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ScottSullivan
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I usually work corporate, college, or comedy club shows but I got a call yesterday from a guy who promised his kid a magician at her birthday party and the guy they hired backed out at the last minute. They had theme decorations and the kid was counting on it and would I do the show? I had an open date and couldn't say no so this afternoon I found myself playing a room full of six year olds.

The show went great (I work some fairs and festivals where I do a family show so I've got some kid-friendly material) and I had fun and the kid had fun and the parents were very happy. I'm posting because something occurred to me during the show. When I asked a kid volunteer's name everyone there (or nearly everyone) already knew what their name was. I was asking for information everyone already knew. Now, I realize that no one there expected me to know everyone's name (other than that of the birthday girl) but I wonder if that is subconsciously alienating? Does that work against the magician?

In a "normal" show the audience doesn't all know each other so it makes sense to ask a name and use it often but I wonder if a birthday party magician would be better off not asking and just not using the name. In everyday conversation I rarely use a person's name so I don't think it would be awkward and might actually (at least in a small way) help your performance. Or maybe not. Thoughts?
Jon Gallagher
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When I bring a kid up on stage, I introduce myself to them, and then ask their name. This is between the volunteer and me. I pretend the audience isn't even there. I find it helps put them at ease with me and with being on stage.

After getting their name, then I can do the usual jokes, ie, "How old are you, are you married, etc." The main thing, though is to put the volunteer at ease, and I've found something simple like asking their name and introducing yourself just helps.
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magicalmischief
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I find it polite to ask the childs name. I have always done so and haven't had any kids shout out the volunteers name. I like building a relationship (a very VERY short one) with the assistant and addressing them by their name is a great way to do it. But that's just me.

Smile
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Andy Wonder
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I know exactly where you are coming from. There are a few problems that can come up when you don't know the children's names.

1st when you ask sometimes you get all the children shout a response. You might not want them all yelling and it is can be difficult to pick what their name is when all the kids are yelling it out of sync. Some kids will be telling you the wrong name. One kid will always insist that that his friend is not called David, when in fact he really is. Also if you want to identify a trouble maker quickly you want to get straight to him using his name without needing to describe his behaviour (which reinforces it) just to identify him.

Also as you said asking names can remind the children that you are a stranger.

SOLUTION: Send out a set of self adhesive name labels to the parent when they book the show. The children can then all be labelled with their names when you arrive. They always forget they are wearing them & will wonder how you know their name. You can still ask a child’s name to be polite if it suits.

I always send out name labels for kids parties unless it is a huge party with more than 50 kids.
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Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
ScottSullivan
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No one shouted out the name or anything. I just encountered something that I've never really been faced with so I've never considered. Asking the name of someone everyone knows seems a bit like the old "here we have a red handkerchief, I place it into my hand" patter problem. It's kind of stating the obvious for everyone else. I don't think they consciously think you should know the name and It's not a "problem" to ask for a volunteers name. It's in no way "wrong" and it's probably expected but I was just forced to wonder if there might be a better way. The name tag solution was interesting. I see those at corporate shows a lot and I often get laughs using them.
0pus
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Actually, this is a pretty interesting thread.

Normally, as was pointed out, in a stage show, a couple of principal objectives in asking a volunteer’s name is to initiate a personal relationship between the volunteer and the magician and to introduce the volunteer to the audience.

BUT at a birthday party, in a classroom and in a variety of other venues (e.g., corporate setting if the volunteer is a high-level officer), the audience is likely to know the volunteer. Now, the principal objectives are to initiate a personal relationship between you and the volunteer and to extend that personal relationship to one between you and the audience (the volunteer is very much the representative of and surrogate for the audience in this situation). This is a very big opportunity for the magician to get his personality across effectively.

0pus
Peter Marucci
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At almost any age, assuming the kids all know one another, you are still a stranger to them and they would expect you to ask the name of a volunteer.No alienation there.

In fact, it creates a closer bond (or should) between you and the audience. And, besides putting the volunteer at ease, it's simply good manners and polite.
Frank Tougas
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I always introduce myself, usually with the same line, "Hi my name is Frank, they call me that because that's what my mom and dad named me." I know it is stupid sounding but it seems to build with each introduction.

I also take advantage of todays habit of wearing clothing with something printed on it so I can pretend I think that is their name. "Hi there, you must be Mr. Nike, is that your first or last name?" or "Hey that isn't your name, Mr. Nike is going to get pretty mad when he finds you're wearing his shirt," etc. Strangely enough the parents like it too. It must be some subliminal passive/agressive thing against corporate America. Smile
Frank Tougas The Twin Cities Most "Kid Experienced" Children's Performer :"Creating Positive Memories...One Smile at a Time"
Andy Wonder
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I often get the problem of many answering all with their own names when I ask just one child. I also forget the names of children quite easily. The name tags help remind me.
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
Emazdad
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Names to me are important. At Parties I always ask the parents to put name badges on the kids. The kids love it if you know their names and they seeem to forget they are wearing a name badge so the magician knowing their name really impresses them. It's also a good discipline aid.

Once you've got names it also gives you scope for more funnies during the show.
During the show when the helper comes up I still ask them their names. I say something like "Hi Sam, and what's your name?" If they're not wearing name tags and the kids shout their name as with your show it gives me the chance to do the same thing.

If I don't know a kid's name and they are asking me if I remember them from a prievious time (I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday), if it's a boy I'll say, "yes I remember you, you're Sarah." They'll soon correct me and say "it's Sam", and I can then go into the "I've got something wrong my tongue and can't say Sam so I have to say Sarah" routine. This gets a laugh from the kid, and they walk away chuffed that I remembered them.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
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"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

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Andy Wonder
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That is a good idea Emazdad about calling the boy a girl's name. I could have used that twice today.

You must have a memory like mine. I have some tablets to improve my memory, but I keep forgetting to take them.
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
Cheshire Cat
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Peter said: "you are still a stranger to them". Rarely the case, Peter. We tend to trade in the circles of pupils from around, shall we say, 30 schools, in our location. We don't set foot beyond because of petrol/gas costs and travelling times etc. There are social groupings within these areas that probably never see us because they source any entertainers they may see through newspaper ads or on being the "cheapest". The few kids we see where we are truly "strangers" are probably parents from these groups— dare I say, looking for something better or more up-market. We purely use Yellow Pages/Internet and recommendations/repeats.

Anyhow, back to the point— I don't think that constantly asking and using a child's name subconsciously alienates. I do however feel that when working with children names should be used as I think kids attach a great significance to this. After all when you are 6 there is very little else that gives you a form of identity is there, apart from sex, colour of hair— or whether you are tall, short, fat, thin, black, white etc. I explain to kids that I see SO MANY children in SO MANY places and I have such an AWFUL memory (you can play on this), that even if I only saw them a fortnight ago I cannot remember!

On a final note, I have been saying for over 20 years that when someone comes along and invents name tags that actually stay on, they will make a fortune!
Emazdad
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You're so right Ace, a name tag that stays on would be brilliant, hopefully they stay on long enough for me to get most of the names in my head. I hate it when the name tags have been made by the kids, coloured in nicely and the names drawn on by Mum in joined up writing with a biro, or scribbled on by the kids (I always compliment the kid on their fine handiwork even if I can't read them). I don't stand a chance, if they're not nice and clear. I like plain white tags with the names in marker pen in big letters so I can read them.

If the sticker falls off and sticks to the floor and you know who's it was, you can point to it and say, "Look Susan the floor's got the same name as you".

A couple of other old gags you can use that get a goood laugh:

If you have two kids with the same name, let's say they're boys, "you're called Bob and so are you are two sisters?"

"Oh no Hannah, Susan's mum's spelt your name backwards!"
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
Mago Mai
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The problem I get sometimes with kids' names is different. I might ask a kid to tell me his name and his reply is "Don't you know it?"

They might answer this because I work in a very close circuit of private parties and I might have asked this question before. They assume I should know their name by now, just like they know mine.

When this happens to me, I tell them that I am asking their name to see if they remember it. Or I tell them that I mean to say "What is your full name?"

Sometimes I miscalled their name and they reply that that is not their name and I say, "I just want to know if I can get you confused." I start calling him different names and then say, "let me see if you still can remember your name."

Mago Mai
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jasper
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I miscall names all the time giving each volunteer a funny name! It's always good for a laugh but I also think it helps create a unique personal relationship instantly. It also helps get their real name without asking as I quite often get the responce "no my name's..." or the whole audience shouting the correct name. Smile Smile Smile
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
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Emazdad
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Hi Andy, my memory is so bad I could be having a déjà vu moment and not even know it.

If I ask a kid their name and they say "You should know it", I say "Ok you should know it, how old are you?" and this either leads them to tell me their name, or into a funny routine where they keep saying something and I repeat it as their name until they (or another kid shouting) give me the info I want. I actually love it when that happens.

True story— another magician went to a school in a very rough area of Plymouth some time ago. He got a kid up (about six-years old), asked him his name and the kid replyed "What the f%$£ has it got to do with you?!"

He wasn't going to be talked to like that so he packed up and left and the headmaster had to apologise.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
kenscott
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I too like asking for their names, it adds to the show. For example, nothing new I don't think, but when I ask a child to help and I ask them their name they most of the time say "me", and then I say "let's welcome ME to the show, come on up ME." It is a very funny moment.

Ken
Reg Rozee
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I just wanted to post a thought I had about name tags while reading this thread. What about using those name tag/badge holders they give out at tradeshows that hang around your neck? (They are like a cloth wallet with a clear plastic window in front.) I haven't tried this so I am wondering if you think this would be a bad idea or not? (Would the kids fool with them too much, or is hanging something around their neck asking for trouble?)

You might be able to come up with custom ones in bright colors, perhaps even with your name on the back, maybe even use them as a give-away if you could get them in bulk for a decent price?

You could also do a fast comedy effect where you "transform" one kid into the other by switching their name tags, since you don't have to worry about these ones losing their tackiness. "Poof! Now Justin is Bob, and Bob is Justin! AMAZING!"

-Reg {*}
Reality is what doesn't go away when you stop believing in it. -Phillip K. Dick



Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes? -Chico Marx
Emazdad
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A good idea, name tags round the neck, but like a lot of good ideas it won't work— the kids will play with them, there is a danger of them getting strangled if they twist it about, plus they will chew on the name tags.

I experimented with giving out winner's medals during the games instead of prizes. These were the swapped for prizes at the end of the party. I soon dropped the idea for the reasons given above. I had teeth marks on the medals, the cords got all tangled, and I had a couple of boys pull on the cord of their mates and nearly choke them (it's always boys). So I dropped the idea sharpish.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
Carron
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To know kids' names, I make a variety of balloon hats and write their name on in marker pen, this way they won't want to take off their hat, which also means they won't take off their 'name tag'.
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