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BrianMillerMagic
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At the risk of having stones thrown at me, I'll say that I have no formally studied comedy and yet I do advertise and perform a "Comedy/Magic" show. I started crafting it a year or so ago and since then it has grown by leaps and bounds. The way I started was with my favorite comedians, favorite magicians, and my favorite comedy magicians. What works and what doesn't? It started by borrowing some of their routines and presentations, and since then has become more and more personal.

Everytime I say a line off the cuff or impromptu and it gets a good laugh or a nice reaction, I make a mental note and later jot it down. I spend hours a day writing patter, scripts, presentations, etc to keep my show entertaining. I do not claim to be a comedian, but I do like to convey the idea that my show is not a traditional, boring, stuff magic show. It's light-hearted and comical in many respects.

Having said all that, I do plan on taking classes in comedy and actually doing some real studying from books when I find the free time to do it. I wish I would be in town to attend the Comedy Magic Seminar in Niagra that is coming up very shortly.

I also do NOT buy "comedy magic" tricks and perform them (except for the Silks to Bra as someone else mentioned). My material is the regular parlor magic that I use comedic presentations with. I too have found that any product termed "comedy magic" is probably not funny or magical.
The Village Idiots
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As I look over the screen on my laptop to my book shelf I realize there are a few other books worth mentioning. Not all as great as the ones I listed above however worth mentioning.

Hunter S. Thompson is always a great read.

Steve Allen "Make 'Em Laugh" has it's moments.

George Burns "All My Best Friends" will give you some chuckles. Gracie was the true comic. George always admitted that.

Kelsey Grammar "So Far..." is inlightening.

"The Essential Lenny Bruce" is rather dark but he was a visionary.

"The Groucho Letters" shows you how bitter yet funny a man he was.

I recently came across a book in a crew library on a ship that I saved it's life. (no one would treasure it as much as a comic, especially a with a crew of Bulgarians and Philippinos) I have yet to read it but will pack it in my suit case tonight. "Take My Life" about Eddie Cantor and friends written with Jane Kesner Ardmore. It is old school but if you are a avid student, the history is part of the future.

I do have my share of "How to write comedy" books but can't really say one stands out more than the rest. My first book that put me on track was "Comedy Writing Step By Step." by Gene Perret. It has some valid points as well as excercises to put a new writer on course.

And if you just want plain silly then Leslie Neilsen' "The Naked Truth" will fill the bill.

The most important rule about being a comedy writer is you aren't one unless you write. Sure, some start out by "borrowing lines from friends" but the most important thing is to write. About you and what effects you. Look at Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. That is what they did. God bless them both. I know they are not what you could compare to ah,, oh lets say, Harry Anderson, but they are gods of comedy.

Mostly, comics just look at the world differently. Some comics need the bottle with the smoke to get the comedy genii others are funny plain sober. The previously mentioned are the ones the either die young or burn out like Robin Williams.

Retards,
Will
Some are born idiots.

Some are made idiots.

Some have idiocy thrust upon them.
Dannydoyle
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Wow not a writer unless you write?

Holy cow eliminate the other 4 pages THAT is brilliant! and I mean it.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
The Village Idiots
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Thank you Danny. I didn't coin the phrase but have taken it to heart. I write down every funny thought. Well, I try. Cocktail napkins and backs of bussiness cards fill my desk with silly notes. I carry at all times a legal pad that I should make sure my wife destroys should I come to an untimly death. Some of my funny thoughts are a little more crass than I would want my son to read.

Out to sea now. Same ship different day.

Sillily,
Will
Some are born idiots.

Some are made idiots.

Some have idiocy thrust upon them.
Joey Evans
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Great Books!!
Don't forget Bob Newhart, I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This. Great book.

I love reading books and I have most of the ones you mentioned as I am on a boat or plane quite often and want to read. However, there are many who do not read that often, as they don't have the time. I think people get their comedic knowledge from different ways. I know many who making a good living and are simply hilarious, but haven't read a book on comedy or taken a class. It helped me, however, I probably read these more fun than actual studying. I won't put the essence of comedy in a box and say the only way is to study up on it. I will say, however, it may help.
The Visual Comedy and Magic of Joey Evans

http://www.Evansmagic.com/



The Impossible Has Never Been So Funny!
The Village Idiots
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Joey,

That is the next book on my list of need to read. My lesser half, Wally, has just read it and enjoyed it.

I study comedy for my love of it not that it will necessarily help my hilarity. I have found that most of the best comics come from the saddest of lives. I grew up in a Beaver Cleaver household so that perhaps retarded my humor however not my love for it. My family did love to laugh we just didn't have it as rough as Pryor or Fields or the Marx Brothers or on and on.

I do believe that every great comic at least studied the guy that followed them onstage until the day they were the headliner. So you can study with books, videos, classes or by watching it live but it is all study. A carpenter can't just pick up a hammer and nails and build a house with out studying.

So, study away, and build.
Some are born idiots.

Some are made idiots.

Some have idiocy thrust upon them.
Geoff Weber
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I did a couple years of stand up comedy open mics. I suggest every aspiring comedy magician do this. Its just good training. The biggest thing you learn is to start writing down your funny ideas. Then EDITING your funny ideas to strip away the non-funny stuff. And by funny, I mean funny to the audience, not what you think is funny. So tape your performances to see where you got laughs.
God-glorified
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The "Great Comedians Talk about Comedy" books are also great, as they include interviews of some of the best (including Jonathan Winters, the "original" Robin Williams) and no, I don't think Robin Williams has burned out, his evil and unfunny identical twin has locked him up just like Jay Sankey and is now.
However, This month at the Borgata in Atlantic City (20 minutes from me) Robin is back to do stand-up............FINALLY get away from the camera and onto the stage before trying to sequel Mrs. Doubtfire!! (let the good things be)
Ephes. 2:8-9



For by GRACE are ye saved through faith; and that NOT OF YOURSELVES: it is the gift of God: NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.
The Sorcerer
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There are still some gems in Robert Orben, although a little dated.
Yellowjacket
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This is a great thread. Danny, one of the best questions I have heard asked lately.

It is interesting that if I go to one hundred magician’s websites, 90 of them claim to be comedy magicians. Yet the comedy section at the magic café is a rather underused. I wonder why that is.

My belief is that most magicians simply purchase funny effects and then claim to be comedy magicians. They believe that the added word comedy will increase their sales. Most magicians do not understand the subtle difference between the words comedy and humor. Oh well.

Another point I would like to make is that I believe you are either funny or you are not. That’s it. All the study in the world will not make you a comedian unless you already have that built in ability. Now, if you find you do, then to get to work because you must study to get really good. I was at the house of a self-confessed Comedy Magician, I noticed he had no, zero, nada, books on comedy. Interesting. I asked about this. “Oh, I’m a visual learner” was the reply. So, I asked about Jack Benny. His response: Who?

Simply reading comedy books with one-liners in them does not constitute study. That is like reading a trick book and then saying you are a magician. Understanding premise, set-up, economy of words, timing, pauses, and sentence structure is study.

Chris Carter: Great reference on the Dustin Hoffman story. I had always bought into that old tale myself and you are right, it still is a good story.

The Sankey book on comedy is fair at best. I have read so many magicians hail this book as amazing. I think this is nothing more than magician’s worship of a magician. In the real world of stand-up comedy that book would not even be noteworthy.

Most magicians also do not understand the impact of mixing comedy and magic together. It is a difficult and volatile mix. Comedy can easily take away the astonishment of an effect. Comedy in magic many, many times denigrates into a corny mix of sad hack material. “no, the clean one.” I have heard so many conversations about comedy magic that ask this question: How much magic do you have in your show compared to the comedy? Then they come up with some kind of equation to determine if it is a comedy magic show. Ok, if you think like this, then you are not a comedy magician.

Now the old adage about if you ana-lyize comedy you will kill it. What? This is usually said by those that don’t study comedy. Go sit with some real comedians one night. I mean the ones that are really working and making a living at it. See if they don’t have a very clear understanding of the principles of comedy. They will throw out more concepts, rules, laws of comedy then most magicians know about magic. I remember sitting backstage one night with somewhat well known comedians, the discussion was on jokes that they had worked on that did not work. No matter what they did they could not get these jokes to work. As they discussed the subject, it was impressive to hear the principles and concepts that they all agreed on yet when applied could not get that one joke to get the laugh. It was an amazing night.

My thoughts.

YellowJacket
Salby
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I received my undergraduate degree at Ohio University.

There (at the time (1989)-- Maybe still now), I took a Journalism class... COMEDY WRITING. It was taught by Melvin Helitzer.

In the course, it taught you how to write comic captions, greeting cards, introduction of a guest for a lecture/show, stand-up comedy, etc.

My final exam was simply to perform 5 minutes of my own material at a local nightclub. The audience was about 300 people and THEY had to grade me:

"If you get a standing ovation, that's an A. Enthusiastic applause is a B. Polite applause is a C. If the audience throws fruit at you, you get an F. But if the fruit is edible, your grade is bumped up to a D."

I used magic in my routine and (by the way) I got the standing ovation.

The national magazine, Newsweek, was at this particular show and I was even quoted in the Dec. 4, 1989 issue (Gorbachev was on the cover-- Geez, the memories).... My only "publication".

This was our textbook at the time:

http://www.amazon.com/Comedy-Writing-Sec......98795109

It was a fun class and the 1st one in the USA.
You know how to make God laugh?........... Tell him your plans!!!
SWNerndase
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Hey gang--

Just wanted to add a couple of books that I found interesting/informative that I didn't see mentioned. This is a long thread so forgive me if I just missed them:

"The Last Laugh" by Phil Berger, and "Comic Lives" by Betsy Borns. While not "how to" comedy books, they have a lot to say about funny people and being funny. Both recommended reading for aspiring or accomplished comedy writers.

In other news, since Judy Carter has been mentioned in this thread several times, it seems her books about how to be original and funny are decidedly unfunny in the eyes of NBC, Leno, Rudner, Brogan, Madigan and others:

<http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6768724>

SWN
SWNerndase
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Ahem. My mistake. So sorry. The link above is about Judy Brown, NOT Judy Carter.

There's nothing to see here, move along...

SWN
Autumn Morning Star
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I studied acting and comedy in college. Actually, I started out studying to be a surgeon and ended up being a magician. I still get to cut folks in half and nobody ever sues me for malpractice if I goof up. Ain't magic grand?
Wonder is very necessary in life. When we're little kids, we're filled with wonder for the world - it's fascinating and miraculous. A lot of people lose that. They become cynical and jaded, especially in modern day society. Magic renews that wonder.
Doug Henning
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I've studied with a few national comedy writers, and read almost every book on the subject. It can be taught and learned! Much of what I teach is technique with lots of advice on where to use comedy in your act -- beyond the simple telling of jokes.

The two biggest mistakes I see in magicians are 1) mistreating volunteers & 2) doing someone else's material (hack material included.) I'll expound more here on either, if people are interested.

Comedy Writer

PS New web site up soon!
Comedy Writer
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...And for those in Minnesota, starting a comedy writing class next week!
( and its geared toward professional entertainers.)

CW
Magic1
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Might I also invite fellow magicians to check out

http://www.Standupcomedyclass.com

A great resource and website! Many thanks.
SSG
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From what I understand, comedy is a quick transition from high status to low status, or vice versa.

The proverbial example is a person slipping on a banana peel. It's funnier to see a company CEO, dressed to the nines, slip on the banana than a homeless person. Why? Because the CEO has more status. When he slips, his status instantly diminishes and we see him as regular human being.

Good comedians can give or receive status to anyone or anything.
Lee Darrow
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If I xan drop an addiional rock into this pond, I havent really seen anyone talk about the TYPES of comedy approaches that one can take as a performer.

Some of the obvious ones that come to mind are:

Satire (Shelly Berman comes immediately to mind)

Wordplay (Norm Crosby, punning)

Parody (PDQ Bach)

Mimicry (such as the plethora of Bush imitators, Stephen Colbert)

Observational/P.O.V social commentary (Jon Stewart

Non-sequiturs and mismatches (Stephen Wright is great at this, so was Norm Crosby)

Shaggy Dog Stories (Jay Marshall was a master of this form)

One liners (can you say "Henny Youngman?" I KNEW you could!)

Sponnerisms (technically a subset of wordplay)

Ethnic (Mencia, Lopez, Borat)

To name a few.

But, when I look around at comedy magicians, I see that very few of these forms (as well as several others I have not mentioned, are not well represented, if they are represented at all by the performers in the field.

One has to wonder about that.

Comments?

Lee Darrow, C.H.
http://www.leedarrow.com
<BR>"Because NICE Matters!"
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