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jeffdell
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Hi All;

So I've been doing stand-up comedy for about 6 months, performing at open mics 1 - 3x per week and I'm considering performing an effect in place of doing my usual set. I was hoping to get some feedback\ideas from folks who are doing magic at comedy clubs as to what your overall experience has been. A little bit of background about myself -- I live in the Boston area and I've been an on\off magic hobbyist for a few years. In the past I've focused on close-up magic, though on stage I would be focusing more on parlor style effects with "props" that are common to the venue (ie beer bottles etc). I have concerns At the open mics I've attended I see very few (if any) prop comics and no other magicians performing, which makes me wonder if 1) this is the right venue for incorporating magic into and 2) what type of audience reaction I should expect at said venues.

I guess some questions:
- What is the general experience of performing magic at a comedy open mic or in a comedy club?
- Who are some magicians that have been successful in comedy club venues? The only name that comes to mind for me is Michael Finney, but there must be others.
- Most of the venues I go to the spectators are there to watch comedy and not participate in show. What is your experience with selecting effects that require audience participation?
- The owner of the local magic shop was pushing very heavily the effect "Silent Treatment by John Allen, which looks like a wonderful effect -- just not in that environment. Any suggestions\ideas for the types of effects that are more successful at comedy clubs? I realize this is highly personalized based on character, etc, but there must be some common traits (apart from making it funny).
- Any general suggestions on writing material? Mostly, when I perform stand-up I talk about my own life experience and add punch lines to it embellishment based on personal experience.

Any suggestions\feedback you can provide is greatly appreciated!


Jeff
Floyd Collins
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Jeff,
Comedy clubs are a great place to introduce some magic into your stand-up routine if you are so inclined to do so. There are many many magicians who work the comedy club circuit. I have in the past but have decided not to do them unless I am filling in, the main reason is that the pay is just not there for me to do that and your on the road alot. With that said, some magicians who work or worked the comedy clubs are, Cody Fisher, Nathan Kranzo, Rich Marotta, John Farentino, Jay Sankey, Brian Miller and many who post here on the café.

My suggestion to you is to keep your material organic. While it is true that many of the prop comics have not returned to comedy clubs as in the 80s, there are many who still employee props for their comedy, if done sparingly they seem to become a bigger hit then those who rely solely on props as in the 80s.

There is a difference in comedy magic, and being a comedian magician. The main difference is when you perform a comedy magic show, it is not as important to get a laugh a minute like it is in comedy clubs. However there are many effects you can employee that will give you the sustained laugh you need in a comedy club. For example Cody Fisher Sweet Dreams rope trick is very organic yet perfect for a comedy club. Nathan Kranzo The Mind Reading Crotch is a great routine for comedy clubs as well. Be careful of magic effects that are labeled Comedy Magic, most are for comedy magic shows and what you are looking for is totally different.

You will want to look for simple to the point effects that you can re-script to work in the comedy club environment. The good news is if you are writing your own material already then you can re-script just about any effect to make it funny and get the punch you need. My comedy club set employees about 50% gags and 50% magic. When I worked the comedy clubs, I did not worry about my magic over toning the comedy or vise verse, however when I perform a comedy magic show I do worry about that and make sure there is a good blend of both. In my comedy club set, I am a little freer to create effects that don’t have the entire needed splendor as much as the needed laugh. This can be challenging to most magicians because we are trained to amaze and create wonder where in a comedy club that is not your main focus.

I hope this helps, if you are serious about making yourself stand out from the other comedians you are on the right track. Just keep in mind you will have to create what you need and keep it organic and fresh try and add just a little at a time to your normal set and see where it takes you.

Hope this helps.

Floyd
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jeffdell
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Hi Floyd,

Thank you for the feedback. This helps immensely. One of the things that I've been having difficulty with is determining how much of my set should be straight stand-up versus how much should be magic. There definitely needs to be a balance between the two and a single effect doesn't need to constitute my entire set. I will definitely look into the Cody Fisher sweet dreams effect. Professor's Nightmare is definitely an effect I've considered performing in the comedy club environment, though I'm leaning more towards Neilsen's Vanishing Bottle. I use a flip to record most of my sets so I'll review some video and see where Sweet Dreams might fit in.

Thanks!

Jeff
magicgeorge
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Both Sweet Dreams and Silent Treatment seem great. I may even look into purchasing sweet dreams to adapt for my non-comedy club adult show.
But I think if you do either in a comedy club you are wasting an opportunity. Silent treatment especially. Standing there getting laughs from some jokes that came in the post. Even if one adapts the script they'll still be basing it on other's premises. Pick an effect you love to do and find your own twist on it.

- What is the general experience of performing magic at a comedy open mic or in a comedy club?

IN the UK I find magic is usually well recieved. Obviously it won't save an unfunny act but it gives a funny act a bit of punch.
I don't think there is much prop snobbery over here.People can do what they want as long as it's original to make folks laugh.

- Who are some magicians that have been successful in comedy club venues?

IN the UK there seem to be quite a few playing them Pete Firman, Paul Zenon,Ali Cook, Piff TMD.

- Most of the venues I go to the spectators are there to watch comedy and not participate in show. What is your experience with selecting effects that require audience participation?

I like them, a volunteer on stage isn't something you see often at a comedy club and that makes it a bit different and you create some unique moments onstage.I occasionally finish with an effect that requires 2 volunteers. What I tend to do is I will chat to a couple of folks at the start of my set, refer to them conversationally during it then when I need them I welcome them unto the stage by name and start the clapping while I am doing it.

-. Any suggestions\ideas for the types of effects that are more successful at comedy clubs? I realize this is highly personalized based on character, etc, but there must be some common traits (apart from making it funny).
If it is something you can keep in your pocket then that kind of helps as the audience won't be wondering what the bag/box is for for the whole performance. Lots of card tricks can work in comedy clubs.
Do you like performing the Neilson bottle or is it just because it's familiar to the venue? I think that may make it stronger magically but not any funnier.

- Any general suggestions on writing material? Mostly, when I perform stand-up I talk about my own life experience and add punch lines to it embellishment based on personal experience.
There are lots of books with writing exercises in them to help you find new ideas (Mike Bent's book springs to mind) and I have come up with the odd joke that way but usually I write my best jokes when I'm not thinking about writing material (or occasionally onstage)...
For your magic effect if you can find your own unique twist on the effect the jokes will often write themselves.

I'd start out by doing your normal set then finishing on a trick. Don't completely rebrand yourself as a magical performer just add it in bit by bit. I wouldn't get the MC to mention the magic either. Keep it as a surprise to finish on.

Break a leg,
George
Floyd Collins
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George,
I think you will like sweet dreams. You can re-script it and make it your own very easy. Some of the lines in the script from Cody I took out and changed a few things around to fit my style.

Floyd
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magicgeorge
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Actually, I just bought a copy. Not my cup of tea, at all.
Floyd Collins
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I will pm you George
No one said it would be easy, or did they?

Check out my all new book "Chicken Scratches" visit my lulu store for more information.

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jeffdell
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Hi George,

Thank you so much for your feedback. I will definitely look into the book by Mike Bent. I have read through some of Judy Carter's "Stand-Up Comedy Book" and while its given me a lot of ideas I've found myself really struggling with the writing side of it.

As for effects to perform, I'm really trying to keep an open mind. The Neilson Bottle came to mind as an effect for me as the prop used is germane to the places I perform (open mic nights at bars) and wouldn't be seen as a prop necessarily. That said, I'm going to look into some of the performers and effects that Floyd mentioned (Cody Fisher, Nathan Kranzo's, etc). I also really like your idea of just gradually adding in magic to my set, rather than replacing my entire set wholesale with magic. I definitely appreciate you guys taking a few minutes to help me out. I will let you know how I make out as I start adding some magic into my set!

Jeff
Sealegs
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Hi Jeff,
These are my general thoughts.... All anyone is going to be interested in while watching you at a comedy club is, 'are you making them laugh and entertaining them'. Percentages of magic to standup or standup to magic are competely irrelevent to everyone else except you. The audience at a comedy club is looking to be entertained and laugh.

Now how you do that is up to you, you can be clever, smart, smarmy, eccentric, shocking, pityful, bombastic or whatever but getting laughs is really all you have to concern yourself about.

There was a guy in the UK in the 90's who was very successful on the comedy club circuit who ended his act by dropping his trousers and underwear, sticking a firework in his a*se and setting light to it. Do you think a consideration of the % of 'firework up the a*se' material to stand up material featured in his deciding to do this? He did it because it was a funny bit and it fitted with his mad character.

If it's funny and it makes the audience laugh you'll be doing your job..... and if it's not funny.... well you'll soon find out and can make adjustments for the next time. That's how you learn and become better.

Regarding material; choose whatever you think you will enjoy performing and that you think you can get the biggest laughs from. That sounds like a trite answer but it's not.

You're writing your own stuff....well done for that..... and for all we know you have the ability to write and deliver a killer funny comedy club appropriate script for the kids trick The Elusive Rabbits... or a Torn and Restored Card effect, or Card Manips, or any of a thousand other effects that are out there in the world of magic.

So those of us here on the Café who have no knowledge of you're particular skills, proclivities, leanings, performance style, etc would be wasting our time, and yours, suggesting effects for you to perform.

Take what you are good and comfortable with performing and see if you are able to make it funny. If you can't...try the next thing you are comfortable performing and have a go with that.

One of the starting stratergies that would-be comedy acts often try is doing routines that are precieved by the performer to have the comedy already built into the effect. This is a possible route to go in the process of building confidence, establishing a style and finding out how, where and in what way you can be funny. But I would suggest this is not an option if you are venturing into a comedy club environment.

The comedy club environment is both hard, in that laughter is the currency that will make you a good act, and forgiving in that a comedy club audience has, to some degree, the knowledge that new raw original stuff maybe tried out in front of them. Of course some audiences are less forgiving than others and even the most patient audience wont sit there forever.

The main thing to do if you're really interested is have a go.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Cheers.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
magicgeorge
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Any news from the front line?
BrianMillerMagic
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It's been said countless times, but the secret to being a successful comedian/magician is to learn how to be a comedian. You have to learn the art of stand-up comedy on its own, without the crutch of magic to help you out. Plenty of magicians who want to do "comedy magic" make the mistake of believing they can learn to be funny while doing magic tricks. The truth is, if you can't make an audience laugh consistently without the aid of tricks, you'll be sunk trying to add tricks to the equation.

Comedy Clubs are notoriously difficult venues for "comedy magicians" because of the aforementioned "laugh per minute" requirement. Most professional comedians will tell you 3-5 LPM is standard. I find as a comedian/magician, I can shoot for 1-3 LPM and, as long as I'm consistent, everyone is happy.

Once you've learned the art of stand-up, I suggest you choose the magic tricks that you like the best. Not ones you think are funny, but ones that you like for some reason. Take those routines and rehearse them by yourself without any presentation at all. Strip the presentation that you're used to, that you heard other magicians doing, that you've done before, etc. Get rid of it. Rehearse the routine silently a bunch of times, and then eventually start to say whatever comes to mind as you're going through it. Riff on some ideas until a story starts to come together, and then take those pieces and grab some pen and paper. Get your ideas down based on whatever you were riffing, and then start to form the ideas into set up -> punchline -> tagline format.

There's a book worth of suggestions I could keep writing, but I would refer you to Jay Sankey's, "Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy" for a starting point. It will be invaluable.

In the meantime, here are some links to articles I was writing last year as part of a larger project that I was ultimately side tracked from due to my performing schedule:

"It's you, not the trick" http://www.examiner.com/comedy-in-hartfo......he-trick

"Rough clubs and makeshift shows" http://www.examiner.com/comedy-in-hartfo......ft-shows

"Basic joke structure" http://www.examiner.com/comedy-in-hartfo......tructure

"Jokes, puns, and more" http://www.examiner.com/comedy-in-hartfo......and-more

"Parody and self-parody" http://www.examiner.com/comedy-in-hartfo......f-parody
magicgeorge
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Quote:
On 2011-07-30 12:02, BrianMillerMagic wrote
Once you've learned the art of stand-up, I suggest you choose the magic tricks that you like the best. Not ones you think are funny, but ones that you like for some reason. Take those routines and rehearse them by yourself without any presentation at all. Strip the presentation that you're used to, that you heard other magicians doing, that you've done before, etc. Get rid of it. Rehearse the routine silently a bunch of times, and then eventually start to say whatever comes to mind as you're going through it. Riff on some ideas until a story starts to come together, and then take those pieces and grab some pen and paper. Get your ideas down based on whatever you were riffing, and then start to form the ideas into set up -> punchline -> tagline format.


That is great advice.
Sealegs
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I agree with George, the advice Brain has given is very good and definitely worth taking a face value.

But..... (there's always a but).... there are no golden rules (I know because my signature below says so).

So I always get a bit twitchy when someone writes something like, "You have to learn the art of stand-up comedy on its own..."

This is without doubt good advice but the, 'have to', makes it sound like an absolute...an imperative. As a newbee looking to go into comedy clubs it's the best advice to follow and it's a good idea to take this at face valuue...... but it's not absolutely true.... there are, afterall, no golden rules in showbusiness. These rules only have any vailidity until someone comes along, breaks them all and is hugely successful.

I myself wouldn't know where to start when it comes to stand up but I had a very successful portion of my career spent working comedy clubs doing a comedy magic show.

But then I'm exceptional... in fact my exceptional-ness is only matched by my modesty.

I'm being facetious to make a point.... being able to do a stand up set isn't an imperative.... but you'll absolutely get no arguement from me in saying that it's the best way to approach developing a comedy club set.

Brian said more or less the very same thing that I said..... only he said it much more eloquently than me and with much more useful detail. I said, find what you're comfortable with and see if you can make it funny..... which for a newbee to the comedy club environment is probably useless and directionless information..... Brian more sensibly and helpfully provided a way to go about making this happen.

So I agree and disagree with brian on this. More importantly another post like this helps keep an actual thread about comedy magic on the front page of this forum. A rarity indeed.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
Floyd Collins
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I agree with you as well Sealegs, Brian and Gorge...
however in the case of this poster he stated;
"So I've been doing stand-up comedy for about 6 months, performing at open mics 1 - 3x per week and I'm considering performing an effect in place of doing my usual set."

So my thoughts on advice for him was not for someone who wants to break fresh into stand-up, since he already has started doing open mic and writes his own jokes. Yet how he can incorporate magic into his current comedy routine.

So taken what he has said and the videos I have viewed of Jeff he is already doing stand-up on it's own and now wants to add more too stand-up.

I was looking for a book for research from my library and glanced across a book I wish I would have posted sooner that may help someone to add magic to their comedy routine.

Stand-Up A professionals Guide to Comedy Magic by Ian Keable. The book is scattered with nuggets of gold for anyone wishing to do stand-up comedy magic.

I also agree let's keep this thread alive..
No one said it would be easy, or did they?

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Mindpro
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The point is funny is funny. You shouldn't rely on magic, props or anything else to be the foundation, source or basis for your act. The basis of your act should be he humor itself and your style of comedy. Then, if you want to add something like magic, props, song parodies, etc. on top of your humor that's possible, but then the question becomes, if you are already funny, why add the extra things?

You are correct, people go to a comedy club to laugh and be entertained, period. They don't go to hear sons, or see magic. Plus if you are going to introduce something like magic or props into your act, I'm a believer there must be a justifiable reason for doing so.

Here in the states you don't see it much as I believe this is why. Plus men and women respond to magic differently in an adult club setting. This should be remembered too. There are a few Magic & Comedy Clubs like n Hermmosa Beach, but they would be the exception.
magicgeorge
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Quote:
On 2011-08-04 09:00, aceofharts wrote:
Gorge


Floydy Woydy


Quote:
On 2011-08-04 09:15, Mindpro wrote:
The point is funny is funny. You shouldn't rely on magic, props or anything else to be the foundation, source or basis for your act. The basis of your act should be he humor itself and your style of comedy. Then, if you want to add something like magic, props, song parodies, etc. on top of your humor that's possible, but then the question becomes, if you are already funny, why add the extra things?


It's certainly asset to have the ability to perform a prop free show. So I think it's good to tick that box.
I feel I am at my best when I am sharing with my audience what I find funny. Therefore if I come up with a silly prop gag that I think is funny I'll have no qualms putting it in. As you said funny is funny...
Floyd Collins
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Sorry about that Georgy Porgy.... I like Gorge better... oh well its George I guess.

If you ever have the opportunity to watch Nathan Kranzo work a comedy club, he I feel has it down. They may not come to see magic but that is just what he gives them.

I personally keep everything organic when working those type of venues, this helps with the justification. I don't do a lot of comedy clubs these days with my stand-up, but I do my far share of college gigs and they are about the same type of audience as in most clubs.

I think adding or trying different things even if you have a stellar stand-up set keeps you fresh and helps with comic burn out. If your not re-inventing yourself often in this game you will surly become stale and outdated quickly. The key is to not re-do everything all at once but add and take out as you see your changes developing.
No one said it would be easy, or did they?

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Sealegs
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Mindpro wrote:"people go to a comedy club to laugh and be entertained, period."

I think we can all probably agree on that. In general they don't specifically go to see anything, or in most cases, anyone in particular. They just go to be entertained and laugh. (Of course some people may go to see specific acts that they know or have heard about, but that minority aside, most people just go along to have an entertaining evening and take whatever and whoever is served up)

There are many ways to entertain and make people laugh without doing stand up and generally, as Mindpro says, an audience doesn't mind or care how material is delivered to them as long as they find it funny and entertaining.

But Mindpro immediately followed up the above quote with:" "They don't go to {edit} see magic."

Now I'm getting into dangerous territory here as I'm going to extrapolate on the apparent implication of what Mindpro wrote.( always a risky thing to do on the Café as it leads to bad feelings....hopefully that won't happen here Smile ) To me implicit with what Mindpro has written is the notion that, 'they didn't go to see magic so why are would you include magic and show them something they didn't go to see?'.

To which I would answer, 'why wouldn't you show them whatever you want'?

There have been hugely successful comedy club acts (at least here in the UK) whose chosen palette of comedy has been many things other than stand up. EG: poetry (John Hegley), impressions of guns and automatic weapons (Al Murray), torturing Teddy Bears (The man with the beard), Juggling (Paul Morocco), Geek acts (The *** son of Tommy Copper), Music and song (Bill Bailey), Magic (Otis Cannelloni) and the list goes on.

Did the audiences who saw these funny and now successful acts care how these performers delivered their comedy? I know for sure they didn't and I also know that before they were famous (here in the UK) they didn't go specifically to see poetry, teddy bear torture, juggling, songs, automatic weapon impressions, and heavy weights being hung from a blokes bell end. But they laughed their faces off and they didn't care. Indeed they probably feet great in seeing something different, unexpected, unusual and hilariously funny.

The great thing about comedy clubs is they encourage the odd and unusual. In main stream venues there is a tried and trusted formula and understanding of the sort of entertainment that will be served up. The great thing about the comedy clubs is that stuff that wouldn't work in mainstream venues has a home and is usually encouraged both by the people who operate the venues and the audiences that attend. (Unfortunately over the years this distinction has weakened considerably but it is still there to some degree)

Although the personality of the act is always going to be the over-riding make or break factor there are other elements to a show that are key supporting structures without which the act wouldn't work or indeed, in some cases, exist. To suggest any of these elements aren't key supporting structures (indeed I consider them foundation stones) on which their acts are/were dependent is a bit of a stretch.

Imagine any of these acts I mentioned above without the very thing that they based their act on... the poetry, the impressions, the teddy bears, the juggling, the large weight hanging from the bell end, the magic, and the musicality. Pushing the boundaries, being different, setting yourself apart from the crowd etc. These can be reasons in and of themselves.

However it's one thing to have a comedy club act of a non stand up type, but like Mindpro I wonder why a comedy club act who is a stand up and has good stand up chops would want to add magic into the mix if what they are doing, stand up wise, is working well for them.

After reading one of Brain Miller's pieces I asked him why he chose to include magic in his shows when he clearly can deliver the goods without it. His reply was basically underwhelming and charmingly simple. In a nutshell he said that at heart he was a magician.

In other words, 'why not'?

There really doesn't need to be a functional justification for the inclusion of the magic... or poetry...or sticking a lit firework up your a*se.

However, I wonder if Mindpro has the same nagging thought that I do?. That is; Is the inclusion of magic being considered as a substitute for the comedy?

I firmly believe, Magic is not, and cannot be, a substitute for the comedy. That's true in any public entertainment environment not just comedy clubs.

If that is what Mindpro is alluding to when he talks about having a justification for including magic into a comedy set then I agree with him completely. If you have an ok-ish stand up set and feel you are going to bolster it by adding magic to it you are, in my opinion, definitely on the wrong track.

But as it is we don't know if this is thought process behind Jeffdell's desire to include some magic in place of some of his stand up.

And as Brain Miller, Otis Cannelloni, John Lenahan, Pete, Firman, Pete Best and other successful comedy club magic acts have demonstrated, there can be other reasons.
Neal Austin

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Floyd Collins
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I have found over the years that many who use magic in their stand-up do so for the same reason as Brian. I don’t do pure stand-up because of the same reason. Sure I have stand-up bits weaved throughout my act and there are times I am not doing a magic trick but telling a joke to setup for the next trick. But I don’t feel I need to just deliver jokes because the comedy that I produce from utilizing magic has all that I need to entertain and produce the laughs needed to sustain a comedy stand-up act.

Mindpro does raise a good point about justification.

I have had other comics over the years that have approached me and asked if they should add magic into their set. My first question to them always is WHY!

I have never had a comic say “because I can’t be funny without it!” or a magician say I want to add comedy because I am a dull act. The most common answer I get is, I like magic and I want to set myself apart from the rest.

The very same reason I don’t do pure stand-up without magic, it sets me aside from the rest of the stand-ups. The next answer I get sometimes is, I want something more visual in my set but I don’t want to resort to just having props to have props for laughter. If I introduce a prop I want there to be a reason for it other than to get a quick laugh. All good reasons I feel.

So what is the difference really, if one wants to add magic to explore the possibilities of making people laugh while performing the magic, I think that is great. For me that’s all the justification one needs.

When Mindpro said justification I thought he was referring to as in why you are doing magic in a stand-up comedy club setting. I can see a point to that if that is indeed what he meant as well. As a performer you can never lose sight of what that audience will expect to see from your act. If you are a pure stand-up comic and have a following already then yes I feel you need a good transition into your magic piece to justify doing magic during your act. Other than that, it becomes a personal justification as to why you are including magic.

There is also a justification factor as to the props you use for the magic.
My goal when creating a piece for my show is to keep it simple and organic. The comedy I produce comes from the process while performing the trick. If what I use during that process is organic it allows me to justify it being used.

Whereas if the trick I am trying to use during the comedic process is too far out in left field and no one would ever see this prop unless at a magic show I feel sets the audience mindset that what I am about to do is purely a magic trick. I don’t want them setting any assumptions like this because during the process I want to be free to interact and produce more comedy with that interaction while performing the trick. I don’t want any pre-conceived notions as to how this will all play out.

But that is the great thing about comedy, it is all subjective.
No one said it would be easy, or did they?

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Pete Biro
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First... there are no rules. If you are funny you can do anything.

I worked for a number of years as a middle act at the Comedy/Magic Club in Hermosa beach. Usually between a beginning comic and a closer like Leno. I did simple effects like linking rings and my own card in balloon using topical, original lines. I averaged 17 minutes. Some nights I filled in as MC, but never tried to do just stand up without props.

The biggest complaint most comics have about magicians is so many of them do the same tricks and use the same stock lines.

So, avoid tricks others are doing and throw out all the stock lines.

Leno tells all young guys, "Work every night, because any night you don't work you go backwards."
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
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