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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Now that’s funny! » » Comedy Magic For Silent Act (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

alexander_may
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I've been asked to do a magic act (8-10 mins) with one catch, it has to be non-talking with only music playing. I've been doing magic for 20 years but all my material so far have been presented with me talking for the comedy to come across - anybody have any ideas for effects and routines which would work without talking? I know the usual suspects like Multiplying Bottles etc would work, but I am specifically looking at things that might get a laugh as well. TIA!
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cbguy
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Have fun because it's MUCH more difficult than it seems. I have studied mime with a lady who trained with Marcel Marceu. I've taken clown classes where the requirement is that everything we do MUST be performed silent and I have taken Physical comedy classes...and the fact remains, Silent is freaking hard to pull off "GOOD".

Now, with that said, there is a routine that I think may help you, but if you've never done silent comedy, it's a great place to start exploring it's called: Silent Treatment by Jon Allen.

I hope this helps.
alexander_may
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It definitely is much harder than it sounds!!! There are tons of silent magic, but very little comedy magic.

I own Silent Treatment, it is for sure the opener so far. But from then onwards...
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cbguy
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You will not pull off silent comedy if you don't know how to pull off silent comedy.

You should take a few mime, clown and physical comedy classes. After that, you will have a better idea on how you can take almost anything and perform it as silent comedy. There are several little things that make a HUGE difference and if you do not apply them, you will lose your audience before you even have a chance.

Tricks don't matter, knowing how to pull it off is what matters.
alexander_may
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I'm specifically NOT looking for clowning/mime or physical comedy type gags. I'm searching for a "magic trick", that has a clear climax.

Silent Treatment is a mentalism prediction routine done without talking, but has some funny bits built into it.

Something like Prof Cheers Rope Routine as an example, has lots of comedy - but is not a 'magic trick.'

I hope that explains a bit better as to what I have in mind and am looking for.
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Wravyn
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What about the comedy water from elbow funnel?
cbguy
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Alexander, what you are not understanding is that Clown classes will not leave you doing "clown gags" it will teach you things about silent comedy that you've never heard of or imagined. Take for example Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, The Three Stooges, Jim Carey, Mike Myers, Chris Farley. They are all clowns and none of them do "clown gags" per say. Physical Comedy is all about Silent Comedy.

If you are serious these are things you need to be pursuing. If you choose not to, you will only limit yourself and you will not grow as a silent comedian. Also, once you know how to apply silent comedy to your act, you will become inherently funnier in general because you will have more tools in your tool bag.
alexander_may
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Cbguy, I understand what you are saying, and I'm not disagreeing with you. One of my main interests is classic clowning, silent comedy etc. Believe me, I have TONS and TONS of material on this topic. So I already know how to apply that to my performances and act.

In this instance I am just looking to add actual magic effects as opposed to physical comedy bits and moments. Those I already have. I am looking for material that is not only funny, but also 'magic.'

Wravyn, the comedy funnel is definitely in line with what I am thinking - I'm writing it down Smile
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Mike Maturen
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Quote:
On Apr 23, 2018, alexander_may wrote: I know the usual suspects like Multiplying Bottles etc would work, but I am specifically looking at things that might get a laugh as well. TIA!


The multiplying bottles could still work. You just have to use exaggerated facial expressions to show surprise at what is happening...almost like you were expecting one thing, but another happened. I am currently practicing the routine (not in my show yet). The character I am developing is slightly inebriated, so the multiplying bottles will work as a comedy act for me.

Good luck...like has already been said, it's difficult...but if you have acting chops, it can work.
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thomhaha
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Been working on this myself - I am a non-speaking clownish character. It's not the effect, it's in a combination of the way you worldlessly create expectation in the audience and then how you respond to effect. The comedy is in your character. And it's tough not relying on word-plays for humor and patter for misdirection.

It's difficult to suggest any effects when you have not shared a theme, "genre" (victorian gentlemen vs. vaudevillian/silent film vs 1980's cirque nouveu), or target audience.
Dick Oslund
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Nobody has mentioned GEORGIE KARL!!!

There are some acts that no "smart" performer would ever try to follow. ("Garray & Tomio", for example.) Carl Garray was a ventriloquist (obviously not a silent act!) with life size figures. The finish of the act was STRONG! No experienced performer, would want to follow Garray & Tomio!

Georgie Karl, was a silent act. Like "G&T", no experienced performer........

If Georgie was booked on a show where the producer had not seen him work, the producer would ask, "What do you do?"

Georgie would say, "I come on and play with the microphone for 5 minutes. Then, I play with my hat for 5 minutes. Finally, I walk funny for 5 minutes."

Georgie did not do magic. He never spoke one word, onstage. He was FUNNY. I would suggest that you check out the Ed Sullivan show, or similar variety shows.

You'll LEARN something about silent comedy.
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thomhaha
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If using google, search George Carl ("Georgie Karl" leads to a feud between British Today show hosts)

Also try Muppet Show: they did a lot of sight gags, and had several non-verbal characters.

Topper Martyn might give some inspiration too - Mad, Mad Magic is worth reading.

So is the Dr. Clutterhouse routine (Elmer Gylleck)
Julie
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Consider a version of Don Alan's COMEDY EGG TRICK.

Julie
alexander_may
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Thank you for all your ideas and replies! The main brief was that they do NOT want to book a clown. They are specifically looking for somebody who can do magic for people who are not English speaking. My regular type of magic is mostly comedy so I am hoping to keep it in that line, only silent. One or two clown / mime gags are fine, but I can't go the route of George Carl for example. It must be magic done silently.
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Dick Oslund
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Heehee! I don't think ANYONE (!!!) could do George's act! But, I do think, if you can find his act somewhere, that you would benefit, by watching him!

I think that it's rather obvious that the EFFECTS (The EFFECT is "what the spectator PERCEIVES. A TRICK is what you PERFORM. AN EFFECT, IS NOT A TRICK.)

The EFFECT(S) SHOULD BE VISUAL. If the EFFECT is humorous, it's even better.

I remember two gigs where the audience was non English speaking. One, a Christmas party for a company employee party in Chicago. They were Spanish. and, one a 3 hour river cruise, from New Orleans, for a Spanish tourist group.

The Chicago party was a 30 minute stand up job, and, the river cruise was a strolling gig. I was "on" for the entire cruise.

The EFFECTS in my performances, are very VISUAL, and, the groups were well pleased. The river cruise group left the boat, and assembled on the pier. When I left, they applauded my "exit"!!!
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thomhaha
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Your post has generated for me a lot of reflection. Thanks for sharing your endeavor; it's helped me get over a couple of bumps in my own non-verbal routining.

The difficulty I'm having is that effects themselves are not funny. Some magicians play them for mystery, others as sucker-gags, others for comedy. So much of the comedic is presentation is simply wrong for my stage character, so neither the effect nor production items (or whatever) just don't fit me: they come off as too silly, or like I'm being a smart-Alec, or distance me from the audience. So it's difficult to suggest what would work for you as silent comedy.

A lot of my companions like rubber chickens. Other than a symbol for silliness, I don't relate to them. When they suggest that I include a rubber chicken in my gags, I roll my eyes - and then think of what I could substitute.

Dick Oslund's suggestion was not to replicate any part of George Carl's act, it was to look at how he achieved comedy without speaking. Perhaps if you could tell us who your non-speaking comedic inspirations are, we can brainstorm with you better. Me, I like silent film, and I find Stan Laurel inspiring (even though I look more like Oliver Hardy!).


I'm also inspired by Ali Bongo. No one is as frenetic as Ali Bongo. You've stated you don't want to replicate his clownish stage presence. But there's lots of comedy to be borrowed from his presentation. (For example, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbOwMc5paAw) And it's worth looking at how he achieved comedy out of his non-speaking presentation and worked with multicultural audiences that did not share the same languages. The effects he used were not themselves inherently comedic: many other performers do the exact same effects with no laughter. The comedy is building expectation, encountering failure, and success in a surprising way. For example, he announces the vanishing bottle. In showing the tube empty he discovers a rubber hand. He can't make the bottle vanish, so he goes through a bunch of wands, and there's bits of comedy as he discovers / uses them. After several attempts of not vanishing the bottle, he produces a bunch of items - none of which are funny by themselves, but the ways he interacts with them. His final production is a second bottle, a flag, and he marches out. He gets a solid 2 1/2 minutes from what is a simple production effect by injecting superfluousness.

As I look at his production finale for ideas for myself, my stage character would need a slower presentation. I don't want to vanish / produce bottles - but I can build expectation for a different trick (change bag? square circle? . I like the chaos Ali Bingo generates, but I don't have stage hands to deliver props from offstage or to clean up after me so I'm going to change the specific props used in the effects. I will respond and interact with the props and effects differently: Ali Bongo meets surprise with wonder and joy; I will probably make an affective shift from initial frustration to increasing delight. I'm not going to march off stage with a flag over my shoulder, but given the emotional change the final items will lead me into exploring anew.

So again, thanks for sharing your endeavor and allowing us to muse alongside you. I hope the conversation has been - and may continue to be - fruitful for you.
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