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Topic: Where do magicians get their lines?
Message: Posted by: M.Frymus (Apr 15, 2009 11:25PM)
I was wondering about magicians using comedy in their shows, whether it is the whole show in comedy or having a line or two.

Well, where do they come up with these ideas for these jokes?
Do they write them all themselves or do they have people to do it for them?
Message: Posted by: Floyd Collins (Apr 16, 2009 05:29AM)
Its all about who you are as a performer. Sounds simple I know, let me explain.
About 30% of my funny comes from my script, which alone would not make my show comedic. The rest of my comedy comes from thinking on my feet during the show and when opportunity presents itself for a joke or a line knowing when and how to take that opportunity and spin it.

Some magicians write lines and puns into their routine to enhance the comedic value and some even hire comedy writers to add the funny bits into their routine. The main thing is if you yourself are not funny then it is harder for you to be funny as a magician.

I am not saying that a regular everyday Joe who is not funny in a normal setting with friends canít be a funny performer once on stage, I am not saying this at all. I know a lot of performers that once in their caricature are very funny and itís their persona that allows them to step outside their shell to be funny. Many of these types of performers will have to recite their script word for word to get the business going with the crowed.

For this type of comedy magician when they have someone on stage and they do something that just screams comedy come back or running gag, they miss this opportunity and just keep on with the script. Does this make them less of a performer NO, but again they will be scripting their show closer to a 100% mark then 30% as in my case.

So as you can see it will all depend on the performer but to answer your questions?
YES YES and Yes and where do they come up with these ideas, for myself I read a lot in the news and current events and try and find ways to mold that into my routine. Also if something happens or I say something that gets a huge laugh I will write it down after the show and try and rework my script to fit that bit in where needed. My method requires doing a lot of different shows with different audience and finding what works best. I will sometimes run bits of business by people just to see their reaction without the magic.
Well thatís how I do it anyways.
Letís see what others have to say.

Message: Posted by: harris (Apr 16, 2009 09:06AM)
Most of my comedy comes from a continuing self revelation and "every man" character.

Also stuff comes from topical events (age, and situational related i.e. specific company)

Familiarity is a great element in getting both laughter and the audience to come together as one.

On my re reading shelf...Handbook of Physical Comedy...
as my body and props are as much a part of the schtick as my words...

Side question...does comedy start at the knees, feet, face, word, silence or ..or ..or...or..????

Caution...comedy doesn't come from short white lines..though many comedians including the more family friendly Bill Cosby has great bits about their use.
Message: Posted by: Donal Chayce (Apr 16, 2009 05:04PM)
I get mine from Lines "R" Us.
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Apr 16, 2009 06:06PM)
Ah. An area I know something about.

Most magician's comedy lines come from:
1. The patter included with the trick. (Or on the DVD.)
2. The performer creates a script through many, many shows.
3. The performers writes a script
4. Stolen from other magicians.
5. Written by someone else, specifically for your show.

Which is the best? Method 1 is OK and gives you something to say. Two is excellent, but requires a great deal of time and doing many, many shows. Three is underused by magicians. Four is overused and makes the magician look like both a thief and a hack. Method five is great, but tends to be expensive.

I recommend trying 3...email me for some book suggestions. ( I also like number 5, email me if you have a large checkbook.)

Comedy Writer

( Donal - funny.)
Message: Posted by: Floyd Collins (Apr 17, 2009 05:28AM)
Comedy Writer was nice enough to break it down into 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Let me address 3 and 5
I think itís imperative that you write your own scripts at some point. Anyone who has read my book Taking Center Stage will know I stress this to anyone I mentor. I have worked and reworked my scripts with some of the best in Comedy Magic and I can say this is the one thing that you can do right away that will help with the lines. If you know someone who does comedy magic run your scripts and routines by them and get advice, their experience will help mold what you are trying to do. The timing on the other hand can only come from experience of performing as fair as I am concerned. No book no other person can give you a since of timing you need to develop that on your own by doing show after show.

So I feel that number 2 goes hand and hand with everything.
For number 5 I once hired a local stand up comedian who is a friend of mine from my standup days to help script out some of the funny for my show. It was one of the most daunting projects I had ever tried to complete. Now the reason is that my friend was not a magician and had no clue as to the since of timing you need when working with props. So what I am saying is if you are going to hire someone and this being the best way to get good material then hire someone like Comedy Writer so you have someone who not only knows comedy but also knows magic.
Good thread guys.

Message: Posted by: Mr Rubiks (Apr 18, 2009 08:37PM)
Comedy Writer nailed it on the head with his list.
Unfortunatley Number 4 should probably be No.1.
But that's just how it goes......
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Apr 19, 2009 09:10PM)
Well, trying to be positive. You may note that the successful, famous magi generally use custom material...
Message: Posted by: RJE (Apr 20, 2009 09:54AM)
Good thread going here!

I prefer #2 with a slight deviation. I have never "written" a script/routine for performing in my life.

I find that writing it down and then trying to follow it can create too stiff of a character or as Floyd pointed out, too many missed opportunities.

When I first started working with Pat (my wife) in the act, she had no on stage experience. For her sake, we rehearsed routines with set lines (something I had never done before as a solo artist).

During our early performances together, Pat did wonderful (and is a great performer today!) but it was funny to watch her go through her "lines" on cue. This would often mean squashing the audience's response of laughter or applause so she could deliver her line.

Today, she is as natural on a stage as a performer can be and we enjoy being able to riff or ad lib as the situation presents itself. This can often create those really unique magical moments.

Posted: Apr 20, 2009 11:01am
Back to the original question, I feel strongly that you have to create your own patter as much as possible.

The words coming out of your mouth have to fit the character you are playing on stage. Using lines from other magicians' acts or from the script that came with the effect probably will not match your unique stage personality and therefore will hold you back as a performer.

So where do those lines come from? I'd say, they have to come from you. Some people find it easier to do than others. But, the words have to fit your sense of humour and ability to deliver. This can give you a great edge in the business.
Message: Posted by: harris (Apr 20, 2009 10:46AM)
I continue to go back to ideas from the Artist Way.(Cameron, Julia)


rewriting, practice, rehearsal, shows...rewriting..

laughologist and nearly normal "righter"
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Apr 22, 2009 11:31AM)
First step - get a notebook...start writing down your ideas.


Harris - great idea. Daily writing really helps the creativity.
Message: Posted by: jackturk (Apr 28, 2009 07:44AM)
I think a lot of comedy comes not necessarily from funny "lines,"
but rather emerges from a character that's inherently fun and
interesting to watch.

Steve Martin is a perfect example. In his heyday, his standup
routine wasn't really about lines, it was about a character
with a uniquely twisted perspective on life.

Absolutely agree on writing a script. Before doing so, however,
it's critical to know your performing persona inside and out.
Think through how your character perceives the world. What's
happening in your character's head when magic happens... in
fact, with magicians, the character should have some kind of
underlying thought process that explains why magic is happening
at that time.

A very simple illustration of this would be my character for kids
shows. I'm vain, self-delusional, over the top, and a conduit
for magic. Magic happens around me, but it's never quite under
my control... thank goodness I have helpers throughout the program
in the form of volunteers or puppets.

Once you know and become this character (you are an actor after all),
you can write your scripts, ad lib, and improvise from a clear
comic framework and perspective.

Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Apr 28, 2009 10:41AM)
Jack - so true. Much of the best comedy comes from character (and your character's reactions to the world.)
Another place for comedy is responding to the unexpected...
Message: Posted by: Bill Ligon (Apr 28, 2009 01:10PM)
Well said, Jack!
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (Apr 28, 2009 06:56PM)
Method 2 - develop the comedy over several performances - is how I normally develop a comedy routine. Though I do script some pieces beforehand.
There are two bits of advice I could offer. There are several good books on stand-up comedy which are well worth getting. Unfortunately I gave several of mine to a young performer, who promptly lost all of them without even bothering to read them. Lesson learnt. But I recommend anything by Gene Parrott (Bob Hope's writer). Jay Sankey has a very good book on stand-up (he has a separate career as a comedian). The Bible of Stand Up Comedy (don't know the author, but you'll find it on Amazon) is very good.
The second piece of advice is to go and watch as many stand-ups as you can. Hang out in the comedy clubs, and just get a feel for comedy, and how comedians handle their audience. It will rub off. It's also a great way to spend an evening.
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Apr 30, 2009 05:00PM)
Try searching for Gene Parret- and get the second edition of his comedy writing book. http://www.writingcomedy.com/

The Comedy Writing bible is from Judy Carter. ( a former magician.) A deal at less than $12

I recommend both titles

Comedy writer
Message: Posted by: MaxfieldsMagic (May 6, 2009 09:39PM)
You can also buy lines from a guy named Vinnie who hangs out by the Kwik-Mart.
Message: Posted by: Sealegs (May 7, 2009 04:31AM)
For the use and development of lines, character, and all associated things within stand up comedy-magic, a good resourse is Ian Keable's 'Stand-Up, A Professional Guide To Comedy Magic' which you can get direct from Ian [url=http://www.iankeable.co.uk/stand_up]here[/url].
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (May 7, 2009 10:02AM)

You can't always trust the quality of "street comedy." Sometimes its good, but often they mix in a bit of satire or cut it with irony. Lets be careful out there.

Cw guy

Posted: May 14, 2009 11:34am
To continue on this topic, we magi study the work of stand-ups - often using their techniques and terminology to create fresh, new comedy.

Comedy Writer guy
Message: Posted by: magicgeorge (May 15, 2009 06:19AM)
I watch a lot of stand up I think it can be a good lesson in how to use humour on stage. So technique yeah. Terminology? Nah
Message: Posted by: MaxfieldsMagic (May 15, 2009 04:22PM)
A few months ago I began a journal of all sorts of things. One of the recurring headings is "things that struck me as really, really funny." I only enter something if it induces an honest, no-kidding belly laugh. There's no criteria concerning where the entries come from - it could be a Letterman monologue, a YouTube video, a comment from someone at work or on the subway, a TMC post - whatever.

Don't know how useful this will be in the long run, but I suspect very. The comedy how-to books are useful for setting forth general deconstructions of what makes humor work. A logical next step, then, seems to be applying their hypsotheses to the analysis of whatever truly makes us laugh, which will be different for every person, and will afford an insight into our true personality and a possible performance style that fits.

There are some things that seem hilarious for reasons I still don't understand. But writing them down helps, as patterns and causes have already become clearer with time and distance, which would not have been possible without documenting and reviewing the original material.

If that sounds like an approach that Spock might take to humor analysis, to a certain degree it is. As the oft quoted John Lennon said, "talking about music is like dancing about architecture." But if we are going to talk about music (or humor), then why not start with the proven best (for us), and analyze backwards? If nothing else, it offers inspiration and a useful yardstick by which to measure our own creativity.
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (May 19, 2009 09:03AM)
Great idea - write down stuff that you hear ( it also cues you to keep an ear open for new funny.)
Add to your book " stuff I'd like to be funny about"
Message: Posted by: J Hanes (May 20, 2009 02:23PM)
All good advice here.
Message: Posted by: MaxfieldsMagic (May 23, 2009 11:42AM)
On 2009-05-19 10:03, Comedy Writer wrote:
Add to your book " stuff I'd like to be funny about"

That's a good idea. I guess we do that already in the context of specific routines (ie, how can I be funny about the egg bag routine), but it's probably also good to come up with lots of material for non-magic topics, such as sports, business, different cities, dating, the weather, money, dining out, kid's cartoons, or whatever else you think might come up depending on your performance situation (stand-up vs table-hopping, etc).
Message: Posted by: Father Photius (May 23, 2009 12:18PM)
Some excellent ideas above, tried and true, and most very ethical. Unfortunately, most of the "lines" I've heard coming from magicians comes from a method very popular in Vaudeville and dating back for centuries, "steal, steal, steal." Hopefully, you and others will choose some other method.
Message: Posted by: JamesTong (May 23, 2009 02:45PM)
On 2009-05-23 13:18, Father Photius wrote:
Some excellent ideas above, tried and true, and most very ethical. Unfortunately, most of the "lines" I've heard coming from magicians comes from a method very popular in Vaudeville and dating back for centuries, "steal, steal, steal." Hopefully, you and others will choose some other method.

Fr. Photius, we don't steal .. we just borrow other people's lines. LOL. Can't resist this one here.
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (May 29, 2009 09:58AM)
All of the great acts are original - great characters, great lines, great everything. Lance Burton is nothing like Mac King - Yet they grew up together. Be unique. ( including your comedy lines.)

Comedy Writer

Posted: Jun 9, 2009 11:57pm
PS let me know if you'd like some book suggestions to work from for your comedy writing.
Message: Posted by: Ronald72 (Jun 10, 2009 02:20AM)
Comedy Writer would you please suggest some books to work from for comedy writting? Thanxs!
Message: Posted by: Sam Sandler (Jun 11, 2009 03:55PM)
I love physical comedy the most and have lots of it in my show but thatís my personality and that is what makes it work as itís ME.

Do the stuff thatís you!

Unexpected Reality = comedy let me elaborate. Think about it Americas funniest home videos is in its 15th year and still bringing in millions of views Ė why because real life really happens and when the unexpected happens its funny.

When you hand a kid a magic wand and it breaks that was unexpected and funny. To make it more funny is the magi does not see it and when he does he over reacts thus making it funnier.

I know this was about lines for magicians however the same principle applies.

Think about your own life and things th at happened to you or friends and try to see if you can fit them into your routine.

Think about real life and make it personal and it will be much more effective and hopefully funny.

As for stealing lines I agree itís a no no. However in some cased I have asked the originator of a line if I may borrow it or tweak it to fit something I do.
Getting permission is a good way to go however you still want to make it personal so you are not just coping some one elseís hard work.

Have fun
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Jun 11, 2009 04:40PM)
I"m a big fan of physical comedy too! Let me get a few comedy writing books to suggest.

Posted: Jul 8, 2009 12:59pm
Book #1 The Comedy Bible: from stand-up to sitcom - Judy Carter

Posted: Jul 13, 2009 10:32pm
...its a very useful look at writing comedy step by step...
Message: Posted by: Ronald72 (Jul 14, 2009 06:09AM)
I had this tip from an magic friend. I have purchase this one and it is literature for my coming holiday :)

I am really looking foreword to get into the book, I have already nose in it and there are really good suggestions! One I've read was about make fun of your wife. It is a no go. Reallly funny is how she wright or sounds divorce funny to you?

Great fascinated book! Thnx Comedy Writer!!
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Jul 23, 2009 09:52AM)
Comedy writing step by step Gene Perret
Message: Posted by: Chris H (Aug 6, 2009 08:37PM)
Where do magicians get their lines?

IKEA. Problem is that they come flat packed, and you have to put them together yourself.
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Aug 9, 2009 11:30PM)
I had a dog like that once...
Message: Posted by: Floyd Collins (Aug 10, 2009 07:33AM)
I had a comedy writer like that once...
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Aug 15, 2009 11:34AM)
I like the one-liners in Harry Allen's book, "Sleight of Mouth."
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Aug 26, 2009 09:36PM)
..except that they're not all original.... Do you want to be unique and famous or just another magician?
Message: Posted by: 55john55 (Sep 2, 2009 08:12AM)
I'd start by taking notes on all the suggestions made in these posts and organizing them. Keep what you think is good and toss what you think is bad. My guess is that you will find what works for you over time. It probably will be a combination of material that you invent and what you get from other sources.
1. The most important thing is the secret to good humor.
Person 1: Ask me what's the secret to good humor.
Person 2: What's the sec..."
Person 1: TIMING !

2. Practice ! Have friends pick any word -or do it alone without friends- ( ask them to choose an auto part, mode of transportation, food, anything). Then start making puns about that. It will be difficult at first, but will gradually get easier and you will get better at ad-libing over time. As someone once said on their deathbed. "Dying is easy, comedy is hard".

3. Make sure you have the right age material for your audience.

4. Consider collecting specialty jokes: how many ---- does it take to change a light bulb? Waiter,waiter, there's a fly... There are a number of these series. But if they aren't you don't use them.

I can send you some if you want. PM me if you would like. I taught high school for over 30 years and humor was a big part of my classroom.
Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Sep 21, 2009 11:09AM)
Great ideas - Get together with buddies and write for each other's routines... or just watch thier acts and suggest lines.
Message: Posted by: TonyMc (Sep 22, 2009 09:50AM)
Mark Mason published my book "200 Gags, Intros and One-Liners for Magicians, Book 1" in 2002 and it was also sold by Stevens Magic Emporium. After the write-up that Mark Stevens gave it, I bought a copy!!! After several requests I've finally written Book 2, which I'm selling on eBay. If any of you guys are interested, PM me and I'll give you a discount.
Message: Posted by: JimbosMagic (Sep 22, 2009 06:01PM)
John Archer from England also wrote some good stuff on how to add and write comedy for your act
Message: Posted by: Jim Snack (Sep 23, 2009 11:14AM)
This is a good discussion. One of my best sources for funny lines is the audience. It's not unusual for someone in the audience to say something that gets a big laugh. I can usually use the same line next time I do the routine, often by simply saying, "last time I did this, I guy shouted out...." I always listen to the audience for clever laugh lines.

Message: Posted by: Comedy Writer (Sep 28, 2009 11:10AM)

Great point - often a great line comes up during a show (or right after). Another great reason to record your shows... it'll help you remember these gems.

Writing some comedy

Posted: Oct 15, 2009 7:50pm
...Does that help?

Posted: Oct 24, 2009 12:10pm
Mike Bent has a new-ish book on Comedy Writing...Let me track down the title

Posted: Nov 9, 2009 3:18pm
You can now get on my mailing list for comedy ideas, humor resources, special offers and coupons on my comedy writing services. And its FREE!

Posted: Dec 7, 2009 1:56pm
Or if you are still stuck for lines, contact me directly.

Posted: Dec 23, 2009 6:48pm
On a related note, I'm considering setting up a web page/ shopping cart to sell individual jokes...Let me know what you think?
Message: Posted by: Mike Brezler (Dec 26, 2009 04:57AM)
Cereal boxes