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Comedy Magic

Discussion in 'Magic' started by V, Jun 2, 2015.

  1. V

    V Well-Known Member

    A recent post by bugaboo the clown on the vanishing bandana/banana has me curious on comedy magicians (including magic clowns) and their sets and routines.

    In the past I used bandana/banana but have long since abandoned it. While it's a perfectly fine trick, I couldn't get much mileage out of it. Sure people laughed and I got the appropriate responses for the most part I found it simply didn't work for me. Looking back there were a few reasons -

    1. I found following a track really messed with my timing on my overall act. Whenever I would use this trick, the rest of my show, as well as my audience interaction, suffered for it.

    2. At one time it seemed like every magician on the planet was using this set. If you played anywhere that another magician had been, you could bet your audience had seen a variation of this trick. Over-used and over-abused. I'm actually surprised people still use it today really. Not negative criticism, just personal observation and unexpected for me. I've seen good banana/bandana sets before - but it's been years since I've seen it at all.

    3. Ego. When I was younger I thought that whenever I performed magic that I had to knock people's socks off with every trick. Stuff like banana/bandana was horrible to me at first and I felt uncomfortable playing it for a long time. As a result, it probably had an impact on my earlier observation (point 1.). Maybe this is part of most comedy magic sets or more likely, the result of inexperience trying to 'buy funny.'

    Whatever the cause, it kept me away from most packaged sets and routines for a long time and ironically - empowered the ego fault on views towards these sets. I wouldn't touch a pre-scripted trick for a long time which again is ironic since I use a few of them in my current stage show (touched on below)...

    And now, since I mentioned routines and sets as my intro, here's a sampling of mine:

    I almost always open will Bill Abbott's '5 Card Box.' This is basically a 6 card repeat (5 cards in his routine hence the name) and a 'Jap box' (Not PC I know, but most people don't know it under the 'Caucasian Box')

    Card repeats have been good comedy openers for a long time and the 5 card box is a nice clean way of getting rid of the props to wrap it up.

    When I open with the 5 card box, I transition into another Bill Abbott pack by way of a "Smart-Ass" set. A few varieties available - depending on the audience I'll either do a Celebrity Smart-Ass set or just as often a Customized set using the same gimmick (Blank version). If I have a younger audience (or at least several younger kids in the crowd) then I may substitute Smart Ass with a Miser's Dream set. I used Miser's Dream Granted for a long time but have recently switched over to Robert Baxt's 'Baxt, A boy, & A Bucket' routine and find it plays really well despite how simple his version of the Miser's Dream is. I use to do a sleight only Miser's Dream an unashamedly like a gimmicked version much better. It alleviates a lot of stress with moves and allows you to more freely work your audience.

    Both of those tricks allow me to end cleanly and make transitioning to wherever I want to go really easy. Most often, I follow either Smart-Ass or Miser's Dream with a Rope Routine. Like everyone, I've done a professor's nightmare forever. I like Daryl's Rope Routine a lot. Also, Robert Baxt has a nice set as well as Whit Haydn. Sometimes I'll do purchased version from one of them, sometimes an original, sometimes a combination. My venue and audience plays a big factor in which (more about this later)*

    I like to end with Whit Haydn's Linking Rings and most often I'll do so. If I subbed Smart-Ass for the Miser's Dream I'll occasionally end with Smart-Ass but I find it's a better set-up set than a closer for me. It helps lighten the mood if done earlier and is still fresh enough even on the other side of a rope routine to keep the atmosphere geared towards comedy which makes closing with Pop's ring set a strong finish more often than not.

    I rarely have more than 4 magic tricks in my show but each of them has a routine that may (or may not) contain some sleights or such to add to them. I also rarely (as in I can't remember the last time I ever did it) go beyond an hour long show. Hats off to the guys who play 2 hour sets but it isn't for me. I can squeeze my show above down to 45 minutes sometimes (which is really where I like to be) depending on the audience.

    4 tricks for an hour doesn't sound like much to a lot of people I guess. When I was new I probably had closer to 10 +/- 2, magic tricks in an hour long show and I see that happen all the time still --- people getting in a hurry. My '4 trick set' has a lot of audience interaction:

    5 card opener engages the audience as a whole

    Smart-Ass also has mass appeal that leads into 1-on-1 spectator interaction (although you obviously keep interacting and engaging with your audience as well), Same with Baxt's Miser's Dream to an extent.

    Rope routines get away from pulling a helper on stage but still involves the audience to a degree. Of everything in my set however, this is the least interactive 1-on-1 and leans more towards a story. This is an intentional break as you obviously don't want to call someone up for a trick, seat them and then call someone else up to help for the next trick. A 'story' allows you to keep them entertained, engaged, and laughing while not demanding your individual time directly after audience involvement on stage.

    Pop's Rings speak for themselves. Even if someone knows 100% there is to know about linking rings, this set can still entertain them. It's fun and funny for everyone and leaves you with a clean finish to wrap things up while keeping your audience involved until the very end of your show.

    * I promised you a foot note so here it is...

    You'll undoubtedly come across someone eventually that will tell you lectures and routines are evil and they should never ever ever be used. If you're just trying to buy a funny routine so that you too can be funny, then they're probably right. However, a scripted routine isn't really that different than a change bag or a thumb tip or a sleight. 'Magic tricks' of whatever degree of difficulty are tools to use. Develop them and show your personality through them rather than mechanically go through the functions of them and you'll get a lot of mileage out of all of them.
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