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NJJ
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Since this section of the Café has slowly switched focused to games and in jokes, I thought it might be nice to start a thread that brings us back to magic and stand up comedy.

I started doing 'straight' stand up comedy in 2000 and found it very hard from the start. After many years of performing magic comedy I found that my magic and comedy had become crutches for one another.

I would allow poor magic into my act because of the laughs I was getting. For exmaple, I would perform the vanishing bandanna to peels of laughter knowing full well that a large percentage of the audience knew *** well where the banana was. However, thinking myself the new Tommy Cooper, I let it pass. Likewise, I'd slip in jokes that were not that funny and let comedy mishaps slip from my mind rest assured in the fact that I was a magician and not a comedian. The words "No, not that hand, the clean one." have passed my lips too many times.

So by performing straight stand up comedy, I suddenly realised that a) I was not as funny as I thought I was and b) my magic was not as strong as it needed to be. Living in a small city with no open mike spots, I would devoured every text on comedy I could find and write and rewrite material. I became obsessed with 'punch words' 'laughs per minute' and other comedy 'rules' I learned from experience to be more theory than practice. My first joke: "I want to open a company that sells clear coffins. I'll call it "Remains To Be Seen." "

Each fortnight I would travel three hours to Sydney to perform in the open mike sections at the Comedy Store and the other open mike nights. I also started my own comedy room at home, padding the bill with musicians, poets and magicians to get stage time. I won a couple of comedy competitions where the competition including a homeless guy reading from Mills and Boon novels and a DJ obsessed with toilet paper.

At the same time, the local agents got wind that I was doing stand up and started asking me to do gigs. Mostly small scale stuff, I was doing 10-15 spots and sales conventions for $300-$400. Unfortunately, at this early stage I was not ready to strike out with pure comedy. While I wasn't dying, I was merely average and soon lost confidence. I was a small fish in a big pond.

Slowly, as the skills I learned from stand up started to pay off in my magic, I stopped performing straight stand up comedy. Without regular writing and performing, I lost even more confidence and it became harder and harder to get back into it.

However, 2 years ago, I moved in Melbourne, a thriving city and home to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I saw 35 comedians perform in one month, I've started writing again and I've even begun taking the occasional five minute spot at a few of the local clubs. I've even told the remains to be seen joke. Still gets a laugh. I've started a new variety night (The Catchpenny Club) each month and use it try out new material both magic and comedy.

The main lessons I've learnt in the past ten years are

1) If it's meant to be magic, make sure its AMAZING.
2) If it's meant to be comedy, makes sure its FUNNY.
3) Don't call yourself a comedy entertainer until you can perform ten minutes of original comedy without magic.
4) Always write new material even if you don't use it.
5) Find a good place to die.
jocdoc
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Good advice, Nick. In my opinion, the magic is merely a vehicle for one to express their personality via performance. It's not about the trick(s); rather, it's about you having fun up there and sharing the experience with those around you using magic as tools for your mayhem.

I suppose that the same thing could be said about jokes i.e. it's not just telling individual funny jokes in front of people; it's about bringing out things that are true to you (Have you come across the book "Truth in Comedy"?] and sharing these with an audience in a (hopefully) funny way that may use jokes as tools, as well.

It comes down to the fact that we're performers trying to make people around us have a good time by spending time with us. The tricks/jokes are merely a means to an end.

That being said, I recently performed two new effects in my office: Signed card to prostate and another that I'll simply call "At your cervix." [And, yes, I really did perform these effects on my patients.] Both of these were indeed a means to an end (so to speak)...

jeff in san diego
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Dynamike
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Ever thought about putting together a good magic act first. Next, read a one-liner comedy book ("Sleight of Mouth" for example) and adding good one-liners to the magic act?
magicgeorge
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Remains to be seen. Heh. Made me smile.

That's a great post, Nick. Ive been trying my hand at open mike spots the last few months. It's still pretty scary! I didn't think there were many open mike nights in Belfast I certainly couldn't find many on the internet but when you do a spot of networking with the other open-mikers they seem to be able to sniff nights out.

Setting up a variety club sounds like a great way to try out new stuff and have a lot of fun and make some friends while you're at it. Theres a few nights like that here I should get more involved. I quite like compering.

G
magicgeorge
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Dynamike. I can't tell if you're being ironic or sarcastic or neither.

I'll go with sarcastic and say you make a good point. As Nick mentioned earlier the good thing about stand-up is it forces you to think for yourself as it takes away a magicians 2 main crutches:
Magic and other peoples jokes...

George
jocdoc
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I personally wouldn't compose an act of all one liners, but they can be helpful as "improvised/spur of the moment thoughts/recalls" when an opportunity presents itself.

Aldo Colombini put out some great one-liner pamphlet style books (e.g. Keep 'em Laughing). They can be purchased for just $10 on his site: http://www.wildcolombini.com/cart/index.......b3b874c8 Well worth the price!
Life is an improv. The game goes on...
Dynamike
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Anyone ever had the book Bill Palmer mentioned?, "How to Be Funny" by Steve Allen: http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/searc......=5673236
magicgeorge
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Yes, I have the Steve Allen book.
It's quite good. It has some nice concise methods for joke construction. I've written quite a few jokes with his book in mind.

Sorry Jd, but I'm really not a fan of the Colombino books. I find them a dull mix of old, bland and cheesy.
You'll probably get big laughs from them but you'll feel dirty afterwards.

George
NJJ
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Quote:
On 2008-08-17 13:25, Dynamike wrote:
Ever thought about putting together a good magic act first. Next, read a one-liner comedy book ("Sleight of Mouth" for example) and adding good one-liners to the magic act?


I pray that Dynamike is being sarcastic too.

While some of those books of one liners can be funny, they make for lazy comedy and bland entertainment. To my shame, I have all those books and even used to edit an internet newsletter called "The Old Chestnut" dedicated to one liners and gags for magicians.

However, I have found that, even when these lines DO get a laugh, they don't lead anywhere creatively. If I say "What's your name? Really? That was my name when I was a little girl." I will get a laugh. However, it doesn't make me a better performer, a better magician, a better writer or a better comedian.

I'm still trying to ween myself off the stock gags and lines so I am by no means a pure vessel of original material. My stand up act combines about half a dozen stock lines which are such a perfect fit that I still can't bring myself to give them up.

Here is a little exercise which I do occasionally that you might enjoy.

1) Find a comfortable Café or coffee shop.
2) Sit and write 100 jokes off the top of your head. Don't censor yourself. Don't worry about being funny. Just write 100 jokes.
3) Cross out the 80 worst jokes.
4) Go to your local stand up night and perform a 5 minute set in which you tell those 20 jokes.
5) Die horribly.
6) From the wreckage, pluck the 5-10 jokes that survived the carnage.
7) Repeat.
jocdoc
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I personally don't use any of those one-liners when I perform. I just submitted Aldo's compilations of literally 1000's of one-liners in response to Dynamike's post for persons that may be interested (and I personally like watching Aldo perform so I threw in a plug).

I make up my own stories/scripts to go with my effects except for the few times that I demonstrate Bob Elliott's handling of something. I do have a penchant for puns and work many into my performances such as when I'm showing people that I have a set of blue balls (sponge, of course!) and proceed to make them appear and disappear in their hands.

If anyone is bored enough, I've posted the scripts for two fun effects that I perform one after the other (Voodoo trick, followed by Cannibal Kings) on my "magical" web page posted below. [For the record, no, I don't really use the line "I'll be here all night, tip...." at the end of the voodoo trick.]
Life is an improv. The game goes on...
critter
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Screwing up the tricks can be funny, if you are good at screwing them up. That is to say, you should make sure it is planned and a decidedly funny screw-up. And sometimes a screw up can be turned around. Like Amazing Johnathan's newer pan ending to the torn and (un)restored bill trick. It's way better now that he really fixes it when you think he won't.
See also: The Great Tomsoni.
"The fool is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
~Will Rogers
Dynamike
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Quote:
On 2008-08-17 13:37, magicgeorge wrote:
Dynamike. I can't tell if you're being ironic or sarcastic or neither.

You mean I am that good of an actor? Well thank you, George.
magicgeorge
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Yes, that's exactly what I mean as typing sentences into a keyboard is just like acting...
Dynamike
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LOL

Ok, you won. I surrender.
Sealegs
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Nicholas,
Thanks for an interesting and refreshingly honest and open post.

Just by way of showing an interest in this type of contribution I hope you won't mind me joining in by adding my own thoughts to your 'main lessons learnt'.

1) If it's meant to be magic, make sure its AMAZING.
The key words here are 'if it's meant to be...'. An act can be anything the performer wants it to be... but if it's meant to be magic then it's hard to see how having a strong and effective magic content could be anything other than better than having an act with a weak magic content. A strong magic content gives an added depth to a comedy magic act. Forgoing this can mean you end up being more of a clown for grown ups.... which is fine if that's what you're aiming for but not so good if that wasn't what you were aiming for.


2) If it's meant to be comedy, makes sure its FUNNY.
One of the things that makes some comedy magic acts not as funny as they'd like to think they are is, what in my opinion is their misplaced belief that the magic will, or should, act as a substitute for the comedy. Their thought process is one of; 'I might not be as funny as the stand-up comedian on the bill but look... I'm also doing some magic'. One of the 1st lessons I learnt when I started performing professionally was that as a comedy act you're primarily judged on how funny they find you to be. Aim to make yourself funnier than any stand-up comic who you might find working on a bill with you.


3) Don't call yourself a comedy entertainer until you can perform ten minutes of original comedy without magic.
I understand your thinking on this one but don't necessarily subscribe to it in those terms. I certainly agree though that stepping outside one's comfort zone and abandoning the security blanket of the magic means you have to rely on other aspects of your performance to get you through. These are the very aspects often found wanting. Character, style, etc. I think though that, if I have correctly grasped the essence of the point you are making, an alternative way of articulating it is to say; The magic does not and cannot act as a substitute for an engaging identifiable performance character and/or style.

4) Always write new material even if you don't use it.
This is a great idea.

5) Find a good place to die.
And this is probably the most important piece of advice for anyone wanting to break into the market. The best way to improve an act is to work it and work it and work it. When you're just starting out or trying something new you're inevitably not going to be great performing it. You need somewhere to be bad, find out what works and what doesn't; find out how to change things that don't work so they do, develop a style and a character; and be able to crash and burn and still have the chance to take to the stage again the following week or month or day. I suspect it's harder now to find such places than it was 5, 10 or 20 years ago.

Cheers again for making your post Nicholas.

Neal
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
RickVancouver
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Nicholas,

I'd like to add another...

6) Find a comedy writing buddy. Find someone who will commit to meeting once a week, where the two of you can bounce your new jokes off each other. This will not only keep it interesting, but it will also be a great tool in consistent writing habits.

ps) I took a Stand-Up Writing course myself, a couple years ago. I've signed up for the same course, starting in next month in Sept. It's a combination refresher course for me, as well as, I'm hoping to find another comedy writing buddy.

Rick
www.vancouvermagic.com
Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
MetalBender
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Nick, I love you baby. I'm like you in that I left magic for a while to be stand-up comic. I still do stand-up (I've even appeared on XM Radio and The Second City stage in Toronto with not one magic trick contributing to the act.) It's nice to hear somebody say something I've been grousing about for a while.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. If you can't be funny without a deck of cards in your hand, what makes you think you are funny with a deck of cards in your hand?

Lets also remember the lesson that Stand-up, Sketch, Improv, Clown, and other forms of "pure" comedy have taught us. We're allowed to be funny in a dark way. We're allowed to be acerbic. We're allowed to push the boundaries of taste and dignity. We're allowed to use our magic and our comedy as a sort of cathartic therapy, becaue when we do that we reveal our true personalities to the audience. As Eugene Burger so eloquently put it, "The force of the real human personality is the only thing that can compete with special effects."

Only giving magic audiences the light fluff of the typical comedy magic performance is doing them a dis-service. We are on the cusp of a new age in comedy magic. We are so very close to seeing an age when there are no more comedy magicians, and oh what a happy day will be. We are so very close to seeing an age where we have comedians who happen to be magicians, and what a glorious sunrise that will be.

Don't be a comedy magician, be a comedian who happens to be a magician.

The future is here kids, lets take it by force, and show everyone what is truly funny, and scatter the broken, charred, and desecrated remains of hippity hop rabbits over the country side as we do!

Sorry... sometimes I get excited... and when that happens I build bonfires out of hippity hop rabbits....
"Magic up close and personal, the way is should be."

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tommypockets
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Metalbender you couldn't have said it better. I also consider my self a comic first, magician second. Don't get me wrong I adore magic, and prefer to perform it, but my goal was to be able to perform anywhere, any time, any place, on a moments notice without having to load six doves, and a rabbit in the box. When I first got into stand up comedy I decided doing magic kept me unique and original, until I started watching multiple comedy magicians do the same act with the same jokes, with the same style day in day out. Successfull comics were able to make a connection with the audience while being completely entertaining at the same time. I then decided to write my magic routines so that the magic added to them, but the jokes could be performed without props, and still get a favorable reaction. I have done purely stand up comedy and there is just something about making people laugh that's just addictive. The fact that you can get laughter from a thought, from your own mind has an advantage over any "funny" "comedy" trick you can buy. Plus by being yourself it doesn't matter what trick you perform. Many comedy magicians pull the head off a dove, that can still be done, but have a reason or a joke or an idea of why you are doing it. Let the trick be a bonus, let the entertainment be you.
Mac_Stone
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Quote:
On 2008-09-11 20:34, MetalBender wrote:
Don't be a comedy magician, be a comedian who happens to be a magician.
Rory Diamond
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I am a huge fan of stand up comedy, and often go to see both well known stand up comics, and local comics on the "Comedy Club" circuit as well. I rarely see any comedy magician who I thought was even remotely as funny as Ron White, Dave Atell, Frank Caliendo, Jim Gaffigan, or some of the good stand-up comics out there today. Sorry guys, I am including all of your "Magic Comedy Heros" you see at conventions and at the Magic Castle. What I see in magicans nowadays is comedy that was funny 50 years ago: slapstick, old time vaudville, mime,and juvenile silly humor. I see the "gay guy" comic magicians, who are doing Rip Taylor or Paul Lynde from 1970's, I see the "Mr. Wacky" Steve Martin wanna-be comic magicians with thier stuffed racoons or bird puppet, I see the "Harpo Marx/Charlie Chaplin/Red Skelton/Buster Keaton" mime type silent guys (why do these guys always have to use a whistle?),the bumbling magician with the tricks that never work, the old guy with the English accent who is supposed to be so funny because he burns some guy's twenty dollar bill, the "con artist" with the fedora, the "big band" zuit suit guy, etc. yeah, yeah, SO WHAT? These guys are funny if all you ever do is go to magic conventions and read magic rags, and you live under a rock in the 1920's. Otherwise, they couldn't punch thier way out of a wet paper bag when it comes to working in a REAL comedy club. Oh sure, you can argue that they are some big deal at the Castle or in some afternoon show in Laughlin or Branson, but there are a thousand or so "Elvis" impersonators who are at about the same level on the entertainment totem pole. None of the comedy magicians I see are ever as funny or talented as good stand-up comics, like you would see on Comedy Central or the Tonight Show. I never see these "comedy magicians" you read about in these magic magazines ever playing big theater tours sponsored by beer companies and being promoted by the Bob & Tom Radio Show. They are just not that funny to the general public.
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