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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Tricky business » » Showmanship: Finer Points on Professionalism for an Entertainer (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Tim Friday
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What's the difference between an amateur and a professional entertainer? One way a professional entertainer stands out is by how they communicate with the audience.

More specifically, here are some questions to consider: How do you win over an audience? What makes an entertainer endearing to the audience? How does an entertainer bond with the audience? What does it mean to warm up a crowd? What does it mean to work a crowd?

A well rehearsed and skillfully executed performance is a basic requirement, but after that what makes a pro stand out? What do you say that makes an audience remember you instead of another performer who does the same trick?

It's the concept of showmanship. Here's a few thoughts and examples that have impacted me.

Michael Skinner

Image


My friend Don Driver tells me that Michael Skinner used to say when he left a table where he just performed close-up magic, he would rather the table say "he was really a nice guy" instead of "he was very clever."

In his videos Skinner says to the audience

Quote:
"I'm having a wonderful time tonight, and it's all because of you."


Michael Skinner was hired directly by Steve Wynn to work at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas and he is respected to this day by magicians as being one of the best ever at sleight of hand but he still focused on how he treated his audience and how he wanted them to perceive him. Showmanship.

Image
Steve Wynn

More recently I was at a magic convention and saw Michael Kent perform. During his performance, he told a story about when he performed for a prominent Korean General, there was an incident with an attractive young woman in the audience, who turned out to be the General's daughter, which created some tension...

I won't spoil the story but the point is it was a great story, I don't remember every trick Michael did but that story has lingered in my mind. I remember thinking that is a heck of a great story and this guy is one charming son of a gun. That's showmanship.

Image


Here's a couple of extreme examples:

Kreskin: The guy is nonstop full of impressive anecdotes, you would think he should come off as overdoing it, but it works for him.

Image


Liberace: Want to hear a great line?

Image


Quote:
"Here's a song everybody in show business has done, and I don't want to be left out. I'm gonna do it too, but I'm gonna try and do it a little bit differently. First of all to refresh your memory, I'm going to play it in it's original form, then as..."


That's his intro to "Mack the Knife." I'm not even a fan of Liberace, but there's something really charming about that intro. By the very act of acknowledging that this a piece lots of people have already done, he distinguishes himself. What if I magician took that line and said

Quote:
"Here's a trick that every magician has done, and I don't want to be left out. I'm gonna do it too, but I'm gonna try and do it a little bit differently."


Don't miss the point, I'm not saying adopt Liberace's effeminate delivery unless that's your thing, I'm just saying it's a great introduction that makes him stand out.

I'm still pretty new at this and still figuring out how to present myself in a memorable way, but I think about it a lot. Lately I've been thinking, do I just want to show up at a table do my three tricks wham, bam, thank you mam then onto business at the next table. Or do I form more of a personal, memorable connection with the audience?

These nuances, intros, and anecdotes are the spice of a performance, they are the fills in between the lyrics, and they have the power to be the most memorable part of a performance.

Finally I will point out that I was unsure of where to post this on the Magic Café. I was surprised that there isn't a section on Showmanship or the Art of Performing. I decided since it is a topic of Professionalism it should go in tricky business. What does it say about us that we have so many sections on different categories of tricks, yet not one section on Showmanship?

By the way it comes off better if you hear Liberace say it, here's a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD7dw_BW_UI
Bazinga
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Good stuff there Tim.
Logan Five
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Indeed really great insites in your post!
Self concept is destiny..
Mindpro
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Most do not truly understand professionalism and all it encompasses on many levels. Only professionals get it, as its something difficult to explain to others because of the overall effort involved, as most performers just are interested in "performing." They simply don't realize what they don't know.

I receive submissions from entertainers that claim they are "professionals all of the time when in reality I'd say only about 15% truly are. Dissolution is rampant, especially with entertainers due to ego and the promotional hype and nature of our business.

It is a process of learning, growth and evolvement that most don't take seriously enough or want to rush through. Unfortunately to audiences this is one of the first things they determine in their minds, which sets the picture for everything else forthcoming.

Then there is also the perception of professionalism that is important and differs. One can consider themselves and literally be a professional working in restaurants, yet to the public and patrons, they may see it entirely different due to laymen's perspectives. This all plays a role in true "professionalism" and one's approach to it.

Showmanship is only one element that makes one a professional. In reality it is much more than that. I also believe there are five levels of performers rather than just amateur and professional.
lou serrano
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Good stuff, Tim.

Mindpro,

Would you care to share those five levels?

Lou
MichaelKent
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Thanks for the kind words, Tim. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. For those of you who weren't at the magic convention Tim was talking about, I tell the story in an interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kMNT5WTolE
Tim Friday
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Quote:
On Mar 9, 2014, MichaelKent wrote:
Thanks for the kind words, Tim. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. For those of you who weren't at the magic convention Tim was talking about, I tell the story in an interview here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kMNT5WTolE


Michael, thanks for sharing, that is a great story.

Mindpro, I'm with Lou, I'd like to hear more about the 5 levels...
Mindpro
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Thanks guys for the interest in my thoughts on the five levels of performers. I did offer Lou the answer to this question via PM, but prefer not to explain it at this time as it is part of an upcoming release that is due out this year. These five levels are also part of a larger section and topic that offering them is sure to evolve into which again, I'd rather wait until it's released.

It offers perspective that may be different from typical approaches or thinking, yet most who read it almost regularly agree, as I believe Lou did as well. Thanks for the interest.
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