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MagicMarker
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I don't know if this is in keeping with this forum, it's not a comment on any patter I've read here. It's just a general thing I've felt for a while when watching magicians. Even technically excellent magicians.

Most Patter Sucks.

We all seem so intent in finding a new original framework for this or that trick that it doesn't seem to matter if that framework is corny, unfunny etc.

A case in point and this isn't meant to offend or single out any particular magician, but I saw a reasonably good show a while back which opened with the magician bringing a briefcase on stage and opening it to find another briefcase, and another in that and so on, a la russian dolls.

In the last case he finds a load that's obviously way to big to fit into the case.
It was well executed, it's visually a very good trick, but his patter was a "Mission Impossible" theme with him radioing back to control about all these briefcases.
To be honest his attempt at acting like a secret agent was more annoying than entertaining and it took from the trick a little bit.

It would have been a much better trick if he had done it silently just getting more and more confused until finally he found the load he was looking for. If anyone know's Rowan Atkinson's character Mr Bean, you'll know what I'm talking about.

This magician isn't unique, Patter in Books, Patter in DVD's. Even when magicians show each other tricks they automatically go into these stories that just do nothing for the trick.

I actually like one thing about Blaine which is he say's almost nothing when he does a trick and when he does speak it isn't to make an unfunny joke.

Is it just me? Does anyone else feel like this?

I don't doubt that good patter can greatly add to an effect, that's not what this is about, I'm talking here about the amount of bad patter out there, not whether scripted patter in general is a good or bad idea.

-MM
irishguy
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I think the problem is people using patter that they think will be funny or witty without thinking about whether that particular patter suits them at all.

If fifteen guys tell the same joke, it won't be funny the same way all fifteen times. A few of them won't be funny at all. It isn't the joke, it is the presentation of the joke.

Same with magic. It isn't the trick, it is the presentation of it. The presentation depends upon the person. There really isn't a one-size-fits-all routine. Everything must be delivered individually.
Greg Arce
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Ditto on what Irishguy says. Patter, like the effects themselves, must be customized to fit your own personality, style and attitude.

Too many people buy the effect then either learn the patter from the instructions or just copy the style someone else used in a DVD for the same effect.

Think about when you listen to someone on American Idol or any singer that does someone else's song and also does it in the same style, rhythm and tempo... don't you think, "what the **** is original about that!?"

Greg
One of my favorite quotes: "A critic is a legless man who teaches running."
Daniel Faith
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Your not imagining anything. There's a lot of bad patter out there.
I think Irish guy nailed the biggest part of the problem.
Daniel Faith
Danny T.
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Irishguy has just closed the case.
Magic is a dream in which we put ourselves in the fantasy of the reality that surrounds us. It's a wishful thinking that all human kind posses. It's life itself. And I for one believe in it.
Danny T.
irishguy
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Quote:
On 2005-04-12 21:12, Danny T. wrote:
Irishguy has just closed the case.

Thanks.

But I will admit, I had to learn the hard way like most everyone else. Years ago, when starting out, my presentations were horrible. Absolutely schizophrenic how my patter and personality would shift from trick to trick in pale immitations of others. It took awhile to get the confidence and knowledge to do it my way.

Luckily I wasn't performing for audiences (just friends and family) at that stage so I probably didn't scare anyone off from magicians Smile
MagicMarker
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Actually, not to beat a dead horse but I don't think IrishGuy closed the case. Although I agree with everything he said, it isn't fully adressing the point I'm making.

I'm not really concerned with people copying other people's patter, in fact I think one of the problems is that people are so concerned with finding original patter that they end up writing crap patter just to avoid using someone elses.

I don't watch American Idol, but I have in my time seen a lot of cover bands and if they copy the original exactly while they are learning the mechanics of playing their instruments and playing live then I have no problem, It's better than having them murder a song by trying to be "original" before they've really learned their craft.

My problems are as follows:

1. MOST Patter even by experienced magicians sucks.
2. There's too much emphasis on finding new "original" patter and angles
this inevitably lead's to lower quality patter in the ever desperate attempt
to "put your own stamp on it". Sometimes a good cover version is better than
a bad original.
3. It's hard to be a stand up comedian, some stand up comedians aren't even that
good at it, yet magicians seem to think that it's something you can add as an
after thought. They're here to see a trick and any old joke I tell will be
good.

Some of it is as Irish guy said people taking other peoples patter that doesn't suit them, but I think a big chunk of the problem is people just writing bad patter.

Here's something for you all to consider. A magician would be better off with no prepared patter, than attempting to come up with a prepared script. Just be yourself, ad lib, talk to the audience and listen to them. Treat them as a friend that you're just showing a trick to.

After a couple of performances of a trick you'll start to find jokes and even stories that seem to work, the trick will evolve organically. You'll always be open to new things, rather than stuck on the train tracks of a prepared script.

Any thoughts.

-MM
Jonathan Townsend
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Many thoughts on that subject, agreed about several of the observations, though not many kind words about the suggestions.

Fred Kaps commented about how American magicians tend to talk down to their audiences.

We could use the meta-model to ask lots of questions and pull out the presuppositions in the following:
Quote:
My problems are as follows:

1. MOST Patter even by experienced magicians sucks.
2. There's too much emphasis on finding new "original" patter and angles
this inevitably leads to lower quality patter in the ever desperate attempt
to "put your own stamp on it". Sometimes a good cover version is better than
a bad original.
3. It's hard to be a stand up comedian, some stand up comedians aren't even that
good at it, yet magicians seem to think that it's something you can add as an
after thought. They're here to see a trick and any old joke I tell will be
good.


Instead, let's just try to remember how interesting it was to work with a director on one simples scripted work and how long it took to process that feedback and integrate it into a working presentation. You have done this at least once, right? No?

I'm not going to condemn folks for seeking something different in their presentations. That they are actively seeking implies some understanding that what they had or have seen so far does not fulfill thier needs. A positive intent and action. Such knowledge is a good thing. It might help if folks learned to read a bit better. Reading is fundamental. Writing is an advanced skill, and truly not one of the three "r"s. Those remain; reading, reasoning and rhetoric.

A simpler question might serve as a cogent response to the original question posed in this thread:

When you perform, are you doing it to fill time in your show or to communicate your artistic vision? These are distinct perspectives and usually need to be addressed separately. Once you own up to your motivations we can discuss effective methods to move toward your goals.
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MagicMarker
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Jonathan a very good post.

I should have started by saying that although I do tricks, I was not posting from the perspective of a magician but from the perspective of being in the Audience. Like most people here I am first and foremost a fan of magic, I love to watch it and be entertained by it, my desire to do it came from that.

I was writing having seen quite a lot of Patter that detracted from my enjoyment of the show. Like a really bad acting company doing a really good play, or a really bad cover band murdering your favourite Beatles track.

Now bringing the fact that I do some magic myself I then tried to understand the bad patter (it's not fair to say patter, it's the whole writing/acting mix, everything other than the magic if you get my drift).

My feeling is that in every book I've read on magic I've been told you must create a character, you must not follow this person's patter verbatim, you must create your own act. And I don't agree with that other than to say that it's not that simple. You can't just tell people learning one skill (Magic) that they must go and do something else (Write and develop characters) without pointing out that this isn't necessarily something that they will be able to do.

And even if you can create a killer character and script there's no guarentee that you have the acting skills necessary to pull it off convincingly and entertainingly.

I would qualify all of the advice about patter that I've read/heard by saying the following.

If you have a flair for writing, if you have a talent for developing characters
if you can act well enough that your character and your script are believable then do it, it will greatly enhance your performance.

If you are not a good writer then either put as much effort into acquiring that skill as you do into your double lift and classic pass, or else find a writer who can work with you.

If you are not a good actor then it doesn't matter what kind of script you have, no one will believe it, so either learn that skill, or just be yourself when you perform. Don't work from a script, be a magician showing someone a trick. Since that's who you really are then it will be believable.

>When you perform, are you doing it to fill time in your show or to communicate >your artistic vision?

I do tricks and routines, but I don't do shows. I may have a reasonably big crowd sitting around, but they didn't come to see me, if you get my drift.

To answer your question, when I do a routine, I'm ME doing some tricks. I might talk a little about the history of magic, I find it intersting, I'm not working from a script. I'm talking the same as I would be if I had a guitar in my hand and I was strumming a few tunes and chatting about songwriters and my favourite songs.

That could be a character, I could even script it and deliver it word for word, but I'm not a good enough actor to make it look relaxed and off the cuff, so I do off the cuff for real.

My artistic vision is, this magic stuff is really cool. It has a long history of really interesting people, let me show you some of their tricks and tell you a little bit about them.

Also I only mentioned Jokes because it seems to be the stlye of Patter that is the worst offender. But I've also heard bad patter that tried to be spooky, sinister, story based, etc. etc.

-MM
MagicMarker
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I've just noticed an excellent example of what I think could be very very good Patter. In the Cups and Balls thread.

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......45&2

I wonder if the difference is that in this case the magic is actually secondary it underpins the story, the story isn't being bolted on to the effect.

How many people here start out with a trick or a list of tricks and then try to fit jokes and patter and stories around the tricks. Perhaps as an audience member I wouldn't have such a problem with patter if it was approached from the opposite point of view.

Start out with the Story, the character, the situation, and then find ways to work your tricks into it, or find tricks that fit.

I guess the Tricks First example is like a Theatre writer starting out with a particular lighting effect and trying to wright a play that exploits it. a great writer might pull it off, but most writers will be left with a bad play and a cool lighting effect.

Anyhooo, I've had my rant, hopefully It's sparked a thought or two.

-MM
Caleb Strange
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MagicMarker, I agree with you that we should seek appropriate training and assistance in the separate aspects of our art.

However, I'd advise you to persist with a written script rather than trying to do 'off the cuff for real'. Natural onstage is not the same as natural off it, and of the several competent performers who do appear to extemporise, almost all of them are following a tight script. Of course, there are plenty of performers who don't bother with such a script, but they generally come across as incompetent/nervous/lobotomised/amateurish rather than natural.

Your guitar strumming example is a good one, I feel. Like you, I like to improvise (I play the piano), but I wouldn't dream of bashing away at the keys for a few minutes and then calling it a song. Also, I'd be pretty peeved if I paid to see a musician and then s/he 'kept it natural' for two hours, instead of performing crafted, carefully produced, and thoroughly rehearsed material.

Regards,

Caleb Strange.
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Jonathan Townsend
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MM, If you were to re-write your posts from the first person, owning both your motivations and your perspective, you would have a place to start. Nobody can do that for you. Your perceptions and feelings are yours. Likewise what you do with them is yours.

Some of us look in technology books for technology, storybooks for stories, and seek theatrical help from those who work in the theater.

You are "you" doing some tricks. What a remarkable statement. What is different about the "you" when you perform than from when you are not performing?
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Brent McLeod
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Does most patter suck?

In 6 out of 10 performers while performing certain effects -Yes!!!

Does the word patter suck?-Oh Yes!!

Script sounds better



Cheers everyone!
MagicMarker
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Jonathan, I'm not talking about me. I posed a question.

Does Most Patter Suck?

I wondered if others agreed. Clearly not too many do.
That's cool magicians are happy with the quality of patter.
I was speaking as a spectaror who isn't, and as a spectator who happens
to also do some tricks I was trying to get to the bottom of why (In my opinion)
the quality of patter on average isn't very high, and often detracts from the magic.

[Quote]You are "you" doing some tricks. What a remarkable statement. What is different about the "you" when you perform than from when you are not performing?

Why is that remarkable? Why do I have to be different when I perform?
When I do public speaking I am me, when I lecture (not on magic) I am me.
When I go to work and attend meetings I am me.

You could argue that I could make my magic more entertaining by assuming a character, but in my case I disagree, I don't feel I'm a good enough actor, it isn't something I'd be comfortable with, and I'm happy with the response I get doing it the way I do.

Let's cut to the chase here, when magicians perform the first thing they need from spectators is the suspension of disbelief. Now if the very character you assume is not believable and the patter you weave around your tricks is not believable, and it looks like even you don't believe it, then you've lost before you even take the cards out of the box.

That's how I have felt at a number of magic shows, and also when I'm being shown a trick one on one and the magician suddenly launches into patter.

If none of the magicians in the Magic Café happen to agree with me then that's fine. I'm just reporting from the perspective of the audience. I've never seen you perform and you might be excellent. I have seen and do recognise good use of patter too.

I liked Paul Daniels treatment of Max Malini's magic because even though
he became Malini, he did it convincingly enough.
I like *some* of Keith Barry's patter in Brainwashed, mainly because for big
chunks of the show he was just himself.
I like Derren Brown even though I know he's acting, he's believable, and even
when he ********'s me about how a trick is done, I still buy into his performance.
I liked Blaine's silent style, even though I hate his stunts.

These are all top notch guys and are for a reason, they CAN write and act.

My advice to many magicians who don't have these acting wrtiting skills, is
either master them or stop trying, be yourself, if the magic is string then
it's better to have no patter than bad unbelievable patter.

Just an opinion. Clearly not one that magicians want to hear or agree with.

No problem.

-MM
Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2005-04-13 19:05, MagicMarker wrote:
Jonathan, I'm not talking about me. I posed a question.

Does Most Patter Suck? ...

You can only work on yourself.

If you want, we can discuss the difference between the "you" doing tricks and you when not doing tricks. It is from that difference that much script and character and "magic related stuff" can be worked on.

Do I cringe when I see MANY acts. Yes. I watch most with the sound off. I tend to watch the audience as they politely deal with the lame jokes and out of context/character aspects of the performance. I try to learn from every performance I see and attend.
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irishguy
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Quote:
On 2005-04-13 19:05, MagicMarker wrote:
Why is that remarkable? Why do I have to be different when I perform?
When I do public speaking I am me, when I lecture (not on magic) I am me.
When I go to work and attend meetings I am me.

You could argue that I could make my magic more entertaining by assuming a character, but in my case I disagree, I don't feel I'm a good enough actor, it isn't something I'd be comfortable with, and I'm happy with the response I get doing it the way I do.

Well, I myself don't use a "character" either. While I am myself, I do tend to be maybe less than completely myself. For instance, I am normally fairly shy and reserved with strangers...obviously I cannot be that way when performing so I behave as if these are friends. It isn't "acting" as that is exactly the way I would behave with friends. Obviously, I have to put on the happy mask when I am actually in a bad mood or an audience member is p*73hg me off.

But I don't use a "character" and I don't feel it is wrong for you not to either. But I am lucky as well. I am naturally good at keeping attention and befriending people. Others aren't that way and therefore I can see the argument for "acting"...although another argument could simply point out that maybe that person should find another line of work Smile
Jonathan Townsend
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One of the differences between the two "you"s HAS to be the magic. How does the fictitious/character you react to magic? Where does that person keep magic? Where to they get the magic? What does it mean to them to use magic? Or to even see magic?

Lots of acting work involved if you want to make your performance work.
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irishguy
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Quote:
On 2005-04-13 20:46, Jonathan Townsend wrote:

One of the differences between the two "you"s HAS to be the magic. How does the fictitious/character you react to magic?


Same way everyone else is: entertained.

Quote:
Where does that person keep magic? Where to they get the magic?


I don't pretend to be a wizard. I'm not summoning dark forces.

Quote:
What does it mean to them to use magic?


Entertainment.
Jonathan Townsend
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Okay, guess we gotta go back to basics.

How do you account for the magic in your performance?
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irishguy
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Quote:
On 2005-04-13 21:10, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Okay, guess we gotta go back to basics.

How do you account for the magic in your performance?


Quite simply: I don't.

I don't need to explain how I can do things. I simply need to provide an entertaining time for the audience.
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