other hand, I just finished watching Dave Chappell on Comedy Central and couldn't stop laughing. You what else kills me? When most comedy magicians talk about who thier comedy heros were, you hear "Red Skelton" "Henny Youngman" or "Jerry Lewis". How about living in the 21st Century? How about "Chris Rock", "Dennis Miller" or "Lewis Black"? Get with the times!
Message: Posted by: The Awesome One (Sep 17, 2008 05:37AM)
Nick,
If you rated the funerals that were conducted, the best one could be "The Remains of The Day".
Message: Posted by: Ethan (Sep 25, 2008 06:14AM)
[quote]
While some of those books of one liners can be funny, they make for lazy comedy and bland entertainment. To my shame, I have all those books and even used to edit an internet newsletter called "The Old Chestnut" dedicated to one liners and gags for magicians.

However, I have found that, even when these lines DO get a laugh, they don't lead anywhere creatively. If I say "What's your name? Really? That was my name when I was a little girl." I will get a laugh. However, it doesn't make me a better performer, a better magician, a better writer or a better comedian.
[/quote]

While I agree with the principal of using original material, I also see no reason not to use good established material. Maybe your right in that it doesn't make you a better performer but for me the goal right at that moment is to entertain my audience and if using an old joke will help with that and as you say "get a laugh" since presumabley it's new to them, then I personally don't see the harm.
Message: Posted by: Rory Diamond (Sep 29, 2008 11:28PM)
Ok, I have heard so many magicians use that line "What's your name? Really? That was my name when I was a little girl.", including Mac King. Someone please explain why that is supposed to be funny? If you are saying that you had somehow, somewhere had a "sex change"- it doesn't even make sense! It is very uncommon for a woman to have a sex change to a man. Perhaps a woman magician saying "that was my name when I was a little boy" would make more sense.
Message: Posted by: jocdoc (Sep 30, 2008 01:36AM)
I've only heard the line used by magicians when they're interviewing little girls. Because a(presumably) male magician is questioning a little girl, the humor lies within the absurdity/incongruousness of the situation. Conversely, a female magician could use a similar line with a young lad on the stage to same effect.

While one could get away with using a same sex oriented line (i.e. male magician to a lad or female magician to a girl), it's not nearly as strong in my opinion. Maybe if the magician implied that their name changed because they grew older? Just some late night thoughts....
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Sep 30, 2008 07:32AM)
[quote]
On 2008-09-30 00:28, Rory Diamond wrote:
Ok, I have heard so many magicians use that line "What's your name? Really? That was my name when I was a little girl.", including Mac King. Someone please explain why that is supposed to be funny? If you are saying that you had somehow, somewhere had a "sex change"- it doesn't even make sense!
[/quote]

It's supposed to be funny because it doesn't make sense. It's nonsense humour. The fact that sex changes are more common in todays society has actually made the line less funny. I stopped using it in my children's show for 2 reasons firstly because it's hacktastical and secondly a girl once asked me if I had had a sex change (well hey, I'm a beautiful man). I changed the line to "that's my grandfather's name" which is not only slightly more original but also doesn't imply a sex change as much. It gets a laugh in my children's show but I recently used it impulsively while doing stand up and it also got a big laugh.

G
x
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Sep 30, 2008 02:50PM)
I have very little to add to this discussion other than the fact that I have been undergoing the shift from comedy magic into pure stand-up comedy for the last 8 months or so. I'm absolutely loving pure stand-up because it feels like a much more creative and therapeutic outlet. There is something so pure about just being a guy with a mic entertaining an audience. It's raw on a level that I've never felt with magic. In some sense, making people laugh and enjoy themselves without all the excesses that magicians use feels more like true 'magic' to me. I guess I'll find out if I continue to feel that way as I continue down this road. I'm only shifting my stage show into pure stand-up comedy; the one thing I'll surely never leave behind is close-up magic.

For anyone who's interested seeing an example of a comedy magician who's in the middle of a shift into stand-up, feel free to check out the Comedy Compilation video I have on my [url=http://www.myspace.com/experiencethewonder]MySpace[/url]. Thank you to everyone who has so thoroughly contributed to this thread. I've been enjoying the wealth of information and different opinions on the very thing I'm going through right now.
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Oct 1, 2008 07:00AM)
I'm on a friends computer at the moment but look forward to watching your video,Brian, when I get broadband in the new place.

Something else I have noticed is after doing a few pure stand-up gigs my confidence and delivery is a lot better when I do comedy magic shows. I seem more relaxed and less worried about getting the next effect out. The show is now more about me than the effects.

George
Message: Posted by: Rory Diamond (Oct 11, 2008 07:02PM)
George, I like your version of the line more. Makes sense, and is more humorous.
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (Oct 12, 2008 06:47AM)
Cheers Rory.

Hey Brian. Nice work. You've a lot of good material there.
Message: Posted by: roy presto (Nov 15, 2008 04:29AM)
I BELIEVE STEVE MARTIN DID A COMEDY MAGIC ACT ON A JOHNNY CARSON SHOW. CAN ANYONE ADVISE ON THIS AND IF IT CAN BE ACCESSED.
Message: Posted by: roy presto (Nov 16, 2008 08:54PM)
PROBLEM SOLVED. THANKS MIKE McEATHRON in The Best effects for Stand up Comedy in Magic section
Message: Posted by: Ken The Klown (Nov 19, 2008 04:24AM)
Read "Comedy Writing Secrets" by Mel Helitzer. It's the best book EVER on becoming a comic who writes his/her own material.
Message: Posted by: harris (Nov 19, 2008 08:49AM)
Yes....Comedy Clubs, Monologues are great training and can carry over to our prop (magic) programs.

My shows are also very autobiographical....as well as ...have the "everyman", which audiences can connect with.

It is about me...you and Us.
Message: Posted by: Jarod (Dec 4, 2008 07:22AM)
IMO some of the best Comedy-Mentalism-Magic can be seen from John Archer and Mel Mellers!
Message: Posted by: Roger Kelly (Dec 4, 2008 05:17PM)
[quote]
On 2008-12-04 08:22, Jarod wrote:
IMO some of the best Comedy-Mentalism-Magic can be seen from John Archer and Mel Mellers!
[/quote]
Hear hear!! A great inspiration - particularly Mel Mellers. What a funny guy!
Message: Posted by: Jerskin (Dec 4, 2008 08:57PM)
Steve Martin did his Flydini act on Carson. Probably on YOUTUBE
Message: Posted by: Kent Wong (Dec 24, 2008 11:36AM)
I'm not a full-time comedian, nor am I a full-time magician. However, I do perform approx. 180 paid shows per year. Over the years, I've come to the fairly obvious conclusion that magic and comedy are two very different genres of entertainment; and often, they don't look kindly upon one another. Many professional comedians look down upon comdedy magicians as being too reliant upon their props. They also tend not to be able to generate as many laughs per minute that the "true" comedians are judged by.

But if you go to the other extreme, you have magicians allowing their magic to be completely overshadowed by an unending series of jokes (that are often completely unrelated to the magic at hand). The comedy becomes a distraction to the magic. The principles that drive a stand up comedy act are very different from the principles that drive a comedic magic act. I have a tremendous amount of respect for both types of entertainment, but I don't think they should be compared against each other.

Now, I've always injected a lot of situational comedy in my act, and the audience has a great time. But, the comedy is always built around the routine I'm performing and drives the routine to make it stronger. The comedy would never stand on it's own (and it wasn't meant to), and the magic would lose much of it's personality without the comedic elements I have injected into the routines. Am I a comedian? NO. Just because I can create a fun situation that makes people laugh, does NOT make me a comedian. I would never survive an open mic night at any one of our local comedy clubs; nor would I want to.

But I do consider my show, light hearted, humorous and very entertaining. By admitting I'm not a comedian, I no longer feel constrained by the rules and expectations by which professional comedians are judged. Instead, I am free to use situational comedy to add entertainment value to my routines and to texture to the show as a whole. So, IMHO, just because a person isn't an accomplished stand-up comedian doesn't mean he can't be a very entertaining, comedic magician.

Again, this is just my personal opinion, without any disrespct for the accomplished comedians among us.

Kent
Message: Posted by: RJE (Dec 30, 2008 08:56AM)
I think it is a mistake to try and differentiate between comedian and stand up magician. A funny act is a funny act.

I have been performing regularly in both fields for a long time, with and without props and the only people that it seems to concern is the performers themselves. The audience sure doesn't care about how you're labeled. The people in the seats just want to be entertained.

On learning comedy, I learned the job by doing it. Getting on stage and performing. I personally don't understand how people can learn to be funny by reading books or taking courses, but if it works for you...

On the topic of stock lines, other people's routines etc..., avoid them at all costs if you can.

These may work fine if you are doing shows for venues that are not on a regular circuit. However, if you try doing this in comedy clubs or comedy nights, you will regret it. A veteran audience will crucify you if they recognize your material or have heard it performed by someone else.

Magicians often take pride in mastering and performing somebody else's routines that they've learned. In the comedy world this could get you killed or at the very least, it will keep you from getting work.

Entertain them. Make them laugh. Get paid. Go home.
Message: Posted by: Rusty Z (Jan 11, 2009 09:04AM)
I agree with RJE. Just because someone like Aldo publishes books composed of stolen lines that comedians spent sweat and energy creating, doesn't mean you should use them. Learn to write your own. That's what I did when I was a little girl.
Message: Posted by: magicnorm (Jan 17, 2009 08:23PM)
I think it's all in the delivery. I've heard defferent performers deliver the same lines on many occassions and I don't remember thinking to myself " hey, he stole that line and should be killed" O contrare, I just appreaciate the ones that can deliver them entertaininly.