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Brad Burt
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Hello:

Magic and Comedy...Comedy Magic.....Here is an odd observation that came to me as I was thinking about another post: In my 30+ years as a professional magician I have never and I mean NEVER seen magic made better by the addition of comedy. I have seen it made more entertaining, but never more magical.

Let me state it another way: I have never seen comedy make a magic effect seem stronger magically. In fact I would argue that in every case the 'magic' of any effect or routine is lessened by using comedy, even simple humor in the routine.

On the other hand I would assert that a solid magic routine that is done as a comedy turn is 'generally' more ENTERTAINING than done otherwise.

Why is this? Any thoughts? I will give you my thinking: Generally, it is easier to add comedy to a routine and make it more entertaining than it is to do magic REALLY magically and thus make it more entertaining. That is, that generally what makes magic 'magic' is further away from all of us as magicians than is humor. It is easier to make light of some 'effect' than it is to find that presentation that in essence will leave an audience in awe of what they think ... just might REALLY be true magical power. Examine the thinking and performance of such as Blackstone Sr., Malini, etc. and you find that the descriptions of what they did were many times couched in a tone of awe.

This is the reason that I believe Mentalism is gaining a basic ascendency as the 'magic' that does in fact allow the performer to leave the audience with this sense of awe. Mentalism just 'might' be 'real'. Best regards,

Brad Burt
Brad Burt
rtgreen
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Brad,

Just a couple of quick thoughts about this (My one year old son is trying to type while I type this). I've thought a lot about comedy and magic and drama and magic for that matter. I think a magical effect is made most magical by a mood appropriate to the type of effect being performed - whether it is comedy, drama, storytelling, music, etc. Concerning comedy, think of Cardini or Billy McComb. Though, tossing jokes into your patter won't highten the magical effect, if the effect is part of the comedy it is very useful. With Cardini, for example, it is very funny that he can't seem to get control of the magic, yet it is that very idea that makes his manipulations so magical. Billy McComb's McComical Deck is another example. It is very funny to watch the "Magician in trouble" plot if it is presented well and the audience really thinks the trick will not work. But when the magic works in spite of the trick of it going wrong, the magic is hightened.

Anyway, just some quick thoughts before my son steals the keyboard from me...

(Here's a message from him now: "lkjfsdzxz2343RW" Smile )

Thanks,
Richard
rikbrooks
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I've thought quite a bit about this lately. I have to agree in most. I think it's a matter of your persona though. Personally, I may inject just a little, but not much. I was, for example, very disappointed with Tim Wright's Zombie routine. He did the Zombie as comedy. Sure, his movements were smooth and nice, but the comedy, for me, distracted from his expertise and stole a little of the mystery from the effect. It reduced the ball from a mystery of nature, floating and barely under control --- to a mischevious imp.

That's not to say that comedy doesn't have it's place. Still, I've never failed to be disappointed at every comedy linking rings I've seen, even the ones by the greats.

You may have a point. Then again, some people are just funny - and I would say that they are comedians that use magic. Other people are magicians that use a little comedy.
saxmangeoff
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Interesting question!

I'll inject an anecdote here. After we saw Mac King, my father-in-law said to me, "Well, that proves that comedy is better than magic!" I think he was saying the same thing as Brad, just with different words.

But is that a problem? Mac King is definitely a comedian who is doing magic. Is the magic improved by the comedy? Is the comedy improved by the magic? In his case, the magic and comedy fit together, and I can't imagine one without the other. True, you aren't likely to leave his show with your jaw hanging open wondering if maybe, just maybe, what you saw was real, but you are going to leave saying, "Mac King was great, and just how did he get that card in the cereal box anyway?"

Is entertainment the goal, or mystery and conviction? The balance could go either way -- an entertaining show with mystery as an element, or an amazing mystery that might or might not have been entertaining.

It may boil down to the person. I can't picture Mac King doing David Blaine, and I can't picture David Blaine doing Mac King.

Geoff
"You must practice your material until it becomes boring, then practice it until it becomes beautiful." -- Bill Palmer
Lee Darrow
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Hmmmm. Interesting postulate. I've seen some people who should never do comedy attempt to do comedy magic and the results were, to say the least, tragic.

On the other hand, I have probably seen more people try to do "serious" magic that were unintentionally funny - to the audience.

I like to mix the two in my performances, giving the audience a good laugh across the act, but interspersing a serious bit here and there and, by doing so, I have found that the impact of the "serious" material was far greater - more magical if you like because of the contrasts between the comedic portions of the program and the more serious parts.

Theatrically, doing contrastual interspersing (if such a phrase even exists) adds exactly that - contrast, physically, mentally and emotionally. Maybe that's one way to do it. I know it's worked pretty well for me over the years.

Lee Darrow, C.H.
http://www.leedarrow.com
<BR>"Because NICE Matters!"
Mrbimble
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Everyone ideas are very similar. I believe that it’s a combination of the performers persona itself and the trick itself. For example: the coin trick “Hopping Half”. It can be done with comedic overtones or serious overtones. I have seen and done both “versions”, depending on the audience and/or what type of feelings I want to portray. Both are excellent and both are entertaining. It’s a lot of trial and error. There are many artists that are good at one genera of their art but cannot pull off the other. It’s the joys of the world, everyone is different.
Jerry M.
Mundas vult decipi ~The world wants to be deceived

Multum in parvo ~Much in little(packs small/plays big)
saxmangeoff
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Lee, could it be that your lighthearted moments increase the impact of your "heavy" stuff for two reasons: first, as you mention, because of the contrast; second because the humor has gotten them to relax and let their guard down?

Quote:
On 2004-12-28 13:14, Mrbimble wrote:


Is that name a reference to Muppet Treasure Island?
"You must practice your material until it becomes boring, then practice it until it becomes beautiful." -- Bill Palmer
Jailhouse Jonny
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One point where comedy can make the magic more magical is when it is used for misdirection.
zur
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I agree to some extent, but from what I've learned, I think its more important that the audience feel entertained than have an effect more magical. Therefore comedy and magic blend in really well and enhances your performance result.
saxmangeoff
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I had another thought about this topic today.

Ask 10 random people to name one of Shakespeare's plays. Chances are very good that you'll hear Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, or Macbeth. You are less likely to hear The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, or A Midsummer Night's Dream.

So, the question, for which I have no answer, is: Why are Shakespeare's tragedies more well-known than his comedies?

And is this related to Brad's assertion above?

Geoff
"You must practice your material until it becomes boring, then practice it until it becomes beautiful." -- Bill Palmer
zur
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Interesting but I think Much Ado is also on the most famous list. I would feel that the so called western hemisphere's most popular drama list is concentrated in the topic of love.
Mrbimble
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Quote:
On 2004-12-28 15:57, saxmangeoff wrote:
Is that name a reference to Muppet Treasure Island?


Yes I've been using it for some time. A nickname given to me by my wife. Smile
Jerry M.
Mundas vult decipi ~The world wants to be deceived

Multum in parvo ~Much in little(packs small/plays big)
zur
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How did that nickname come about?
Peter Marucci
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Jaillhouse Jonny writes: "One point where comedy can make the magic more magical is when it is used for misdirection. "

Absolutely. It's called "splitting the focus" and is a well known ploy of models and actors (not so well known in the less-theatrically savvy world of magic).

Of course, comedy is a thing unto itself. To suggest that adding comedy doesn't make an effect more magical is a bit like saying that adding more paint to your props doesn't make them more magical. Of course not; paint is also a thing unto itself.

I do magicomedy -- a mix of magic and comedy and I'm very successful at it; Tommy Downs was known as the King of Koins and used comedy liberally in his act; in fact, most of the "great names" including Harry Houdini, used comedy.

Some didn't. That's fine, too.

Brad Bkurt writes: "Generally, it is easier to add comedy to a routine and make it more entertaining than it is to do magic REALLY magically and thus make it more entertaining."

Sure. That's because most magicians are lazy! They will take the easy road; after all, why do any creative thinking when there are so many others doing it for you?
Brad Burt
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Hello:

Wonderful responses that have helped focus what I was thinking above. In part as the years have passed I think that I have wanted 'magic' to simply be purer and well, more magical. Realize that I realize that this is totally unrealistic! Goofy even. Part of this realization includes the perception that my great love magically, Card Magic, has almost no place at all in the 'Ideal Magic World' that I envision and in fact that world has more to do with Uri Geller than with, well, name any magician at this point. It is a VERY idealized conception of magic and I admit totally that I long for it wistfully. I WANT the lay public to believe that at least one of us is the REAL DEAL. I really do. David Blaine is probably the first magician in almost a century to have a good portion of the general public think that he might in fact have 'real' magic powers. I like that.

Consider the history of magic. It decends from folks that went the distance to convice folks that they did INDEED have real magic power. As magic became more and MORE legitimate the less and less our routines became magic and more and more puzzles. What do most folks want to know about a magic trick? They want to know "How does it work?" And, less we fool ourselves, they DON'T think any real magic has taken place, they 'think' that they were merely tricked.

Please don't make the mistake thinking that I am trying to invalidate what is being done magicially by magicians everywhere. I'm not. I think generally it is also wonderful. It has simply come to me after 33 years in the biz that it would be nice to have folks 'think' that 'magicians' do in fact do 'real' magic....if only for a day or so. When I talk about Uri Geller above I'm not referring to 'mentalism' per se, but to the aura or reality that Geller provoked by his apparent demonstrations of psychic ability. I was there for a show once and I can tell you he was GOOD. His 'magic' if you will was electric in a way that few magic performances CAN BE. Why, because everyone is pretty much 'winking' at the idea of what is coming being real right from the start! HEY, we practically yell, we're going to FOOL you. Yes, we may entertain.......but, think for a minute...is it really MAGIC? Take care,

Brad Burt

Hello again:

To continue from above..... What is called 'magic' today is I believe a continum that starts at the lowest of what might be called 'magic', say the 21 Card Trick, and what can be achieved at the highest end. The highest to me would be a 'magician' who had actually convinced a significant portion of his audience that he was in fact doing real magic. Contravening the laws of nature, turning lead into gold, reading minds, etc. After the first David Blaine special when my magic shop was still open I actually recieved a huge number of emails and a significant number of phone calls from folks that REALLY thought that David had the true mojo. Two calls in particular were instructive. Both were from graduate students. One at M.I.T. and the other at Cal Tech. I talked to them for some time. These were not stupid or particularly gullible folks. And, yet, both were convinced that David Blaine was the real deal! I was between a rock and a hard place because I frankly thought that was spiffy!! I didn't think it was my place to tell them how David DID what he did on TV to produce the effects that he did....well, you get the idea.

You see the fact is this: What most of do is not REALLY magic. It is what magic has become. I'm not saying that that is bad, wrong, degenerate even!!! Don't get me wrong. I love what magic is, but I just don't think that in most cases it is what magic claims to be. What magic has become is a superlative way to make puzzles appealing to the greatest number of people. Very, very, very, very cool puzzles. They may be stumpers. They may be entertaining. Some may even 'look' magical, but I do not believe that anyone thinks that they are 'magic' or produced by special 'powers' inherent in the 'magician.'

I'm not knocking the craft I have loved for 33 years, I'm just looking for clarity. In clarity I have this hope that magic can be made better somehow although I am not totally sure how. I have inklings. The value of such forums as these is that they allow such things to be discussed in a way that might in fact produce movement forward. Thank you and take care,

Brad Burt
Brad Burt
Jaz
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Quote:
Brad says:
I have never and I mean NEVER seen magic made better by the addition of comedy.


Gosh! And I always thought it was the addition of magic that made the comedy better!
But really..

I do find that the combination can be more entertaining but not necessarily more magical.

As far as modern magi doing real magic, I for one make no claims of doing real magic. If people want believe that what I do is real magic that then that's up to them. If asked, I'll tell them that what they've seen was simply an illusion.

There are those who make steadfast claims of really talking to the dead, bending metal, etc. Maybe this shouldn't bother me but it does.
Brad Burt
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Dear Jaz:

Exactly! If we aren't claiming to be doing real magic then WHY call it magic? For lack of a better title? This is exactly what I am getting at. If right up front we as magicians feel that we are 'not' doing magic then we MUST be doing something else. I think that most of us consider what we do as Tricks, puzzles, conundrums, etc. But, not 'really' ever magic. Thus, our State of Mind mitigates against our audience ever really taking us seriously. We call ourselves magicians, but we don't really project to the audience that what we are doing IS magic. Apply that to any other performing art: A dancer who is not really dancing. A singer who is not really singing. They either ARE or they are NOT. We magicians live like we're half pregnant.

Here's a story that every person who has worked selling magic has experienced: Guy comes in and buys a magic trick for the first time. On check out he says, "Boy, I better count my change." Wink, wink. Why? Because he thinks that I might have vanished it? Nope, he's saying what a lot of folks obviously still think: Magicians are little better than con men. Actually, a lot worse, because these goofs think that I or any other magic sales person would bother to steal 50 or 60 cents from them! There's a big score.

This attitude tells us a lot. It tells us that the public AGREES with US! Yep, you guys are NOT magicians. You're con folk.

My argument is this: We can claim to be 'real' magicians without 'taking' folks for there money under any falser pretenses than we are now! I'm advocating that we simply sell our performance as the 'real deal'. Or, at least as many of us as can do magic that could 'be' the real deal. It doesn't mean we have to use our skills for any more evil ends than we do now. It means if we are going to call ourselves magicians then like Malini we should play that part to the hilt. We need a 'craft conciousness' if you will. ALL of us together need to believe in the illusion if you will that what we are presenting IS real magic from the greatest stage presentation to the least pocket miracle. In one sense we don't have to 'say' anything, but we DO have to think differently. Present differently. We need to bring the 'magic' back into magic. Or......we need to simply call ourselves the Grand Tricksters and get one with magic as it is done today. Best,
Brad Burt
saxmangeoff
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Brad,

Interesting thoughts, and I see where you're coming from.

I for one, do not want to be associated with John Edward, that Pet Psychic lady, or Uri Geller, though they would be considered closer to what you're talking about with "real magic."

Houdini spent a lot of time and energy exposing those who made claims to being more than just entertainers. James Randi the same in modern times.

So, if our goal is entertainment, rather than lasting conviction, yet getting out of the "puzzle" and "I'm more clever than you" mentality is an important factor in being more magical and entertaining, where do we go? Illusionist? Guy who'll make you question reality for a little while?

Geoff
"You must practice your material until it becomes boring, then practice it until it becomes beautiful." -- Bill Palmer
BlackShadow
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I find that many magic books have their own wisecracks thrown in as suggested patter. Most of these fall flat for me, but to be fair to the authors they usually say discard what you want and make up your own stuff.

This is good advice especially for US written magic books applied to a UK context and I think vice versa. The humour doesn't cross national boundaries well.
Brad Burt
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Let's say I claim to be a 'real' magician and what I do is 'real' magic. My patter, demeanor, dress, etc. all say the same thing. My presentations seems to spontaneously flow from some internal space just seem to 'happen'. By the time I'm done with the audience they believe that they have seen the real deal and all they can do is talk about in awe. So what? If the next thing you see is that I am using this conviction on that part of my audience to gain some advantage to extract money for something that I truly can't do: Cure the sick, whatever, then I am a fraud and I should be exposed for the charlatan that I am. But, if all I EVER do is up my performing fee to whatever the market will bear and make no other claim than that I am a magican who does his craft so well that folks are convinced that are 'maybe' seeing real magic ..... isn't that something to be striven for? And, if not then let's not screw around and just come out and call ourselves entertaining puzzlers!

What I am suggesting is that in the last 20 years magic has come so far so fast with so many more folks doing it at some level or another that the magic commnuity has lost the concept that we are SUPPOSED to be doing REAL MAGIC or at least making it seem that we are doing so. I'm not suggesting that we become con people. I am suggesting that the concept that entertainers that claim to be magicians might, just might want folks to believe, if only a little, that at times be in fact do real magic just like singers like to be know as folks who in fact sing. Rap might be 'music' of a kind, but it is NOT singing. Best,
Brad Burt
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