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Topic: Video Killed the Radio Star
Message: Posted by: Zack (Aug 4, 2004 12:55AM)
In the 1980's they killed comedy. Or so the story goes.

Thanks to the sucess of the "Rockstar Comics" of the seventies, like Richard Pryor and Steve Martin, standup comedy became wildly popular. People, seeing comedy on the tube, wanted to see it live, and it became a cheap way for bars to pack them in.

Soon every pizza joint, dive bar and taco stand had a comedy night. Any kid with twenty minutes could have a lucrative career in show business. For a while it looked like vaudville was back. Predictably, and horribly, it all fell apart.

Comics are bitter about this. They blame the club owners. The unscrupulous club owners saturated the market, they say. The truth is the club owners just wanted to get bodies in the seats, paying for drinks. The problem was not market saturation, the problem was that the supply couldn't keep up with the demand.

See the thing, is there were a TON of places to work. There were NOT a ton of good comics to work them. Comedy is hard-- abnormally hard. Being able to make another human laugh hysterically by obsessing about your problems in public is HARD. So they filled the spots with people that weren't very good. Which is most comics. And the audience decided that comedy sucked, and went back to watching TV.

The thing is the same thing is NOT true about magic. A minimally competent magician can still be entertaining even if he is totally devoid of talent, solely on the strength of his tricks. The tricks THEMSELVES have entertainment value. Comedy takes real talent. Magic just takes practice. Only a few will be Lance Burton, or Ricky Jay, but nearly anybody willing to put in the hours can amaze people. (This is going to **** some magicians off, but I'll stand by it.)

The flip side to this is that magic DOES have a saturation point. If the public is exposed to enough magic they will begin to see the same tricks repeated. Again. And Again. Honestly, I love magic, but I really don't need to hear "And INSIDE my wallet in a ZIPPERED COMPARTMENT I have an ENVELOPE" one more time.

The public had been getting a lot of magic lately on TV. Really I think this is the first time in history the average viewer has been exposed to so much. It used to be that the world could hold ONE supreme mage: Thurston, Blackstone, Hennig, Copperfield. One king, and the rest of us doing birtdays and cocktail parties. Now we have Copperfield AND Blaine AND Criss Angel AND THEM AND those mentalist guyss from England, AND Penn and Teller, and I'm not even counting the Smorgasboard that is the Vegas strip right now.
Message: Posted by: Regan (Aug 4, 2004 01:52AM)
Zack,
I agree that the magic market has become somewhat flooded. I collect ball cards, but some time back there were so many being produced that it destroyed my interest.
I don't think I will ever tire of magic. You sound as if you are bored with magic. I don't understand why you said, "comedy takes real talent and magic just takes practice". Are you a magician or a stand-up comedian? Steve Martin has done both. And I know others that try, but can do neither. I respect both professions. Done well, BOTH require talent! If you are indeed bored with magic, no one can force you to watch. We're still free here in America. Maybe you can find a forum for stand-up comics.

Regan
Message: Posted by: bodiddly (Aug 4, 2004 02:49AM)
Wow, very well said. I do stand up comedy and comedy magic, so I like what your saying and it makes me think about some things.
Message: Posted by: Zack (Aug 5, 2004 01:47AM)
Regan,

I'm sorry you misunderstood my point. My point was NOT that the magic market had become flooded. What I'm saying is that Magic is less vulnerable than standup, because it is easier to produce magicians that are tolerable to watch. The active principle in the death of comedy was not market saturation, but a shortage of quality supply. A barely competant magician is better than a barely competant comic.

I agree that done RIGHT they both take talent. that's true of all performance arts.

I'm not bored with magic, and I'm not a standup.