(Close Window)
Topic: How do you get better?
Message: Posted by: JoshLondonMagic (Oct 1, 2013 06:23PM)
I am on a never ending quest (as we all are) to getting better at performing. After all, we are paid to perform and out shows should be top notch. With a HUGE list of to-dos and all the business odds an end we need to do everyday I sometimes slip and realize I haven't rehearsed or improved my show in a few months. It's a good and bad problem to have: to be booked solid doing 6-8 shows every weekend (birthdays) and the bad: feeling a little complacent.

I want to start a discussion on out shows. How do we get better? How do we know our shows are good?

I watch video of my shows and take notes. That's one way. What's yours?

Josh
Message: Posted by: dearwiseone (Oct 1, 2013 06:33PM)
Josh,
Great post, I was thinking a similar thing on my way home frmo a show this morning. A few ideas...

Have a trusted friend watch the shows and give you suggestions. I personally think you need suggestions from fellow professionals within the industry, and members of your target audience. A family member or close friend who is in your target market can be "tough" with you if you ask them to. You can ask them to let you know their favorite effect, their least favorite, etc.

I video tape a lot of my shows and watch them to take notes on what to fix. It sounds like you've already done this, so I think you're well on your way! With every show you watch, write down something you did good in the show, and something you would have done different.

Ask yourself questions that challenge you to improve your show. Questions like "Am I staying current with technology?" or "What is my show missing?"

I've heard of some people devoting time periods to different aspects of their show. For example, January is backdrop month. That's all you analyze all month. February is interaction month where you focus on your audience interaction. March is music month, April is prop management month, etc.

Knowing if your show is good can be a personal thing. I don't think you can go wrong by sending your show to people and asking them point blank for advice and if your show is "good." Take your definition of good and compare your show to it. Let's say that you're a kid's magician and you think Silly Billy's show is great. Watch his show, and identify what makes him good. Why do you think he's good? Write down a list of everything that comes to mind. Then, watch your show and compare those same aspects. You might find room for improvement!

It's a great question, I'm interested in hearing what other people have to say.

Best Wishes,
Kevin
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 1, 2013 07:20PM)
I agree with Kevin's ideas. Also, look outside out the magic community for learning, such as taking improv comedy classes and learning comedy techniques from your favorite movie/TV funny people. Also, look at a list of your tricks/routines/gags and see if there is some variety you can add, like maybe add a levitation if you don't have one, or add a penetration trick if you don't have one, or just add a few non-magic gags, or a puppet bit, or whatever. Maybe if you have other talents like playing an instrument or whatever you can add that into a magic routine somehow. And go to Kidabra next time to get re-energized and to lighten your wallet. If you have music, are you using the best possible tracks? Maybe think about your staging - like if you are turning your back to the audience, that kind of stuff. I need to do all that stuff myself, but I do semi-weekly improv, and I've been working on my act quite a bit, learning ventriloquism and working on vent routines, and I did just put together a Clarity box bit today, and my other plan this week is to start adding more close-up stuff and improve the close-up stuff I already do.
Message: Posted by: Quentin (Oct 1, 2013 07:24PM)
As I see it the three biggest mistakes made by children's entertainers are:

1) the lack of structure and texture in the show. No balance and too much of the same type of trick.

2) Overacting.

3) No understanding of the use and power of pausing.
Message: Posted by: Chance Wolf (Oct 1, 2013 07:58PM)
Here is a PERFECT formula.

For every 10 minutes you spend in the Café....
spend 2 HOURS practicing!
You will be amazed at how much better you get :)

I wonder how many of you think I am kidding.
Message: Posted by: writer25 (Oct 1, 2013 08:09PM)
I don't know much about children's entertainment. I only came on this section to help protect poor Zucchini from pirates. However, from what I have seen the worst fault is lack of charisma, stiffness and self conciousness when performing and giving wrong advice when you are not much good yourself.
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Oct 2, 2013 02:53AM)
I think every kids' performer should study stagecraft properly. Even when you know all the "rules", it still takes years before they become so ingrained in your performing psyche, that you never need to consciously think about them.

Know these techniques properly, and you can present the worst trick ever, and still be entertaining and engaging.
Message: Posted by: TonyB2009 (Oct 2, 2013 07:58AM)
I don't often agree with Potty, but he is right. That is the key.

For my first number of years I worked on stagecraft and presentation, while others I knew worked on props and sleights. The end result is I have a busier diary. When I decided to add a puppet into the act I went to an acting coach and got a series of acting lessons. When I went into hypnosis I spent months honing my skills at a public speaking club.

We are entertainers; our core skill is showmanship. The tricks are just the tools we use, nothing more.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Oct 2, 2013 10:22AM)
RECORD! Keep a notebook or voice recorder with you at all times. Immediately jot down or record magic or funny thoughts as they come to you. Don't wait! You WILL forget! Record strange occurrences that strike your funny bone or jog your creative thoughts.

READ! Put down that game controller and turn off that television. Read everything you can get your hands on about your art and anything remotely linked to it. Step outside of your comfort zone and read everything you can get your hands on. The written word is power! It fuels your imagination and energizes your creativity.

WRITE! Every performance, no matter how simple, requires a well thought out script in order to achieve perfection. Many performers will balk at this and claim that they never use a script - and they are wrong. If they perform the same effect in the same way performance after performance, then they are using a mental script. If that works for you, fine. However, it is very difficult to objectively study and modify a mental script.

REWRITE! To reach perfection, write it down, study it, rewrite it, study some more, rewrite it again, and so on. After every performance, go back and fine tune your script to achieve better timing, wording, delivery, and staging.

WRITE EVERY DAY! The more you write, the easier it gets. Try to write a new routine, joke, or script idea every day. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning before the bustle of the day crowds in on you. Most of these ideas will be forced and impractical, but every now and then, the creative part of your mind will hatch that one idea worth expanding. Run with it!

MAKE IT YOURS! Understand your on-stage persona or attitude. Is your natural attitude deadpan, angry, sarcastic, goofy, or serious? Match your script to your natural on-stage persona. Insure that every script relates to your natural persona. It takes a well-seasoned pro to leap from one persona to another without losing the audience.

CRITIQUE! Once you've written a routine, perform it in front of a mirror or, better yet, a video camera. Carefully note - that means "write down" - the things about your delivery, timing, and movements that you like. Then go back and write down the things you didn't. Now, replay the video or perform the routine for your practice partner. A practice partner is someone you trust to bounce ideas off, practice new routines with, and turn to for honest, constructive critiques. Every performer needs a practice partner. Ask them to note the things they did and didn't like. Compare your lists and discuss ways of improving your performance. Perform the routine and repeat this process until you are 100% satisfied.

REHEARSE! Work on your confidence and make memorized material seem spontaneous. Practice until you can deliver the memorized material in an easy, conversational tone that compliments your stage persona.

TIME IT! Ask your practice partner to time you as you run through each routine several times. Annotate the average time on the top of your script. Understand that nerves will cause you to run through a routine faster on stage than you will in a rehearsal.

TEST IT! Actively seek out places where you can perform in front of a live audience. Organize a "social safety network" by calling friends you know will be supportive and inviting them to come and watch. This way, even if you bomb, you'll have people in your audience rooting for you. This added bit of support can help you through your nervousness in your first few gigs.

TAKE IT FOR A TEST DRIVE! Nothing will point out which parts of your script need to be rewritten, spiced up, or totally abandoned like a live audience. Street performing, restaurants, neighbors, magic clubs, comedy club and rec center Open Mic showcases are just a few of the places that may give you the chance to practice and fine tune your act in front of a live audience. Don't expect to be flawless in these places. Every beginner needs a place he can safely "suck" until he gets it right.

RECORD AGAIN! Video record every performance every time every where. Watch the videos after each show. Write down what you liked and didn't like. Play the video for your practice partner and ask them to write down what they did and didn't like. Discuss and apply ways of fixing your performance and make the changes to your script.

SUPPORT YOUR PEERS! Napoleon Hill's MasterMind is more than a theory in a book. The more you interact with like-minded peers, the more you personally learn. Supporting your peers - even those with different talent sets - the more you are likely to pick up.

There are no shortcuts to becoming the best in your field. The quality of the finished product is determined by the time and effort invested in developing it.
Message: Posted by: Jolly Roger (Oct 2, 2013 10:37AM)
Good post Skip, although I find your suggestions quite exhausting to read....let alone put into practice!!! Good to have you back on the little darlings!! :wavey: JR
Message: Posted by: harris (Oct 2, 2013 10:40AM)
This is a great and productive thread.

Listening during programs helps. For me it's not your a great magician, but I listen for other words including ..your show has heart...haven't laughed liked that in a long time...where have you been hiding...your like a man on the moon..(heard referring to an Andy Kauffman connection)..

I love to write for others, while finding putting pen to paper myself challenging.

When I do on a regular basis I often find either gold, or my critic.

The later I picked up from a book called the Artist Way. Journaling is a great tool. When my critic comes out I use a different style of graphics and often draw a picture or symbol.

So is being with artist in other areas. Reading is also important for this guy. Not just in the field of magic, vent, comedy and juggling.

Classes are great..for me movement, improvisation, puppetry..and yes an occassional magic lecture.

Working in a "legit play", under a great director is something I do occassionally. Last week I hooked up with a group of older actors...55 plus.

I got a kick, when I was asked often, do you qualify (by age) for this group.
At 60, magic, vent, puppetry and theatre keep me in great mental , physical and most important spiritual shape. I cycle/spin class 3 times a week..and hit the weights sporadically.

Spiritually I give credit to God for giving me and helping develop talents...


and in a related field...I get better on stage, when my life and family are important off stage.

Harris
still 2 old to know it all
Message: Posted by: Jolly Roger (Oct 2, 2013 11:08AM)
Here is a bit of advice I have learnt over the years. Listen to your audience first, non-magician friends(laymen) second, and magicians last. Also, invest money in acting classes and learn theatre skills. This is a far better investment than buying the latest and greatest magic prop. JR
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Oct 2, 2013 11:42AM)
I was starting to lose a little faith in Little Darlings because of the actions of a few over last few days.

But then along comes Skip Way and BAM! Faith restored. Excellent post. Good for performers at all levels.

Thank you Skip.

Bazinga!
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Oct 2, 2013 12:05PM)
Thanks, Bazinga. That's a grand compliment.

My post is a blueprint, JR. Just as no routine out of a magazine or DVD is right for every person, success routines vary with each person's drive and discipline. One should adapt those tips that appeal to him and run with them. Examine every idea, choose those that work for your personality, and make them part of your success routine.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 12:20PM)
A lot of us are talking about learning acting/stagecraft skills, which is great. I wonder how many magicians have a background in that. It's one reason or the main reason Copperfield got so good and stood out. At Kidabra a guy named Max Howard had a great presentation. He has a big acting background and demonstrated how acting/costumes/stagecraft took what could be a boring or mediocre box trick and made it into something great. He came up with an old Chinese wizard character and a whole story to go with it, and put on a quick costume and simple mask, and did a whole mini drama in which the magic trick was just part of it. He got a standing O because it was so cool. That doesn't mean we should all do that exactly, but shows how theatrical methods can take us to the next level. I've never done regular theater, though I wish I had, but I've done a ton of improv comedy and still do, made movies all through my teenage years, and dabbled in stand-up comedy. I'm now learning ventriloquism/puppetry which is a type of acting. Mime and dance would be good too. I think I learned comedy mostly by watching so many movies and TV shows, and by making movies.

Here is Max Howard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxXdC_ya7Uc and http://www.thehabitofexcellence.com/Video.asp
Message: Posted by: Quentin (Oct 2, 2013 12:25PM)
There is some great advice here. But I still maintain the first step is to have a well balanced show. Such a show has a flow to it. Even when you are busy with many shows in the day and you have the flu and are feeling miserable, a good structure will get you through. Think of it like a roller coaster. Once it gets to the top, the structure of the ride carries the cars to the end.

Once you have a show, you can work on improving it.

A suggestion for such a show:

Something funny to get the attention and the children laughing. Sometimes smaller children can be apprehensive. Once they start laughing they start enjoying the show.

A strong magic effect with comedy that does not require an audience helper.

A helping trick.

A quick strong visual magical effect that is very baffling.

Another helping trick.

A shouting trick, such as Run Rabbit Run or Codology.

Finish with a puppet routine.

If you have the birthday child up helping in either of the helping tricks, make them a balloon animal or produce a small gift.
If you are doing a longer show do Kimmo's Race Game (see a thread on this on the Café) after the shouting trick and finish with the puppet routine.

But get the show first. Then you have something to work with and improve.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 12:27PM)
A lot of us are talking about learning acting/stagecraft skills, which is great. I wonder how many magicians have a background in that. It's one reason or the main reason Copperfield got so good and stood out. At Kidabra a guy named Max Howard had a great presentation. He has a big acting background and demonstrated how acting/costumes/stagecraft took what could be a boring or mediocre box trick and made it into something great. He came up with an old Chinese wizard character and a whole story to go with it, and put on a quick costume and simple mask, and did a whole mini drama in which the magic trick was just part of it. He got a standing O because it was so cool. That doesn't mean we should all do that exactly, but shows how theatrical methods can take us to the next level. I've never done regular theater, though I wish I had, but I've done a ton of improv comedy and still do, made movies all through my teenage years, and dabbled in stand-up comedy. I'm now learning ventriloquism/puppetry which is a type of acting. Mime and dance would be good too. I think I learned comedy mostly by watching so many movies and TV shows, and by making movies.

Here is Max Howard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxXdC_ya7Uc and http://www.thehabitofexcellence.com/Video.asp
Message: Posted by: harris (Oct 2, 2013 12:28PM)
I started in theatre.

Quentin had gold in his list of 3.

an example of a recent change...was a bit I used to do between an audience member and myself...was moved to a ventriloquist section and between the audience member, "Nigel" and me.

I had not planned it, but after a man's response, it seemed the perfect place....went for it and it worked.(not all changes work at such a high positive level of response the first time out)..

and one final thing (this go round) is don't let the show go down the tubes, when something "goes wrong", or not the way you plan it. Bad moments don't equal bad shows...

Harris
Message: Posted by: Jolly Roger (Oct 2, 2013 12:33PM)
I am fortunate to have done three years at drama school in the UK. My favourite class was improvisation, and I was good at it. I am also a big fan of Max Howard, but we are poles apart in our performing style. As you know, Dan, rigid scripts are not for me. I worked for two years as an actor in the legitimate theatre from Shakespeare's tragedies and comedies to playing Wilfred in "Spring and Port Wine" for the Forbes Russell theatre company at Bultin's holiday camp in Filey, Yorkshire. Then I branched out into variety and have been a professional magician for over 40 years both for adults and children. In those 40 years I have never written a script, but I also haven't stopped working!!! It was those early improvisation classes that I have to thank for that!! JR
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 12:49PM)
JR, I can see your acting background in your performances. I don't do the rigid script thing either cause I have no memory and like to be very much in the moment interacting with the kids and making everything seem spontaneous. Although with good acting you can have everything tightly scripted and still seem spontaneous and still improvise as appropriate. After seeing Max, I'm planning to try at least 1 tightly scripted alternate character based thing. Quentin Reynolds has a DVD in which he talks about how to structure a show, and he's on this thread so he can say more about that, but he makes some very good points in the DVD.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 12:50PM)
JR, I can see your acting background in your performances. I don't do the rigid script thing either cause I have no memory and like to be very much in the moment interacting with the kids and making everything seem spontaneous. Although with good acting you can have everything tightly scripted and still seem spontaneous and still improvise as appropriate. After seeing Max, I'm planning to try at least 1 tightly scripted alternate character based thing. Quentin Reynolds has a DVD in which he talks about how to structure a show, and he's on this thread so he can say more about that, but he makes some very good points in the DVD.
Message: Posted by: charliecheckers (Oct 2, 2013 12:59PM)
The #1 lesson I learned from Zucchini was to better determine who my desired target audience is , and then match their desires. So that is what I am trying to get better at. Just getting better at many things will not necessarily improve your show if what you are getting better at has no meaning to your audience.
Message: Posted by: JoshLondonMagic (Oct 2, 2013 01:42PM)
Wow! What a great thread! So happy that there is so many great ideas here, thank you all!

What started this for me was not the fact that I have no business, but rather how do I get better than I already am. I read a booked called "Be the best at what matters most." It's a new book and really opene my eyes to see that my never ending to do list isn't what matters most. My show matters most.

My calendar is very full every weekend and corporate shows thrown in there for some good measure. But I want to get even better.

I'm going to look into some improv classes and acting classes to learn more about stage craft as discussed earlier.

Very good thread that is soon becoming very valuable, especially where so many are worried about the next trick or DVD. The true pros know the next trick won't grow a sustainable business, but a well structured, well rehearsed, engaging show will.

Thanks again guys. Let's keep this going!

As a side note I watched a few clips of my show last night and noticed basic movement things I'd like to change like when I transfer a handkerchief from hand to hand and also noticed some blocking issues.

Does anyone have a book on basic theater techniques they've found valuable?

Josh
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Oct 2, 2013 02:06PM)
"Ah, well do I remember when old Omar took the turban from the top of his head..."
Message: Posted by: Jolly Roger (Oct 2, 2013 02:09PM)
This is the text book we used at Drama school, but only focuses on the voice:

http://books.google.com/books/about/Voice_and_Speech_in_the_Theatre.html?id=cYNmcTuZdsgC

However, this is a great book by my old friend David Wood, who is also a magician

http://www.textbooks.com/BooksDescription.php?BKN=429199&SBC=ED&kpid=9781566632331U&network=GoogleShopping&tracking_id=9781566632331U&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=9781566632331U&utm_source=googleshopping&kenshu=170da18a-462b-26e9-4ab8-00002dd10a8b&gclid=CObzkbbv-LkCFUpBQgodPHcAhQ
JR
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Oct 2, 2013 02:23PM)
Charles Pecor had an excellent book titled "Staging Magic:The Real Secrets" that he published in 1988. I don;t believe it's still in print and it looks like Amazon has a copy available. You can also reach out to Dr. Pecor personally. He lectured here several times on stage craft, movement, and blocking. Brilliant lectures! I may have his email. Let me know if you need it.

I also have "Bringing the Body to the Stage and Screen: Expressive Movement for Performers" by Annette Lust. This is an actor/director based book, but it is very informative.
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Oct 2, 2013 03:14PM)
I agree with skip and Quentin up to a point. Realistically, it's important to both create a good show, and to learn acting skills.

Regarding the latter, I'd suggest that acting lessons are possibly not the best solution. I've often wondered what an "acting lesson" is, seems almost impossible to me, to study the art of theatre in any other way than on the boards. Of course, read and learn all you can. But if you want to develop your stage skills, the easiest way is to join a GOOD amateur theatre group. Seek out a group who have a highly-respected director.

In the UK, and in the US, there are some incredible amateur theatre directors. In some amateur companies, you even get to work with professional or semi-pro directors, and performers. The top am dram companies in the UK easily outstrip most professional repertory companies, and perform at the finest venues. Many leading actors and actresses learned their trade working with am dram companies, then rep, then on to the big time.

There is simply no other way to become a good performer, you need those thousands of hours on stage.

I agree with Quentin on two of his points, but I'm rather taken aback that he suggests that overacting is "a big mistake made by children's entertainers".

Overacting, done well, is a pure delight for kids. We see it all the time - even in cartoons there are overactors (or "ham" actors, as we prefer to call in here in the UK.) Jim Carey is a great example of an overactor, who is thoroughly engaging, not just to kids, but to adults, too.

Pantomime is full of ham acting, and in my opinion, it's one of the very best techniques to engage (especially young) children.

Many years ago, I read the bible of ham acting. I'm really sorry, I can't for the life of me remember what it's called, but it's something like: "How to be a Ham Actor".

Until that point, I hadn't really grasped what this meant, despite acting in many straight plays, Shakespeare, etc.

Ridiculous voices, upstaging, over-exaggerated movements. Knowing what makes a "ham" actor works both ways: once you know the principle, as a straight actor, you understand how to be more subtle, and more convincing. As a comedy actor, you know how to get a laugh, even when you're not the centre of attention.

Ham acting done badly, is about as painful to watch as it gets. Done well (Jim Carey), it's close to genius.

Hmmm...reminds me of the last couple of days.

;)
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Oct 2, 2013 03:26PM)
How do you get better?.....by failing.

Kyle
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 03:53PM)
I agree with Potty's last post....oy! Carrey is great, one of my faves, I'd love to see Jim Carrey do a magic act for kids.
With kids, it's better to overact than underact (though some balance and variety is usually best), especially with young kids. I try to mix up my approach in each show - some over the top, some very subtle stuff. If they are paying attention, which they will do if you are good, they will notice and react to the subtle stuff as much or more than the crazy stuff. So I say mix it up for variety - too much of 1 thing is bad, like if you were to watch a movie with nothing but car chases. No how well done the car chases you'd get bored with it and things would get stale and not move along, you'd drain the audience, etc.

So for a little example, when I do the nesting wands - each time the kid pulls out one of the 4 inner wands I try to react differently. It wouldn't be good to just scream "oh no!" and pull the same face each time. You can plan in advance to escalate up, down, or have an arc in the middle, OR go with the flow of kids reactions which is what I tend to do. To go with the flow, you pay attention to them as you go - do I need to be more animated this time or would a more subtle thing like a pause and eye roll and maybe a little lip quiver be best this time. Then next wand, decide based on how they react, thinking ahead to how you'd like to end it.
In general for each show, for some crowds you may need to go bigger to get the best laughs, for some crowds it works better to be more subtle, and a balance seems best. Sometimes you can get the biggest laughs just by doing very simple stuff like staring straight at the audience and blinking, like Oliver Hardy did when he looked right at the camera for several seconds to show his frustration. I can't stand watching an entertainer do the same thing over and over during the whole show, even though that works well for some guys, doing that usually just shows a lack of acting skill.
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Oct 2, 2013 03:53PM)
[quote]
On 2013-10-02 16:26, magic4u02 wrote:
How do you get better?.....by failing.

Kyle
[/quote]

Kyle, I don't agree at all. It's perfectly possible to get better without ever "failing". But, I agree, that failure is always gonna be a driver, for everyone but those who can just accept failure. I don't think anyone here falls into that camp!

Get better by learning, listening, and by treating your performing abilities in the same way that any business would deal with their primary asset.

I really think succeeding is about being positive. Failure, when it happens, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it brings you down, on the other hand, it forces you to work harder, and bring yourself up. I would hope that no one here, would ever feel such a failure, that they stop trying.

Avoid it if you can, but within reasonable parameters, you only ever "fail", if you believe it. Be positive, look around you for any scraps of help that might take you away form that place you're in, if it's so bad.

Of course, you can make it good all the way down the line. But, it's all down to you..this is a matter of psychology, and it's not science.
Message: Posted by: Magnus Eisengrim (Oct 2, 2013 03:56PM)
[quote]
On 2013-10-02 13:25, Quentin wrote:
There is some great advice here. But I still maintain the first step is to have a well balanced show. Such a show has a flow to it. Even when you are busy with many shows in the day and you have the flu and are feeling miserable, a good structure will get you through. Think of it like a roller coaster. Once it gets to the top, the structure of the ride carries the cars to the end.

Once you have a show, you can work on improving it.

A suggestion for such a show:

Something funny to get the attention and the children laughing. Sometimes smaller children can be apprehensive. Once they start laughing they start enjoying the show.

A strong magic effect with comedy that does not require an audience helper.

A helping trick.

A quick strong visual magical effect that is very baffling.

Another helping trick.

A shouting trick, such as Run Rabbit Run or Codology.

Finish with a puppet routine.

If you have the birthday child up helping in either of the helping tricks, make them a balloon animal or produce a small gift.
If you are doing a longer show do Kimmo's Race Game (see a thread on this on the Café) after the shouting trick and finish with the puppet routine.

But get the show first. Then you have something to work with and improve.
[/quote]

That is golden advice, Quentin. Thank you.

John
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Oct 2, 2013 03:58PM)
[quote]
On 2013-10-02 16:53, danfreed wrote:
I agree with Potty's last post....oy! Carrey is great, one of my faves, I'd love to see Jim Carrey do a magic act for kids.
With kids, it's better to overact than underact (though some balance and variety is usually best), especially with young kids. I try to mix up my approach in each show - some over the top, some very subtle stuff. If they are paying attention, which they will do if you are good, they will notice and react to the subtle stuff as much or more than the crazy stuff. So I say mix it up for variety - too much of 1 thing is bad, like if you were to watch a movie with nothing but car chases. No how well done the car chases you'd get bored with it and things would get stale and not move along, you'd drain the audience, etc.

So for a little example, when I do the nesting wands - each time the kid pulls out one of the 4 inner wands I try to react differently. It wouldn't be good to just scream "oh no!" and pull the same face each time. You can plan in advance to escalate up, down, or have an arc in the middle, OR go with the flow of kids reactions which is what I tend to do. To go with the flow, you pay attention to them as you go - do I need to be more animated this time or would a more subtle thing like a pause and eye roll and maybe a little lip quiver be best this time. Then next wand, decide based on how they react, thinking ahead to how you'd like to end it.
In general for each show, for some crowds you may need to go bigger to get the best laughs, for some crowds it works better to be more subtle, and a balance seems best. Sometimes you can get the biggest laughs just by doing very simple stuff like staring straight at the audience and blinking, like Oliver Hardy did when he looked right at the camera for several seconds to show his frustration. I can't stand watching an entertainer do the same thing over and over during the whole show, even though that works well for some guys, doing that usually just shows a lack of acting skill.
[/quote]

Sssh! You're beginning to give a little too much away.

:)

Just joking, an excellent post. Thank you, Dan. I think Jim Carrey (missed the two "R's"!) should definitely make a movie as a kids' entertainer. Why hasn't anyone thought of that before?

Anyone connected to him on LinkedIn? (I might be, I have to check).

There's an idea for a great movie....
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 04:11PM)
Well there's your next project Potty, write a movie for Jim Carrey, but I get 10%. Jerry Lewis played a magician in a movie. He played a character called the Great Wooley, the movie is called The Geisha Boy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Geisha_Boy
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Oct 2, 2013 04:14PM)
Yeah, but Jim Carrey SHOULD make a movie as a kids' entertainer. He'd be f*****g fantastic" Perhaps it could be about the Great Zucchini. Now, there's an idea!

C'mon, Zuke,this really could be the making of you!
Message: Posted by: Quentin (Oct 2, 2013 04:28PM)
Potty, thank you for questioning my mentioning "Overacting". Let me clarify that.

Hamming it up is par for the course and an art in itself.

Dan hit the nail on the head when he said, " It wouldn't be good to just scream "oh no!" and pull the same face each time."
Then he mentions using different reactions each time. Sometimes a silent facial reaction, and sometimes a more physical or verbal one.
This builds anticipation and hooks in the audience and is the difference to looking silly or being funny. The real art is to ham
it up but know when not to overdo it. It is the overdoing it that I meant by Overacting.

Sometimes I know exactly what I mean but don't explain it clearly.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 04:29PM)
They are already making a TV show based on him, so the movie will have to be based on me, I'm afraid. I used to do some crazy stuff that could make for a movie. Several years ago I was doing surprise telegrams, costumed characters, clowning, caricatures, magic shows wearing normal clothing, and booking all the better family entertainers in town, all on the same day. On a given weekend day, I would set up a bunch of equipment like moonbounces and dunktanks, then go somewhere else and maybe dress up as a clown and do a company picnic, then dress as a gorilla or cop or grim reaper and do a surprise telegram, then go do a magic show in my regular clothes or a caricature gig, then go back and pick up the equipment. Then I would hang with my crazy entertainer buddies. Or they could do the family man with 2 kids and a wife with a normal job thing, which is my life now.
Message: Posted by: Quentin (Oct 2, 2013 04:34PM)
Just a reference to what Kyle posted. I don't think he really meant failing, deliberately or otherwise.

My take is that you learn from your mistakes, errors, or when things go wrong for whatever reason.
Then you make sure they never happen again.

The late Albert LeBas used say that you never knew a trick until everything that can go wrong has gone wrong.
Message: Posted by: charliecheckers (Oct 2, 2013 04:46PM)
[quote]
On 2013-10-02 14:42, JoshLondonMagic wrote:
. I read a booked called "Be the best at what matters most."
Josh
[/quote]

Thanks for the reference. Sounds like a great book to read.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 04:57PM)
They are already making a TV show based on him, so the movie will have to be based on me, I'm afraid. I used to do some crazy stuff that could make for a movie. Several years ago I was doing surprise telegrams, costumed characters, clowning, caricatures, magic shows wearing normal clothing, and booking all the better family entertainers in town, all on the same day. On a given weekend day, I would set up a bunch of equipment like moonbounces and dunktanks, then go somewhere else and maybe dress up as a clown and do a company picnic, then dress as a gorilla or cop or grim reaper and do a surprise telegram, then go do a magic show in my regular clothes or a caricature gig, then go back and pick up the equipment. Then I would hang with my crazy entertainer buddies. Or they could do the family man with 2 kids and a wife with a normal job thing, which is my life now.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 04:57PM)
Well there's your next project Potty, write a movie for Jim Carrey, but I get 10%. Jerry Lewis played a magician in a movie. He played a character called the Great Wooley, the movie is called The Geisha Boy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Geisha_Boy
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 2, 2013 04:57PM)
I agree with Potty's last post....oy! Carrey is great, one of my faves, I'd love to see Jim Carrey do a magic act for kids.
With kids, it's better to overact than underact (though some balance and variety is usually best), especially with young kids. I try to mix up my approach in each show - some over the top, some very subtle stuff. If they are paying attention, which they will do if you are good, they will notice and react to the subtle stuff as much or more than the crazy stuff. So I say mix it up for variety - too much of 1 thing is bad, like if you were to watch a movie with nothing but car chases. No how well done the car chases you'd get bored with it and things would get stale and not move along, you'd drain the audience, etc.

So for a little example, when I do the nesting wands - each time the kid pulls out one of the 4 inner wands I try to react differently. It wouldn't be good to just scream "oh no!" and pull the same face each time. You can plan in advance to escalate up, down, or have an arc in the middle, OR go with the flow of kids reactions which is what I tend to do. To go with the flow, you pay attention to them as you go - do I need to be more animated this time or would a more subtle thing like a pause and eye roll and maybe a little lip quiver be best this time. Then next wand, decide based on how they react, thinking ahead to how you'd like to end it.
In general for each show, for some crowds you may need to go bigger to get the best laughs, for some crowds it works better to be more subtle, and a balance seems best. Sometimes you can get the biggest laughs just by doing very simple stuff like staring straight at the audience and blinking, like Oliver Hardy did when he looked right at the camera for several seconds to show his frustration. I can't stand watching an entertainer do the same thing over and over during the whole show, even though that works well for some guys, doing that usually just shows a lack of acting skill.
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Oct 2, 2013 05:07PM)
[quote]
On 2013-10-02 17:28, Quentin wrote:
Potty, thank you for questioning my mentioning "Overacting". Let me clarify that.

Hamming it up is par for the course and an art in itself.

Dan hit the nail on the head when he said, " It wouldn't be good to just scream "oh no!" and pull the same face each time."
Then he mentions using different reactions each time. Sometimes a silent facial reaction, and sometimes a more physical or verbal one.
This builds anticipation and hooks in the audience and is the difference to looking silly or being funny. The real art is to ham
it up but know when not to overdo it. It is the overdoing it that I meant by Overacting.

Sometimes I know exactly what I mean but don't explain it clearly.
[/quote]

I think the point is, Quentin, that overacting is a skill, just as much as straight acting. Both acting, and overacting, done badly, is excruciating to watch. Done well, it's a delight.

There are rules, and of course, it's important to learn them. Once you have them under your belt, you can discover how to break them.

Do you really want to spend your performing life unaware of all that fundamental knowledge, garnered from thousands of entertainers, with millions of years of stage performing?

Every good actor understands ham acting, and every good ham actor understands straight acting.

Some folks are drawn to comedy, others to drama. I enjoy both, but I'm a natural ham. Kid's entertainment is what I always wanted to do, and it's what I'm good at.
Message: Posted by: Jolly Roger (Oct 2, 2013 05:12PM)
I bet I am a bigger ham than you are Potty!!! :rotf: JR
Message: Posted by: John Breeds (Oct 2, 2013 05:20PM)
[quote]
On 2013-10-01 20:24, Quentin wrote:
As I see it the three biggest mistakes made by children's entertainers are:
1) the lack of structure and texture in the show. No balance and too much of the same type of trick.
2) Overacting.
3) No understanding of the use and power of pausing.
[/quote]

HEAR HEAR!

Quentin, you got it in three.

John
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Oct 2, 2013 06:00PM)
[quote]
On 2013-10-02 18:12, Jolly Roger wrote:
I bet I am a bigger ham than you are Potty!!! :rotf: JR
[/quote]

I have no doubt, JR, that if we were to meet, we'd do our very best to out-ham each other.

;)
Message: Posted by: writer25 (Oct 2, 2013 06:25PM)
The original question was "how do I get better?"
The trouble is that you can get too much advice some of it better than others. And one piece of advice may contradict another. So you have a monumental task sorting out the wheat from the chaff. And regrettably much of the chaff is posted on magic forums although of course there might be some wheat there too.
You have to be very careful here. If you follow the wrong advice you may go on quite a disastrous path. And some of the advice may be excellent for the person giving it but not so good for the person taking it. That is because we are all different and what suits one may not suit another.

There are successful entertainers who are very structured and organised and yet there are equally successful entertainers who are not organised at all and everything is chaotic around them yet it all works well.

This is how I would go about things. It can be summed up as STUDY and TRIAL AND ERROR.

First -STUDY. This is very important. Study everything you can get hold of but don't necessarily believe everything you read. There is the basic text of the opening chapter of OPEN SESAME by Tyler and Lewis. I would say this is essential reading because it teaches you how to UNDERSTAND children and this is the REAL to being a good kids entertainer. But there are other texts such as the Silly Billy book, the Danny Orleans DVD course, The David Ginn books plus many, many more. A good entertainer studies everything.

Now comes the hard part. In fact the very hard part. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff. Here are some guidelines. First, study the track record of the person giving the advice. It still may not be the right advice for you even it is good advice, but at least if the person you study has been a successful professional then the advice may be more likely to be valid.

Next you have to study yourself and see how you fit the advice offered. Are you the sort of personality that prefers to have a rigid structure to your work or are you a person who likes things a bit more fluid? Are you an expert ad libber or do you feel you have to have a script? Are there aspects of your work that could be improved by advice given?

You have to figure yourself out before you can figure the advice out. Instinctively you will know if what someone says resonates with you. But certainly beware a lot of the advice on magic forums which are often motivated by ego and are proffered by amateurs. You really have to think carefully what is right and what is wrong. I would say only take the advice of people you respect and whose performing style most closely resembles yours.

Some of the stuff you will read on magic forums will be offered by experienced professionals and it should be taken notice of but remember it still may not be the right advice for YOU.

And now TRIAL AND ERROR. Think carefully, put a set act together and improve on it as you go along. Make changes slowly. There is nothing worse than chopping and changing your act in a frenetic attempt to find the right formula. Make haste slowly. If something works keep it in the show, if it doesn't work after a couple of attempts then dump it. And I am referring not just to tricks. Keep gags, patter and bits of business if they work and dump them if they don't.

Again be very careful with the advice of magicians. The trouble with magicians is that they think their opinions matter and very often they don't. Read everything but sort the wheat from the chaff very carefully. Sometimes something sounds good but it doesn't fit you.

I have read some dreadful advice on the magic Café at times and that is why I am advising caution in what you read. I have seen some entertainers advise insulting the children and getting angry with them. I have even read idiotic posts about storming out of the house if things get out of hand. Quite frankly if things get out of hand it is usually the fault of the entertainer.

But I don't want to go off on a tangent. To sum things up study everything, sort the wheat from the chaff as it applies to you, then go out and try it. If things work -great. If they don't then discard them and carry on.

None of this is easy but it is the best way.
Message: Posted by: Jolly Roger (Oct 2, 2013 07:09PM)
[quote]
On 2013-10-02 19:25, writer25 wrote:
The original question was "how do I get better?"
The trouble is that you can get too much advice some of it better than others. And one piece of advice may contradict another. So you have a monumental task sorting out the wheat from the chaff. And regrettably much of the chaff is posted on magic forums although of course there might be some wheat there too.
You have to be very careful here. If you follow the wrong advice you may go on quite a disastrous path. And some of the advice may be excellent for the person giving it but not so good for the person taking it. That is because we are all different and what suits one may not suit another.

There are successful entertainers who are very structured and organised and yet there are equally successful entertainers who are not organised at all and everything is chaotic around them yet it all works well.

This is how I would go about things. It can be summed up as STUDY and TRIAL AND ERROR.

First -STUDY. This is very important. Study everything you can get hold of but don't necessarily believe everything you read. There is the basic text of the opening chapter of OPEN SESAME by Tyler and Lewis. I would say this is essential reading because it teaches you how to UNDERSTAND children and this is the REAL to being a good kids entertainer. But there are other texts such as the Silly Billy book, the Danny Orleans DVD course, The David Ginn books plus many, many more. A good entertainer studies everything.

Now comes the hard part. In fact the very hard part. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff. Here are some guidelines. First, study the track record of the person giving the advice. It still may not be the right advice for you even it is good advice, but at least if the person you study has been a successful professional then the advice may be more likely to be valid.

Next you have to study yourself and see how you fit the advice offered. Are you the sort of personality that prefers to have a rigid structure to your work or are you a person who likes things a bit more fluid? Are you an expert ad libber or do you feel you have to have a script? Are there aspects of your work that could be improved by advice given?

You have to figure yourself out before you can figure the advice out. Instinctively you will know if what someone says resonates with you. But certainly beware a lot of the advice on magic forums which are often motivated by ego and are proffered by amateurs. You really have to think carefully what is right and what is wrong. I would say only take the advice of people you respect and whose performing style most closely resembles yours.

Some of the stuff you will read on magic forums will be offered by experienced professionals and it should be taken notice of but remember it still may not be the right advice for YOU.

And now TRIAL AND ERROR. Think carefully, put a set act together and improve on it as you go along. Make changes slowly. There is nothing worse than chopping and changing your act in a frenetic attempt to find the right formula. Make haste slowly. If something works keep it in the show, if it doesn't work after a couple of attempts then dump it. And I am referring not just to tricks. Keep gags, patter and bits of business if they work and dump them if they don't.

Again be very careful with the advice of magicians. The trouble with magicians is that they think their opinions matter and very often they don't. Read everything but sort the wheat from the chaff very carefully. Sometimes something sounds good but it doesn't fit you.

I have read some dreadful advice on the magic Café at times and that is why I am advising caution in what you read. I have seen some entertainers advise insulting the children and getting angry with them. I have even read idiotic posts about storming out of the house if things get out of hand. Quite frankly if things get out of hand it is usually the fault of the entertainer.

But I don't want to go off on a tangent. To sum things up study everything, sort the wheat from the chaff as it applies to you, then go out and try it. If things work -great. If they don't then discard them and carry on.

None of this is easy but it is the best way.
[/quote]

Excellent advice writer 25!!! You seem extremely wise and coherent for someone who I gather does not even do children's shows!! JR
Message: Posted by: writer25 (Oct 2, 2013 08:54PM)
Yes Roger. It is true that I do not do children's shows. However, I was channeling the advice from my spirit guide who was a brilliant children's entertainer before he passed away. He was known as the Great McLeod. I know you understand spiritual matters such as this.
Message: Posted by: Potty the Pirate (Oct 3, 2013 02:15AM)
Advice about taking advice - is "meta-advice". Here is a nice piece of meta-advice from a lady called Megan, which I found:
"Dear people who like to give advice -

I've been on the receiving end of a lot of advice lately and it's got me to thinking about when advice is useful - and when it isn't. I can't claim a perfect record in this area, so this post is as much about the mistakes I've made as it is about what annoys me.

So here's my advice on how to give advice - be humble and be compassionate.

Why humble? It's easy to think that you understand everything important about someone's situation. You probably don't. If you're humble in the way you suggest things, then it leaves the advisee free to tell the advisor that the advice is inappropriate for some reason. Even better, instead of telling someone what to do, explain your reasons for making a particular choice so the advisee can better understand if a similar choice applies.

A second good reason to be humble is that everyone works a little bit differently. What might be a perfectly reasonable solution to you might not make sense for someone else.

Why compassionate? Yes, sometimes people do dumb things. But sometimes what looks like someone doing something dumb from the outside is actually someone making the best of a situation where they don't have any good choices.

Phrasing things as a question often helps in accomplishing both objectives. For instance, you could ask someone who complains about wearing glasses, "Is LASIK an option for you?" That leaves them free to tell you why it's not an option, or why they're not comfortable with it, or to make a non-committal answer if they don't feel like giving you an explanation at."
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Oct 10, 2013 02:14PM)
Let me elaborate. I have a saying that I have learned the hard way and it really is true. It goes like this.

"Failure is NOT failure. If you learn even one thing from failure it is a stepping stone to success."

Think about it. You are never going to be perfect and certainly not in new routines or new shows. There will be failures along the way. It happens and that is life. The problem is how we DEAL with failure.

If you take a step back from something that is not working and you learn from it, then it is not failure at all. It is part of the learning experience. Heck Edison himself failed over 900 times before finding a filament to create the light bulb. Not once did he ever say he failed. He just stated that he found 900 ways NOT to do it. Very wise thinking and it makes sense.

I am not saying anyone goes out to deliberately fail. That would be foolish. However, the nature of growth in what we do is trying new things. When we try new things there will be failures along the way. there will be things that did not work or not the way we intended them to.

We could at that point choose to quit and drop the trick, routine or show or we could stop for a second and look at why it failed and grow from that. Every single show I do I aim to learn from it. Every single one of them. A show is never 100% perfect and you can always learn something form each one you do if you are conscious of it. by doing so makes you a better performer and a more gifted one.

Leonardo DaVinci was one of the great minds of the Italian Renaissance period. he was a painter, scientist, botnist, architect, geologist, inventor and more. He strived to learn all the time and had a fascination for bettering himself.

But he failed many times and he stated so. He also stated that through failure came understanding and he is right.

Kyle
Message: Posted by: Jolly Roger (Oct 11, 2015 12:04AM)
What an interesting thread this is, and I feel it is worthy of a revival!!! :rotf: JR
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Oct 11, 2015 09:41PM)
Yeah Kyle, good post. Though Eddison had a team of people working for him, and he was brilliant. I'm sleightly less smartly than Eddison and don't have a team.
Message: Posted by: vincentmusician (May 25, 2021 12:31PM)
How do you get better? You get better by doing.