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jocdoc
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Have you ever been to Mac King's show at Harrah's in Vegas? It is pure fun and you'll be laughing the whole way through. He has a great way of pulling everybody along in the audience along for this fun ride. He has some great set ups and the pay offs are very rewarding. The magic is integrated into the act and everything dovetails perfectly.

I can't wait to see it again next month.
Life is an improv. The game goes on...
Ian Keable
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Personally I think trying to compare stand-up comedians with comedy magicians is like chalk and cheese. They both require different skills. For instance the majority of comedians tell 'jokes' (stand alone material that doesn't even require you to watch them to find them funny) whilst most comedy magicians say 'lines' (which goes along with whatever they are doing at the time). Also the majority of comedy magicians get much of their laughs from audience participation; whilst very few comedians do. I therefore think the argument that you are only funny if you can be funny without performing a trick is nonsense. Great comedians have their own way of being funny, great comedy magicians have their own way. What they both have in common is an interesting character that the audience can identify with and relate to.
Ian Keable
Author of Stand-Up, A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic
Available for sale at http://www.iankeable.co.uk
MetalBender
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Ian, with all due respect you are absolutley wrong an every and all accounts.

First of all the stand-up comic requires a huge amount of participation from the audience. Just because the comic isn't wading into the masses and asking them to examine his pack of cards doesn't mean he isn't using audience participation. A comedian doesn't talk at his audience, he talks to his audience. What you are seeing is a highly refined conversation that only appears to be one sided. The type of audience participation is very different. If they are not attentive and responding then the comedian must change his tact, style, cadence of voice, rythem, posture, ect. in order to make the act work. Just because it is not overt in the sense that the audience has to hold something or do something that the magician requests does not mean that the comic has no audience participation. What occurs in that type of show really is a give and take relationship. The comic asks questions, and though the audience doesn't always give an audible response they do participate by responding. The comedian doesn't ask a rhetorical question, he asks a question of the audience, and they give him permision to answer it.

On the second count, comedy magicians almost never get laughs from their audience participation. Because, when they are very young as performers some older and wiser magi has usually taken them aside and said, "Listen here sonny boy, pull your socks up, and don't insult your audience. Be polite and ingratiating to them. Never embarass your volunteer infront of a crowd." Then when that young magician blossoms into a fully fledged comedy magician his audience participation is usually polite no matter how crass or rude the rest of his show is. There is the occasional joke about his volunteer's pants and shirt not matching, but that's not funny, and if need be I will prove why that old standard joke isn't funny with an eight page analysis. Next time you watch a comedy magician pay very close attention to how he deals with his audience. There is almost no humor that emerges that is different from the comics act. Here I am not insulting the comedy magician, I am pointing out that the subject of audience participation is the same. There are the standard, "Where are you from?" "What do you do for a living?" "Is that a venerial disease on your left shoulder?" questions.

Secondly I'm sorry, but you are so sadly mistaken about funny and performing tricks. I don't mean this to insult you, but you really are wrong. Every statement I make in these posts comes from a place of deep respect for both the art of comedy and the art of magic. However I have sat on the sidelines and watched as so many people ruined these two arts at the same time that I would be doing a disservice to the performance community as a whole if I didn't say something.

Here's why you are only funny if you can be funny without performing a trick. A trick in and of itself is not funny. I posted this over in the card trick section and I will repeat it here as it bears repeating. Someone asked what some good comedy card tricks were, and there aren't any. Because magic is not inherently funny. Magic is a mystery, when something defies the natural laws of physics we know that either there is something supernatural about it, there is some sort of trick to it, or that we must reexamine what the natural laws of physics are. That's what magic is. There is nothing inherently funny about card to mouth, six card repeat, or even that stupid card that has the entire deck printed on one side. Case in point take a look at Rob Zebrecky, a very very funny man who presents his act in a very creepy manner. I don't want to give away his show, but he does some classic magic that creeps you out. In fact we do some of the same effects but I take them in a completely different direction. His is more theatrical while mine is more club driven. That's not to say that one is better than the other, but it illustrates that there's nothing specifically funny about the effects that we are doing.

If you do a sight gag within your show then it's not the gag that's funny, it's you that is funny. John Carney does a brilliant sight gag in his parlour show where it appears as though he is shot in the chest with an arrow. It's brilliantly funny when he does it, but remember it's not the sight gag that's funny it's Carney that's funny. Think about that sight gag, it's a very tragic one. An audience doesn't like a performer so much that they chose to shoot him in the chest in the middle of his show? That is a very sad thought, and deeply disturbing, but Carney makes it funny. Why? Because it's not getting shot in the chest that's funny, it's Carney.

If you do someone elses presentation of a trick and get laughs on it, then you're not the one who is funny. Ever since Michael Finney published "Live From Tahoe!" I've seen a lot of people doing six card repeat the way he does it, verbatim. Remember my original point. There is nothing funny about six card repeat. It's actually very boring if you think about it, but in Finney's hands it's hillarious. Now if I were to do Michael's version of six card repeat and get huge laughs I'm not funny. It's Michael that's funny, he wrote that stuff, he crafted it. I'm just using what he's allready proven to be funny. I would be doing "lines" and that's worse than telling a joke that I wrote that didn't get any laughs.

Do not for a second think that I am saying that comedians are better than magicians. Sure, as a whole comedians are better paid, but that's not the point. I know some brilliant comedians, and I know some dreadfull comedians. I know some wonderfully funny magicians, and I know some droll magicians who deserve to have their wrists slit with their own deck of cards. What I am saying is that magicians bang on all the time about how magic is an art and a craft, and this and that. Then they go and put comedy into their act without realizing that comedy too is an art and a craft, and magicians have a tendency to crap all over comedy because they don't put in the work.

The reson I compare the act of a comedy magician to a comedian is because one of them is connecting with an audience in a very real and personal way, and the other one as you put it, is just doing lines. Why would anyone want to be a comedy magician? Why would anyone want to be called a comedy magician when most people look at comedy magicians thinking, "Well he's not a very good magician and he's not a very good comedian... well I guess combining the two sort of saves the act."

Be honest with yourself, how often do you see a comedy magician with an interesting character that the audience can indentify with? Almost never. I'm not talking about the big names in comedy magic and the guys we all look up to, they are up there because they are good at one they do. I'm talking about the vast majority of what we see. Most of what I see, is a person I wouldn't waste my time walking out on.

I got into a fight with someone last night at the castle because he called be the best comedy magician he'd ever seen. I told him I'm a comedian who happens to be a magician. He responded, "No you're not you do very good magic!" Without being to pompous, I do some wonderfull magic. I do very high end sleight of hand while I do comedy. I don't tell jokes, I DO comedy.

Comparing comics and comedy magicians is not comparing chalk to cheese. It's an examination of our craft that is required to put on the best possible show. If we as a community aren't willing to take the time to do that examination then what business do we have in front of an audience. None.


Sorry to all if I start to get insulting or mean. I mean this all as an academic excersize, and a discussion of performance theory. I'm just speaking the truth as I see it.
"Magic up close and personal, the way is should be."

http://www.DelusionMasters.com
Ian Keable
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Hi Metalbender – sorry, I don’t know your first name. You clearly speak with passion and I respect your opinion. The first thing go say is that I’m from the UK and maybe the majority of comedy magicians are different from those in the US. Having said that I’m very familiar with the likes of John Carney and Michael Finney – both of whom have appeared several times in the UK.

Also I should say that when I use the phrase 'comedy magician' I am using it with the utmost respect. So under my definition a 'comedy magician' who is either not funny or doesn't do particularly good magic, isn't a comedy magician.

I agree that comedians use audience participation of sorts. But most of the time to my mind it’s a very different type of audience participation from those used by comedy magicians who actually get assistants (I hesitate to use the word ‘volunteers’ as they rarely are) up on stage.

I have analysed the skills that comedy magicians use in extracting humour out of audience participation and have come up with five principal ones. Potential embarrassment (a subset is making audience members do silly things), destruction of property, magician error, insult humour and asking questions. I could write a book on these – well in fact I have, but that’s another story! Of these I would maintain that only a magician could use the first three – and the final two are uniquely suited to the magician (although clearly a comedian could use them).

You will notice that insult humour is in that category – a type of humour extremely popular in the UK. All the top comedy magicians over here use insult humour of some sorts. Some use it a lot (Graham Jolley, Mel Mellers, John Archer), some not so much, but still extensively (Paul Daniels, Wayne Dobson, Paul Zenon).

[By the way the joke about the volunteer’s pants and shirts not matching – if it’s the one I occasionally use – is very funny. Someone comes up on stage with the trousers and jacket not matching and you say: ‘couldn’t decide what suit to wear today then?’]

Much of what you write about the likes of Michael Finney and John Carney I wouldn’t argue with. I absolutely agree with you that it is the performer who is funny, not the trick. It so happens – and maybe this is where we differ - I just happen to think there are some performers (and I would include myself amongst them) who can be funny with magic; and yet, if they didn’t have the magic, wouldn’t be funny. And I think this is because – going back to my last posting and this present one – that they do require different performance skills.
Ian Keable
Author of Stand-Up, A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic
Available for sale at http://www.iankeable.co.uk
Sealegs
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Metalbender,
Starting a post with; " with all due respect you are absolutley wrong in every and all accounts." certainly got my attention especially as you directed it at one of the most original, thoughtful, creative, clever and funny comedy magic acts (read:'comedian that happens to be a magician') out there.

In a post above you wrote,
Quote:
"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?".....and.... "you are only funny if you can be funny without performing a trick."


Honestly, as a stand up I absolutely suck. But also honestly,(to borrow your phrase - Without being pompous -) .... as a comedy magic act I'm one hell of a funny performer.

My personal experience just doesn't square with what you say.

I can see from your posts that you have a background in stand up and I assume you have a successful and effective act that includes and combines comedy and magic. I don't though, see that as reason enough to make a claim that one can't be funny without being a stand up?

I'm also an act that successfully and effectively includes and combines comedy and magic and I don't have a background in stand up. So it can be of no surprise that my experience and my opinion based on it is that (although it might well be very useful and helpful) one doesn't HAVE TO be a stand up to be able to create either a 'comedy magic act', or 'be a comedian who happens to be a magician'.

This is another point where we have a differing veiwpoint as I find this distinction particularly redundant. My audiences inevitably refer to me as 'the comedian' rather than 'the magician' even though I do nothing stand up like in my act which is very much a comedy magic show. Being called a comedian rather than a magician when I am in fact doing a comedy magic show hardens my belief that the only distinction that has any merit is, Are you funny or not?

If your target audience laughs, as a minimum, to the same degree as they do for the best comics that work the same audiences then to my mind you're a comedy magic act or whatever else you want to call yourself. If you're not getting these kind of laughs then you're falling short of being as good a comedy act as you need to be. In the end it's not an 8 page analysis that's going to decide if you're funny or not it's the people who have paid to come in to see you.

Your post gave an interesting reasoning behind why one can, "only be funny if you can be funny without performing a trick." Namely because; "A trick in and of itself is not funny."

You go onto explain that it's the performer that is the 'funny' ingredient. Well on this point we can certainly agree 100%, the person is absolutely the act. However a person just being there isn't the whole act.....the act consists of the person doing something..... and whatever it is that they do is the material.

Material is just that...material. Your post made point out that tricks aren't inherently funny and I agree they're not, but then neither are; the ups and downs of relationships, falling for someone, puberty, marmalade, railway timetables, cats or anything else that a stand up might use as material. It's what the performer does with the material that creates the comedy and that's true for both the stand up and the comedy magican. The same is true for the potential to "connect[] with an audience in a very real and personal way."

It seems obvious to my mind that different material suits different performers. Magic effects sit comfortably with me, stand up about, people, hamsters or anything else I can think of doesn't.

Stand ups use a whole range of skills to sell themselves on stage through their material and many of these skills are used by many stand ups. Likewise the material of a comedy magic act (ie magic tricks) often lends itself to certain skills. Some of course will overlap with those of the stand up but some are more specific to the magic effects.

These are the differences, the chalk and cheese, that Ian Keable was referring to.

As I said previously, your posts suggest that you are a successful performer who has an edge to their act and a drive to champion your kind approach. There's nothing wrong with that. I've been known to do a bit of flag waving for my own style. And, as a big fan of Jerry Sadowitz's magic and stand up I can certainly enjoy an approach that as an edge to it and, in your words, "push[es] the boundaries of taste and dignity", and Jerry does way more than just push it. However just because one sees ones own style as standing out from the crowd doesn't mean that the crowd aren't blocking a view of other performers who are not only different but equally as adept at delivering the goods.

Neal
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
Rory Diamond
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I agree with 90 percent of what you are saying, Metalbender, however, I have never found Michael Finney's Six Card Repeat to be all that funny. You could call it light hearted, comical, amusing, but please explain to me where it is so funny? "He threw a card.. to-ward the hat..." what is supposed to be so funny about that? I don't think he does the trick any better or worse than any of the 200 other magicians I have seen do six card repeat over the last 30 years. Maybe I am missing something, please clue me in. On the other hand, I just finished watching Dave Chappell on Comedy Central and couldn't stop laughing. You what else kills me? When most comedy magicians talk about who thier comedy heros were, you hear "Red Skelton" "Henny Youngman" or "Jerry Lewis". How about living in the 21st Century? How about "Chris Rock", "Dennis Miller" or "Lewis Black"? Get with the times!
The Awesome One
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Nick,
If you rated the funerals that were conducted, the best one could be "The Remains of The Day".
Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.
Ethan
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Quote:
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.


While I agree with the principal of using original material, I also see no reason not to use good established material. Maybe your right in that it doesn't make you a better performer but for me the goal right at that moment is to entertain my audience and if using an old joke will help with that and as you say "get a laugh" since presumabley it's new to them, then I personally don't see the harm.
Rory Diamond
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Ok, I have heard so many magicians use that line "What's your name? Really? That was my name when I was a little girl.", including Mac King. Someone please explain why that is supposed to be funny? If you are saying that you had somehow, somewhere had a "sex change"- it doesn't even make sense! It is very uncommon for a woman to have a sex change to a man. Perhaps a woman magician saying "that was my name when I was a little boy" would make more sense.
jocdoc
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I've only heard the line used by magicians when they're interviewing little girls. Because a(presumably) male magician is questioning a little girl, the humor lies within the absurdity/incongruousness of the situation. Conversely, a female magician could use a similar line with a young lad on the stage to same effect.

While one could get away with using a same sex oriented line (i.e. male magician to a lad or female magician to a girl), it's not nearly as strong in my opinion. Maybe if the magician implied that their name changed because they grew older? Just some late night thoughts....
Life is an improv. The game goes on...
magicgeorge
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Quote:
On 2008-09-30 00:28, Rory Diamond wrote:
Ok, I have heard so many magicians use that line "What's your name? Really? That was my name when I was a little girl.", including Mac King. Someone please explain why that is supposed to be funny? If you are saying that you had somehow, somewhere had a "sex change"- it doesn't even make sense!


It's supposed to be funny because it doesn't make sense. It's nonsense humour. The fact that sex changes are more common in todays society has actually made the line less funny. I stopped using it in my children's show for 2 reasons firstly because it's hacktastical and secondly a girl once asked me if I had had a sex change (well hey, I'm a beautiful man). I changed the line to "that's my grandfather's name" which is not only slightly more original but also doesn't imply a sex change as much. It gets a laugh in my children's show but I recently used it impulsively while doing stand up and it also got a big laugh.

G
x
BrianMillerMagic
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I have very little to add to this discussion other than the fact that I have been undergoing the shift from comedy magic into pure stand-up comedy for the last 8 months or so. I'm absolutely loving pure stand-up because it feels like a much more creative and therapeutic outlet. There is something so pure about just being a guy with a mic entertaining an audience. It's raw on a level that I've never felt with magic. In some sense, making people laugh and enjoy themselves without all the excesses that magicians use feels more like true 'magic' to me. I guess I'll find out if I continue to feel that way as I continue down this road. I'm only shifting my stage show into pure stand-up comedy; the one thing I'll surely never leave behind is close-up magic.

For anyone who's interested seeing an example of a comedy magician who's in the middle of a shift into stand-up, feel free to check out the Comedy Compilation video I have on my MySpace. Thank you to everyone who has so thoroughly contributed to this thread. I've been enjoying the wealth of information and different opinions on the very thing I'm going through right now.
magicgeorge
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I'm on a friends computer at the moment but look forward to watching your video,Brian, when I get broadband in the new place.

Something else I have noticed is after doing a few pure stand-up gigs my confidence and delivery is a lot better when I do comedy magic shows. I seem more relaxed and less worried about getting the next effect out. The show is now more about me than the effects.

George
Rory Diamond
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George, I like your version of the line more. Makes sense, and is more humorous.
magicgeorge
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Cheers Rory.

Hey Brian. Nice work. You've a lot of good material there.
roy presto
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I BELIEVE STEVE MARTIN DID A COMEDY MAGIC ACT ON A JOHNNY CARSON SHOW. CAN ANYONE ADVISE ON THIS AND IF IT CAN BE ACCESSED.
roy presto
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PROBLEM SOLVED. THANKS MIKE McEATHRON in The Best effects for Stand up Comedy in Magic section
Ken The Klown
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Read "Comedy Writing Secrets" by Mel Helitzer. It's the best book EVER on becoming a comic who writes his/her own material.
harris
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Yes....Comedy Clubs, Monologues are great training and can carry over to our prop (magic) programs.

My shows are also very autobiographical....as well as ...have the "everyman", which audiences can connect with.

It is about me...you and Us.
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
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Jarod
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IMO some of the best Comedy-Mentalism-Magic can be seen from John Archer and Mel Mellers!
It's not the Trick. It's the Magician!

Harry Houdini
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