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jonthewierdo
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Hi Guys,

Heres another section from the manual I am putting together on how to be an Alternative and Mainstream Stand up Comedian.....

I I'd post this advice which I have found out through experinece ove rthe past 16+ yrs FREE to the group as it may be of much use to Comedy Magicians or those wishing to add a measure of comedy to their acts....

SOME TIPS ON BEING A FUNNIER COMEDIAN.

As you may have noticed already, throughout this manual I have when listing jokes to use in the routine made it clear on every occasion when a (pause) is important to make the gag funnier.

A mistake often made by aspiring Comedians is that they often forget the comedic power of a pause or to put it the another way the power of silence.

This brief pause when made at the right time gives the audience just long enough to compute what you have said so far, meaning that after the short pause when you hit them with the punchline (the funny bit) that they are instantly able to register in their minds why it is indeed funny and as such are more likely to laugh.

This technique is often called “Comedy Timing” and is the something that makes the difference between a joke getting no laugh or getting a laugh!

Indeed it is also this technique which makes the difference between a joke getting a small laugh or a belly laugh, and in short is the most important thing about becoming a Comedian that I could ever teach you.

And its because of this techniques importance that I have at all times throughout this manual indicated where short pauses are necessary to make the reaction to each of the gags bigger than they may be otherwise!

To this end I would also advise you to watch as many videos featuring stand-up comedians performing their act as possible, and as you do pay close attention to the times when they pause briefly before delivering the punchline to their audiences.

Although experience is by far the best teacher in life, observation comes a very close second and you will learn much by emulating (not copying) the style and manner of established successful comedians.

Another technique of much value is “Pointing” a gag as it is called in the trade. The easiest way to do this is to deliver the lead in of the joke in a conversational manner, then pause briefly as explained earlier before delivering the punchline in a slightly more forceful/enthusiastic tone of voice.

For example take the one liner joke of: “Did you hear about the gay magician? He disappeared with a puff!”

Whilst it may get a laugh if read out parrot fashion from the page it becomes funnier when a slight pause is inserted at the correct time as follows:

“Did you hear about the gay magician?” (Pause) “He disappeared with a puff!”

The joke becomes even funnier to an audience hearing it if you “point” the gag, in otherwords make it obvious that what they are now hearing is the punchline and the time they are expected to laugh, for example:

“Did you hear about the gay magician?” (Pause) “HE DISSAPEARED WITH A PUFF!”

In the above example the opening line is delivered in a conversational tone of voice as if asking a genuine question, then you pause briefly to give the punchline more impact when you deliver it and finally the punchline (section in block capitals) is delivered in a slightly higher/more excited & enthusiastic tone of voice which in itself signals to the audience that this is the punchline and time for them to laugh!

Due to the fact that you will be following this formula for each gag you tell, the audience will become conditioned to this style of delivery and as such it becomes automatic for them to laugh when your voice tone changes and the punchline is delivered.

It is this technique which accounts for the fact that even very successful comedians can get away with some fairly poor material during the middle of their act, as by this time the audience has become conditioned to laughing as the performers voice tone changes.

It is also important to note that when an audience laughs you should give them time to laugh. This may sound obvious but the number of times I’ve seen a comedian deliver lines one after the other without giving the audience time to laugh is amazing.

Just as the slight (Pause) prior to delivering the punchline signals the audience to get ready to laugh and enables them to fully appreciate what you’ve just said, so a very slight pause at the end of a gag once the punchline has been delivered gives the audience time to laugh.

It’s also worth mentioning that the more concise and direct your gags are the bigger laughs they are likely to get! By this I mean always tell a joke in such a manner that the least possible number of words are used to get the joke across. The reason being that the more direct/concise the wording of your gags is, the easier it is for your audiences to compute what you are saying quickly and as a consequence the easier it is for them to find it funny and as a result laugh!

An example of a joke being told using more words than necessary would be as follows:

“I’ve got a very strange star sign me, not normal like you lot, oh no I was not born in the normal way (pause) I was a test tube baby! (Pause) I was born under the sign of Pyrex!”

OK so the gags still funny, but it becomes funnier to an audience when you get straight to the point and keep things as concise or short and sweet as possible, for example:

“I was a Test Tube Baby” (Pause) “I was born under the sign of Pyrex!”

This is exactly the same gag, but delivered in a far more concise manner and as such far more likely to get a bigger response from your audience.

So at all times when writing routines of your own remember the principle of KISS = Keep It Short & Simple!

Another valuable comedy technique to make some of your gags seem funnier than they actually are is to use what we call in the comedy trade a “Foil”.

Now quite simply a “Foil” is an audience member sat somewhere near the front that appears to have a good sense of humour who as comedians we keep referring to at various points during our acts.

Read the patter routine explained in this manual and you will see examples of several gags which are made funnier because I am apparently talking (directing the gag) at a particular person in the audience.

Usually this is done in the manner that they are the only person in the room that has misunderstood what you are saying, then later in the routine when they apparently misunderstand something again and you point this out to the audience it becomes even funnier that you keep referring to them.

Effectively they become your unpaid comedy partner and the more you refer to them the more it turns into a running gag, and as with all running gags they become funnier the more they are repeated at intervals during your routine.

You can also use a “foil” in the manner that you keep referring to them because they are the person enjoying themselves most, for example if they laugh and no-one else does you can point them out and say “Move around Love and tell people what’s Funny!” or if she is the one who claps loudest you could say “Can you move around and make it sound like I’m doing well please?”.

Backtracking is another useful comedy technique which you will see lots of Comedians using. By backtracking I mean that early on in a routine you tell a joke and then throughout your routine at unexpected times the punchline to other jokes refers back to the joke you made much earlier in your act which both makes you look very clever as a comedian to your audience and as I’ve found guarantees a much bigger laugh for jokes which may not even be very funny, just because they cleverly relate back to a joke/punchline made earlier in your routine.

Watch the videos/acts of several professional stand up comedians and what I have just explained will become much clearer to you, but to try and illustrate more clearly in writing what I mean here is an example of some gags which all interrelate to each other and as such when spread at intervals throughout your routine would be exploiting the “backtracking” technique as each gag or punchline refers back to ones made earlier in the act. So here is an example of what I mean:

“Golden Eagles are funny creatures (pause) they nearly die every time they make love (pause) seriously (pause) when they make love the male mounts the female Golden Eagle and starts the funny business (pause) but the moment he enters her both of them stop flying and start plummeting towards the ground at high speed! (Pause) And then if they are lucky they finish having sex in time to split apart and fly off just seconds before crashing to their death on the ground! (Pause) Now be honest girls if you were a female Golden Eagle (pause) Before it was to late You’d fake an orgasm wouldn’t you?”

THAT’S THE INITIAL GAG WHICH WE WILL NOW KEEP REFERRING BACK TO!

“I’ve recently turned almost Vegetarian (pause) now by almost Vegetarian I mean I won’t eat any meat that’s been killed on purpose, but I will eat meat that’s died of natural causes, which is quite handy really because a Butcher has just opened near me which only sells meat that has died of natural causes! (Pause) The other week I bought a Chicken that had died crossing the road (pause) then there was the Cow that fell down the stairs (pause) the hedgehog that tried crossing the road to meet his flatmate (pause) And he’s always got thousands of Lemmings in stock (pause) But best of all was the other week when I got a good deal on a pair of Golden Eagles!

THE PUNCHLINE OF GOLDEN EAGLES BRINGS BACK VISIONS OF THEM CRASHING TO EARTH AS THEY MAKE LOVE AND THIS IS WHAT GETS THE BIG LAUGH!!

“Last Christmas I bought my wife two books (pause) The Joy of Sex and The Joy of Cooking (pause) she keeps getting the two books mixed up (pause) now every Christmas she serves us up a Pair of Golden Eagles in one of 69 different alluring positions!”

ONCE AGAIN THIS RELATES BACK TO GOLDEN EAGLES HAVING SEX!

“Last time I was in America I noticed that on their coins it says In God We Trust! (Pause) and on the coins is a picture of a Golden Eagle which I think is very apt (pause) let’s face it if you’re a Golden Eagle each time you make Love you are quite literally putting your Trust in God!”

AND YET AGAIN IT REFERS BACK TO GOLDEN EAGLES MAKING LOVE!

In the examples just given we have four very different gags, all of which seem to be of a very different nature and yet all of which end with references to Golden Eagles and/or Golden Eagles making Love.

During an actual Comedy Routine these examples jokes which relate to each other would of course be interspersed with other jokes which are about entirely different subjects and as such means that each time one of these jokes referring to Golden Eagles suddenly pops up it will instantly draw a far greater reaction from the audience than if you just told all 4 of the relating gags in a row.

Now that I’ve drawn your attention to this technique, watch as many comedians at work as you can and it will become blindingly obvious to you just how often they use this ploy and also how effective it really is.

These days, especially in Alternative Comedy Venues many audiences will not tolerate Racist, Sexist, Ageist, Sizest or in fact any other form of Ist style comedy which is directed at a particular minority or group of people!

Through personal experience I have found that the best way around this is to either direct these sorts of gags at Celebrities or Politicians, who for some reason are still viewed as fair game or indeed to direct them at yourself!

You will have noticed I’m sure that throughout the routine I detail in this manual I direct all the potentially questionable jokes such as those about Gays, Lesbians & Bisexuals directly at myself.

By so doing I have found with particular reference to the Alternative Comedy venues that I can still get away with telling these jokes as the audience don’t take offence at me taking the **** out of myself and as such don’t view it as an attack on any minority or particular group of people.

This is a very important point to keep in mind when writing your own routines, as it means that with a little thought and common-sense you can quite easily adapt or alter an existing gag of a questionable nature so that it becomes either directed at yourself or at a famous celebrity or politician who is seen as fair game by the audience.

And incidentally however old the joke may be, if you adapt it so that it is directed at someone currently in the news, then by your audience it will also be viewed as a topical gag.

An example of such a gag that can be altered on a daily basis to appear relevant to whoever is the person held up to hate that day by the media is:

“What’s the difference between (whoever) and a bucket of ****?” (Pause) “The Bucket!”

With a gag such as this it is still funny with whatever name you use and as such using the name of someone held up to hate in the media means that you instantly look like a Comedian who is up to date and using topical material in their act.

From the point of view of delivering your material, my personal advice is to make your style as conversational as possible, word your routine so that each of your jokes flows logically into the next one as then not only is this good continuity, but also it sounds as though you are just telling a group of friends a story which happens to have lots of humorous bits along the way!

This means that the audience will start to feel involved and warm to you as if you are a friend of theirs telling them a story.

No longer is it a psychological situation of us and them (Comedian against audience) but rather it is now a case of us all together, one friend telling all his other friends a funny story.

Using this approach it does not matter if a few of your gags don’t get any laughs (die) as your friends (the audience) will be eagerly awaiting your next funny line as you continue to tell them this logical sounding story.

Read the routine I have detailed in this manual and you will see that I do indeed practise what I preach, incidentally as you read through the routine again, notice how easy it is to remember the correct order of the gags and the way they logically link together.

This is made easy due to the fact that they have all been linked together as a story and as such it makes it easier for us as human beings to remember and then relate back in the correct manner to our friends (audiences) at a later time.

Another useful comedy technique is the double punchline, here you tell a joke and deliver its punchline and then as the laughter dies down you immediately hit the audience with another funny punchline, relating to exactly the same joke as you told a few seconds earlier and as they don’t expect this double whammy it becomes twice as funny to them! A couple of examples are:

“At School I didn’t get any A levels, I didn’t get any O levels (Pause) But I did get three Spirit Levels (Pause whilst laughs die down and then into) Well the teachers Always said I was Well Balanced!”

With the above example the phrase “Well Balanced” relates to “Spirit Levels” and so it’s a double punchline for the same joke!

Another example of a double punchline is:

“Whilst In Ireland I bumped into my Uncle Paddy walking down the road with the front door under his arm! (Pause) He told me he was going to get a key cut (Pause whilst laughs subside) but he told me not to worry as I could still get into the house as he’d left the window open!”

Once you’ve read the previous two examples a few times I’m sure you’ll see what I mean about a double punchline for the same joke being such a useful comedy technique!

Situation comedy can also be put to good use in the stand up comedians act, and here by situation comedy I mean something that unexpectedly (from audiences point of view) happens there and then in the situation you are in, which in itself is obviously funny!

A couple examples of what I mean being:

“Could we just lower the lights Please” (Here you pause and nothing happens) “You just can’t get the staff these days!”

OR:

“Could we just lower the lights Please” (Here as you pause a prop spotlight made of foam drops from the Flys above the stage onto your head knocking you to the floor, then as you get up apparently dazed you casually say) “Well Maybe not that Low!”

In both these examples you have apparently from an audience point of view made the best comedy possible out of an unexpected situation whereas in truth we know that we have planned these things to happen on cue every time we perform.

Combine everything that I have taught you so far with the apparent ability to be able to ad-lib and respond to hecklers or audience comments as they happen and you are well on the way to becoming a successful professional stand up comedian.

And as I explained earlier ad-libs, most of the time only appear to be ad-lib whereas in truth you are just relying on one of the heckler stoppers or other one liners stored in your memory banks for use in such occasions.

At this point it would be wise for me to explain that the reason I have decided to teach you how to become a stand up comedian by using my five card repeat routine is because that is how I first got the confidence to become one myself.

Initially I figured that with some playing cards in my hand and a trick to perform around which the gags fitted that it was just like doing my comedy magic act and as such it instantly gave me enough confidence to go out on stage and do it.

However as time went on and my five card repeat routine stretched from 5 minutes to half an hour and I realised that I was now mainly just telling gags, I had effectively become a good confident comedian without even realising it.

In all honesty I can now go onto a stage and easily do 30 minutes or more of stand up comedy without any props and indeed on many occasions have done exactly this, but most of the time I still structure my stand up routine around the five card repeat making the final point of my act throwing the five cards into the air as I say “I just couldn’t find out how it was done!”

The main reason for this being that this in itself is a very good applause cue for the audience and has proven to be over many years a very strong and memorable way to end my stand up comedy act.

Practising the delivery of your gags before live audiences is by far the most valuable thing you can do and to this end there are countless Comedy Clubs springing up all over the place that will happily let you do an “Open Spot” at their venue before a paying comedy audience.

Do as many of these as you can until you feel confident within yourself that you can be and are funny and then its time to unleash your act on paying clients, which ironically may be obtained along the way as you do the “Open Spots” at the comedy clubs as if you get a good reaction it often leads to paid bookings!

Whilst it may at first glance appear that I have told you very little in this manual, please take my word for it that using the techniques that I have revealed to you WILL MAKE YOU A FAR BETTER COMEDIAN WITH EASE!

Now serach out my other posting which details my 5 Card repeat comedy routine and all of the abov advice will make even more sense to you

Hope this has been useful

Jon
jonthewierdo
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Thanks for the PM's I have received from people saying how useful this information is!

I'm glad some of you found it useful....

Would be nice if you posted your comments here though

LOL

Jon
nathanallen
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Wow Jon, excellent column.

You... you don't sleep much do you?
Nathan Allen, The Maniac of Magic
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To buy a prop is nothing.
To write a good routine is something.
To really entertain an audience is everything.
jonthewierdo
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Don't worry I only had to copy and paste this as its a chapter from my forthcoming boook on how to become a Comedy Entertainer!

Hope this and my other postings have been of use!
Al Angello
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Hi Jon
It is good to hear some sound advise from a man who knows what he is talking about, I also do standup and I agree with everything you said, but unlike you I can not do a comedy monolog without my props. I also feel that you must be born funny in order to be funny on stage.
Break a leg my friend
Al
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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JesterMan
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Jon,

I can see what you've said used to great success (of course) on the evening talk shows. Good information!

AL, I should have a leg up, then; I came out 'cracked' end first.
JM Smile Smile

Balloons, Magic, Mayhem & More!
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"... destined to take the place of the MudShark in your mythology... " FZ
Al Angello
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JesterMan
I did not say you have to be a breached birth in order to be funny on stage. I said telling jokes is an ability you are born with. JesterMan I now know more about you than I ever wanted to.
Al
Al Angello The Comic Juggler/Magician
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http://home.comcast.net/~juggleral/
"Footprints on your ceiling are almost gone"
Bill Ligon
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Juggleral, I think you missed the point. He said that he was born funny (i.e., funnily).
Author of THE HOLY ART: Bizarre Magick From Naljorpa's Cave. NOW IN HARDCOVER! VIEW: <BR>www.lulu.com/content/1399405 ORDER: http://stores.lulu.com/naljorpa
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nathanallen
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Hey Juggler Al - Just try opening your Prop show with a few minutes of original, or even stock, stand-up stuff. You'd be surprised how much of an advantage we have, as performing... performers........ as opposed to some cat at open mic night who's never been onstage before. Despite what you may think, you've probably already got the "timing". Oh, and carry a digital voicerecorder around with you everywhere. Good material can pop up at any time!
Hey Jon, when does the book come out, and what are some of the topics going to be discussed?
-Nathan
http://www.NathanAllenMagic.com
Nathan Allen, The Maniac of Magic
www.maniacofmagic.com

To buy a prop is nothing.
To write a good routine is something.
To really entertain an audience is everything.
Al Angello
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Nathan
I started doing comedy at open mike's, and you are right there is no one there with any talent at all. I start my comedy club show with a 10 minute exadurated story of my life monolog, but funny juggling, and funny magic is where I get my biggest laughs. It's kinda like a street show only with a bouncer.
Al
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"Footprints on your ceiling are almost gone"
Mark Storms
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Thanks very much for your insight jon. Very good column. I have always noticed comedians employing these techniques but it was very nice of you to detail them and bring them out in the open. When are you releasing your book?
Find out what you cannot do.., Then go and do it!
toomuchmagic
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Did anyone else (pause) not get the gay magician joke?
magicgeorge
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Maybe it doesn't work in the US but over here Poof is slang for a gay man. So it's a pun: puff(smoke)/poof(slang). It's not a very funny gag anyhow no matter where you put your pause.

George
harris
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I like combining watching and listening to current and comedians from the early 1900.

What is old can be new again. Your quotes were from some very funny comedians.
I had to go from being a take off of others to risking sharing more of me on stage.

Although it is risky, the payoff is great.

Fear has been one of my greatest teachers.

So has time with theatre and improvisation groups.

Growing up I thought being a great entertainer would be easy.

This nearly normal guy was very inconsistent in my early days of comedy & magic.

I am still in the learning process. Listening to other comedians, and watching there audiences led me to the importance of listening to my own audiences.

My nearly normal wife's undergraduate degree in speech and theatre is an asset to my career. Lately her set design experience has been again drawn upon.

Suggested reading from my nearly normal book list....

Herman's Foreign Dialects to Jay Sankey's Zen and the Monologue.

Be safe, well and you.


Harris Deutsch
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Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
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music, magic and marvelous toys
http://magician.org/member/drlaugh4u
pikacrd
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Is the contest on again?????
“Indubitably, Magic is one of the subtlest and most difficult of the sciences and arts. There is more opportunity for errors of comprehension, judgment and practice than in any other branch of physics”. William S. Burroughs 1914-1997 American Writer
modern_sorcery
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It's very hard to tell a joke about someone out of your peer group and not offend a number of people.

I think the gay joke could be delivered by an out gay person, otherwise it is just tacky, and bordering hateful sounding.

Too many different people become our audiences, we need to show respect to all of our audience members.

(I don't think anything was bad intended in the first post, which was a good, informative post.)
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