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Steve Hoffman
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A thought just occurred to me, and I wonder if other magicians have had this thought, or perhaps even acted upon it?

You know how many comedians have succeeded by presenting themselves as losers, failures, incompetents, nudniks, etc? (E.g., Rodney "I Can't Get No Respect" Dangerfield; Woody Allen in all his early movies; Gary Shandling in nearly everything he does; the Costello half of "Abbott & Costello" etc., etc., etc.)

What I'm wondering is: is there potential for a comedy magic act in which the magician presents himself as the World's WORST Magician (or something along those lines)?

Such an act would include real magic, but with patter that is full of jokes in which the magician pokes fun at himself, and where even when the tricks go right, the outcome is screwy.

For example, doing the Hundy 500 (where five $1 bills are transformed into $100 bills, but doing a version where you start out with the $100 bills and end up reducing them to $1 bills!).

In such an act, the brunt of the jokes would be on the magician himself.

I know that of course, clowns do this sort of thing all the time. But I am thinking of a comedy-magic performance where the person doesn't dress the part of a clown. The performer's appearance would be fairly ordinary, like a typical stand-up comedian. And the humor wouldn't be so much pie-in-the-face slapstick as it would be humorous storylines and humorous outcomes to the tricks.

I would think this sort of persona could be a fun "alter-ego" for a comedy-inclined magician to play around with.

I realize that some magicians would NEVER want to do this, because it cuts against their grain of being the powerful, mysterious wizard. But it is precisely because such a schlep magician goes against the grain that I think it has comic potential.

Have there been, or are there, magicians who perform with a Rodney Dangerfield or early Woody Allen type persona?

Steve Hoffman
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Mushu
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Kaymar the Discount Magician was a regular on David Letterman. The name says it all. He was hilarious and fit in well with Letterman's brand of humour.

Then, there's Steve Martin's Morto the Magician, who takes the nothing-goes-right shtick right to the extreme.
Peter Marucci
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Carl Ballantine used to do a comedy "nothing works" magic act, but it was based on the premise that the tricks simply didn't work for him they way they were supposed to work.

I think your idea, Steve, has considerable merit.

It's a different concept and the magic world needs a shot of self-deprecating humor today!

(Your idea of the $100 bills turning into $1 is brilliant!)

I'd say, "go for it" and do it; you're probably onto a winner!

cheers,
Peter Marucci
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Quote:
On 2003-12-14 10:57, Steve Hoffman wrote:
In such an act, the brunt of the jokes would be on the magician himself.

I realize that some magicians would NEVER want to do this, because it cuts against their grain of being the powerful, mysterious wizard. But it is precisely because such a schlep magician goes against the grain that I think it has comic potential.

The "magician in trouble" premise has been used by kid's performers quite routinely to take the "sting" out of sucker tricks.

I think it should scale quite well to the level you're thinking. It can be played many ways, just be consistent with your character.
booker
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I've been billing myself as "The Worst *** Magician You've ever Seen" for the past 2 years. Last night I did my fifth show in 8 days and I'll be on the road in January so you see it's already been done.

Booker
glodmagic
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Kohl and Company. They are Hilarious and in your neck of world, I think (Maryland)

The King of this venue has to be Johnny Thompson. Gum chewing "care less" assistant. Dove in Balloon with only feathers (dead bird) appearing, Bird poop on jacket, etc.
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cheesewrestler
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Johnny Thompson is truly great. Be sure to get the Stevens video of his performance as "The Great Tomsoni & Co." I seem to remember seeing a few minutes of Ballantine's act on video, don't remember where though.
Steve Hoffman
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Thanks for all the comments so far. I was quite sure that I was not the first one to have this idea (and I sure hope I wasn't giving the impression that I was claiming some "new" insight) . . . . But I didn't offhand know the names of who else has done this, and I'm glad to hear of some of the names in this field.

Right now, I don't think I would attempt to launch an act along these lines, but in the years ahead I may attempt to develop some comic bits along these lines, and maybe out of that will come a complete character.

Yours for the power of negative thinking,
Steve Hoffman
El_Lamo
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... I too have been playing with this concept...

Sometimes it doesn't work... grin.


Cheers - El Lamo
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redstreak
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I've also been experimenting with the "bad magician" idea. There's a lot of comedy you can do with it.
Regan
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I thought of Kohl & Company also. I love their act.

Regan
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Tommy Cooper, primarily a comedian, was marvellous at magic which apparently went wrong. Apparently he first started performing that way on purpose after genuinely getting a trick wrong, and discovering that the audience found it much more entertaining that way. Freddie Starr is another comedian whose apparently incompetent magic is very funny.
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Dario
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Tommy Cooper is not the only magician that has discover that when he fails is more entertaining.

By the way, you have to think in wich situations you want to perform. Is a very giid idea for cabaret, Tv or theater acts, in a formal situation where the people is right. But, for example in informal conditions or people expecting a good magician can be a little dangerous...

But I love it. I have an act of diferents characters failing in his tricks and it gets very good reactions.

Darío
Conlaw
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One of the first names that came to mind when I first read this topic was the Amazing Jonathan!

He is hilarious and his character is a horrible magician. He does a spood bending routine where he tells the audience to watch closly as the spoon will soon bend. Then a large flash and lound BOOM crack on the other side of the stage. Of course, everyone looks at the flash and when their gaze returns to Jonathan the spoon is bent. It is really funny stuff.

I also enjoy his, "sometimes magic sounds like tape" line as he is attempting to restore a torn bill under the cover of silk and the audience clearly hears tape being pulled from its spool....

Anyway, I think its a great idea especially if you are a humorist to begin with.

Conlaw
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I would be interested to hear what people think about the idea of a mentalism routine in which nothing goes right, aka "The World's Worst Mentalist."
I very much like the idea of bringing comedy into mentalism, and just last evening enjoyed a good laugh watching a Falkenstein and Willard routine in which a blindfolded Frances Willard senses that hubby Glenn Falkenstein has found "a balloon" in a spec's wallet (I'll let you figure out what it *really* was!)
"A good mentalist ... will teach you a miracle because he understands the subtleties ..." -- Banachek

"If this works it'll be BEAUTIFUL!" - The Amazing Kreskin on a stunning effect he performed on his 1970s television series (PS: it worked)
Slim King
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That "Balloon" bit is funeeeee! I always wondered about the "Exposure" angle of Tommy Cooper. Most people know that there's a string somewhere but Tommy just fouled it all up and even yelled at the guy who was supposed to be pulling the string. Did magicians ever mind ?
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Ed Hutchison
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Nathan Burton's illusion of the over done magician coming out of the microwave of death was great, but, for a truly classic comedy act, I think Kohl and Co. would be hard to beat. I have seen them at five different conventions and they got a standing ovation each time.

Ed Hutchison
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BenSchwartz
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Me and my friend already do a duo act of the mentalist that everything goes wrong.... so take that one out too.... LOL
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damien666
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One of the BEST ' Worst Magician Acts' is the great Chips Cooney (sp?). He does his entire act seriously, but not doing any magic tricks... Like 'magically' lighting a lighter - or ripping up a newspaper, putting it in an envelope, then putting that envelope into a pocket; then pulling out a DIFFERENT envelope from a DIFFERENT pocket to reveal a restored newspaper, etc, etc. It is very funny to watch. Just because it is played so dead pan.
The Donster
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How about Peter Bradys Act from the Brady Bunch. that could be a start.
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