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Topic: Your First Words
Message: Posted by: Flying Magus (Nov 19, 2008 11:52PM)
I posted this over at 'The Words We Use' but thought it might be an appropriate dicussion here also.

What is the first thing you say when you walk on stage? In Maximum Entertainment, Ken Weber suggests dispensing with anything of the ilk "How is everybody going?" So what do you say. How do you get the ball rolling?

Currently I have a comic introduction, I then enter, produce a flaming torch and eat the fire. From there I comment that, as a professional magician, I get paid to pretend to do things that can't be done. Then go into more magic.

I am still not convinced that I quite command the stage they way I should, though, when I first start to talk. Any suggestions?
Message: Posted by: styck13 (Nov 20, 2008 07:43AM)
Devon (my son and the magician of the family) has used "Thank You! Goodnight!" After he appears. Then on with the "How's everybody doing". It seems to get a decent laugh.
Message: Posted by: sly2272 (Nov 20, 2008 08:07AM)
Good subject, love to hear some pro's comments.
Message: Posted by: Matthew W (Nov 20, 2008 09:52AM)
After my pre-recorded intro, I walk out and do my silent opener.

After that, the music stops, and I say 'How is everyone?" Audience responds.

"My name it Matthew and I am a magician" I stand as if I am going to say something else, so that the audience remains quiet. Silence.

"Oh, so that's' how it's going to be, huh?"
That always gets a laugh.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Nov 20, 2008 10:59AM)
I think in general it is important early on to break down the invisible barrier that exists between you and the audience. The sooner you can do this, the faster the audience can and will be drawn inwards towards you. It is also very helpful to be able to do this early on in the show prior to any audience assistance effects. If you can draw them towards you, it makes it much easier not only to find a willing assistant, but one you know will react well to you.

I think what you say helps to do this. Also what you do and how you say it is also critical. I think the audience needs to feel a part of who you are, your personality and your style. They need to know how to react, if it is ok to react and that it is more then ok to have a good time. This is conveyed by you.

The audience in many ways is taking cues from you in regards to how they should react. You are the director and the audience can be manipulated by you directly. It is a pretty powerful thing. Many folks come into your show not knowing anything about you or what to expect. They also are not quite sure how to react other then the obvious clapping when you stand there with the traditional applause pose. You have the ability to change this and how the audience reacts to what you do.

But with any power comes this uneasy feeling whether you can do it right or not. The first 5-10 mins of any show really sets the entire tone. You want to establish the right atmosphere early on. if not, it is an uphill battle to try and turn it back around again.

What you say and do first thing in your show should be an extension of who you are on stage. Simply meaning it needs to convey your character and personality and the flavor for the show. If you are a comical magician, then starting off the show with a serious manipulation act to music that has no comedy at all, may not serve you well. The audience will applaud you but may be confused once you drastically change into a different character and style.

I think also that part of what you say early on should always show a caring attitude. It should convey that you are a likable person and that you treat them with respect so that they treat you with respect back. If you want them to react favorably to you, you must first get then to understand who you are and teach them that it is ok to react.

Can I tell you how do this? Can I state what to say and how to act? The answer is a simple, "NO". The reason is quite simple really. Each and every one of us is a vastly different entertainer. We each have our own style, personality and show. YOU are the only one who can define all of this for yourself.

However, I can offer you a great tip. Take time to write down in simple forms who you are on stage, what your show is about and what you want your audience to feel as they watch it. Then use these answers and try and figure out ways to convey this in the first 5-10 mins. of your show.

Hope this helps.

Message: Posted by: AmazingEARL (Nov 21, 2008 08:25AM)
While what you say is important, you can't command the stage with just words. Stage presence is more than simply speaking lines. Your attitude and confidence are more important. Those are conveyed to the audience subconsciously through your body language before you even open your mouth. By the time you actually speak, it's too late...they've already decided if they like you.

The best advice in this area was given to me by an old (now gone) Comedian. He said, "Don't walk out like you're starting your act, kid. Walk on like you've already been out there killin' 'em for twenty minutes."

Im my experience, he was right.

Dan Wolfe/EARL
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Nov 21, 2008 09:20AM)
Great Stuff Dan. Thank you my friend for sharing your thoughts.

I think it is a combination of both stage presence and verbal presence. Simply stated, I mean it is what you do and what you say. You need to have a commanding stage presence that sends the right signals to the audience. However, you also need to back this up with what you say to them as well. Both of hem work hand in hand. If one is strong and the other is weak, it does not work. One supports the other to get the audience to have a favorable impression of you early on.

Message: Posted by: AmazingEARL (Nov 21, 2008 09:52AM)
You nailed it, Kyle. Even with Shakespeare writing the dialogue, there are still few good Hamlets.

Meanwhile, Orson Welles could have simply read the phone book and kept an audience rapt. I've seen very few of Welles' magical performances, but THAT is the guy to learn stage presence from.

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Nov 21, 2008 10:05AM)
I absolutely agree with you Dan. Your analogy of Orson Wells is so true. he could and did captivate people.

Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Nov 21, 2008 12:05PM)
My opening is intended to
--introduce my persona to the group
--make them comfortable and set their minds at ease
--begin to set the mood
--most importantly, set the "ground rules" for what follows

Many of the stumbling blocks that come later in a show,
can be avoided by instructing the audience as to what to expect,
and how to adjust their "mind set" from the start.

In the ancient Greek and Roman Theatres a Prologus
would come out before the play and clearly explain:
"Tonight is a tragedy" or "This is a comedy"
and perhaps request the audience to applaud or cry, but not fart.

By establishing what is expected, everyone can relax into it.
Do you want them to be amused? Or believe in magic? Or test you?
What is your performance objective and what motivation do you want from them?

This is I think important to get across in a very FEW words,
in a charming and charismatic way, from the get-go.
And a key to the success I've found since I adopted this approach.

Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Nov 21, 2008 11:47PM)
I think it is best to establish your character, and the tone of the event. There are many ways to do this ranging from the eloquent prelude, such as spoken during the opening of the 1931 movie, "Frankenstein", to the single word spoken by Max Maven... "Boo!".

If you are going to ask the audience how they are doing, do so once you have DONE something. If you do so before they know you and like you, they might just tell you how they REALLY feel, or at the very least, leave you standing there looking at their blank stares.

If you're going to ask the question, do it when the audience truly believes you care about the answer, and that the question is not just meaningless, ill-timed chatter.
Message: Posted by: Spellbinder (Nov 22, 2008 12:21AM)
The question, "How are you doing?" is always meaningless chatter. You cannot possibly care how each person in your audience is doing and they know it. It is a cliche and best reserved for rock musicians who thrive on cliches in the meaningless lyrics of songs they sing.

Whatever happened to the old fashioned introduction? "Good evening. My name is Professor Spellbinder and I claim to be a wizard. By the end of the show, you will get a chance to vote on that claim and decide if I am a wizard or not. Let's begin."
Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Nov 22, 2008 10:30AM)
I vote you ARE a Wizard....
and "how are you doing" Professor?

<grin> Walt
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Nov 22, 2008 11:12AM)
On 2008-11-22 01:21, Spellbinder wrote:
The question, "How are you doing?" is always meaningless chatter. [/quote]

Ha-ha!! I suppose I was trying to soften the blow, in case anyone felt they must utter those words, but your head-on reply is much more in line with how I really felt. A tip of the topper to you, sir! ;)

Let's see, what insane phrase or rhetorical question shall we attack next??

a) "Are you ready to ROCK & ROLL?!?!" (or... "Are you ready to PARTY?!?!")

b) "It's great to be here in ___________ (insert name of current city... hopefully, the correct one).

c) ...or my personal favorite.. "Thank you!" (spoken at the end of a trick (or music number), but before anyone has started to applaud).

I made a point of reading the other post on this topic to see if there was much different there. Not much different, but some interesting replies all the same. I especially liked Lawrence O's thought on referring to you being paid as an entertainer.

Back to the original question...

Michel, if you are using a comic introduction, is this one that you speak yourself, or is this spoken by another person, or perhaps something pre-recorded? Almost regardless, I would think the first words from your mouth after a comic intro, and then eating fire would be something funny related to what they just saw. I would also imagine the more out of left field that comment would be, the funnier it would be, and the more command your personna would project.

Just as a quick example, here is something one of my performing partners does. He is introduced as a sideshow freak, so the audience expects something askew to come from him. He comes on and eats fire... interesting, but not ground-breaking. Then he comments that the worst part is not burning his mouth, but what happens the next day. At that point, a huge blast of fire blows out his rear end.

I say this, not so that someone will rip-off his bit, but so that a consistency can be seen in how he establishes the first message, and then validates it. The vehicle is irrelevant, unless it is contained in the message. In my friend's case, any freaky sideshow stunt could be used to establish the message.

It almost does not matter what your first message is, but you must deliver on it in some manner. As it stands, it seems your first few seconds on stage give mixed messages, caught between funny and capable of doing impossible things.

Let's suppose, as you are now, that you set the tone as funny... this is the main message... "This guy is funny."... You should be funny, but it is perfectly acceptable to let the magic be the vehicle that delivers that message. If you are introduced as funny, you should prove that in the first few seconds you are on stage.

Naturally, it could be done the other way around, as well. Suppose that you are introduced as someone who can do impossible things. Unless the serious intro is to be immediately proven to be a farce, you should do something that shows that you actually do things that seem impossible. Then, once you begin to work your impossible feats, let it be seen that you are also a fun, likable, and funny guy. Just be sure that if you plan to take such a route, that the intro doesn't paint too serious a picture of you... unless, as I already said, if you are being farcical. In that case, heavy contrast is your good friend.

I hope this gives you a few points to ponder...

Message: Posted by: makeupguy (Nov 25, 2008 03:55PM)
Hi..I just bought this REALLY expensive box... and watch me as I follow the directions exactly as I read them.. and see if you can figure how not only what Im doing.. but how the trick works.

If you don't, then I'll do one more with this deck of cards that I can't hand out, but I swear is normal.. I jsut can't show you the back and front at the same time.. and you have to bear with me when I count to the right one that's turned backwards.

After that one.. I'm going to turn the lights donw.. and pull a blue sparkle curtain across the stage.. just the this ONE trick so you can't see the strings.

YOu'll notice I wear nothing but black.. and work the rest of the show against a black background so all you see is my white shirt.. and sort of see my face.. but not my eeyes becaue I'm being lit only from above... I'm going to dress my asssistants in nothing but leotards so you can see how small the are and so they can fit in the really small boxes underneath my boxes..

Message: Posted by: Flying Magus (Nov 25, 2008 06:38PM)
I wonder what people think of this rather strong statement. Do you agree?

[quote]When people come to be entertain what makes you think that they are the least concerned about your income nd what you get paid for?

When people pay for entertainment (and especially magic) they hope to escape from everyday contingencies andd particulrly econimicla ones.

On a magical basis highlighting the payment is putting an emphasis on means (you get paid for doing), but magic is not about them not understanding how wwhatever you do is done but to share a moment where things happen that they now can't be done except in a drem for the time of entertainment.

Your introductory phrase should be a paradox or an oxymoron (to catch attention) leading to something impossible and announcing that they are going to have a great time in your company. [/quote]
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Nov 25, 2008 11:19PM)
That was the quote from Lawrence O on the other thread that I thought was worth a second look. To me, this falls under the same category as using self-deprecating humor. It tends to bare too much to the audience. The mystery of your character is suddenly rendered transparent. Sometimes with that shroud of mystery goes the performer's stature, yielding to the laugh it creates.

There are times when it may make sense to do and say such things, but it can easily be overdone or ill-timed.

Since your original question was how to command the stage better, I think this deserves your attention.
Message: Posted by: Whit Haydn (Jun 20, 2010 12:43PM)
On 2008-11-22 01:21, Spellbinder wrote:
The question, "How are you doing?" is always meaningless chatter. You cannot possibly care how each person in your audience is doing and they know it. It is a cliche and best reserved for rock musicians who thrive on cliches in the meaningless lyrics of songs they sing.

Whatever happened to the old fashioned introduction? "Good evening. My name is Professor Spellbinder and I claim to be a wizard. By the end of the show, you will get a chance to vote on that claim and decide if I am a wizard or not. Let's begin."

I agree with the "How are you doing?" statement, but I think the theme introduced in your "old fashinoned introduction" is weak.

A performer that seeks to "impress" an audience or get validation from the audience is already in a losing position vis a vis the audience.

It sets the audience up as judges, and they get to "decide" if the performer is a magician or not. This is giving too much power to the audience.

Instead of inviting them to accept the role of critics and judges, I think it is better to offer them something instead--a good scare, a mystery, a laugh, or a leg pull.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Jul 22, 2010 09:39AM)
The first phrase in an act aims at grasping attention. Being polite and considerate for the audience is not a drawback as long as you actually take authority on the situation without any doubt in anybody's mind.

As Whit underlines, I would never set the audience as judges or relinquish any part of the power but, not unlike Pop, I would not do it in an offending way and paradoxes are one of the ways to get there introducing a theme without letting the outcome to be suspected.
Message: Posted by: ApprenticeWizard (Sep 12, 2012 10:57PM)
I start by talking about the way our inborn sense of wonder seems to shrink and shrink as we grow up until, in many adults, it practically disappears. I then state that my real purpose tonight is to rekindle their sense of wonder by enabling them to experience something truly amazing ... something they will never forget. The challenge for me is then to deliver on that stated intention.

I have another program that starts out in a very different way because the unifying theme is quite different. I think it's most important to find a strong unifying theme to base your program on. Then the opening, and closing, flow naturally out of that. Trying to come up with a good opening without knowing anything else about the program is like trying to come up with a good opening scene for a movie without knowing anything about the plot or what type of movie its going to be.
Message: Posted by: KarstenMeyerhoff (Mar 27, 2017 03:46PM)
"Hello, my name is Karsten Meyerhoff - for those who don't know me. For those who do know me, it's Karsten Meyerhoff, too. I only have this one name, it's easier to remember that way ...". Fits my stage persona, which is a slightly arrogant, quick-witted, ironic guy. My two cents ...
Message: Posted by: friend2cptsolo (Aug 27, 2017 08:29AM)
Let's look at how songs are opened....SHORT SWEET DIRECT
A music teacher once told me songs have 4 different types of openings just like sentences.

declarative sentence... makes a statement
interrogative sentence ...asks a question
exclamatory sentence .....a statement that shows strong emotion
imperative sentence ....gives a direction or a command

I personally like the 4th...imperative
the beatles....HELP! help me if you can? I am feeling down.
supremes.....STOP! in the name of love

New York, New York, is everything they say
And no place that I'd rather be!....Heuy Lewis

Do you love me? now that I can dance?

Let's look at Micheal Jackson's thriller....
It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking
In the dark.................................................he lays out a setting
Under the moonlight you see a sight that almost stops
Your heart..................................................setting and mood
You try to scream, but terror takes the sound before
You make it................................................now he is telling you how to react
You start to freeze as horror looks you right between
The eyes
You're paralyzed......................................... he is saying FREEZE and you are Paralyzed

Certainly you are not writing a song but can use some of these techniques.
Message: Posted by: danaruns (Aug 29, 2017 10:11AM)
I'm not as experienced as some here. I've learned to NEVER start with "How are you doing?" You've just wasted your one first impression. My theme for starting any show is MAGIC NOW. For my stage and parlor shows, I simply open with immediate magic. No talking at all. In my close-up act, I go right into my first routine, and begin with the patter for that routine. I don't even say, "Good evening."

Different acts have different needs. Comedy magicians need to develop a comedic rapport right away, even before the magic. As a woman, I automatically start 10 yards behind the men in terms of credibility, so my need is to let the audience know first thing that I'm not effing around, and they will need to pay attention and try to keep up. Copperfield's needs are different than mine. Yours may be, too.

Whatever your opening is, it should be quick and get right into the magic. I see Pop Haydn posted here. His opening is gone before it starts. He says "My name is Pop Haydn. Welcome to ___________." It takes 4 seconds, then he's right into his patter, which starts with "I just happen to have a deck of cards. Lucky for us." Watch. https://youtu.be/v7zDyQqVUKc That, in my mind, is how it should be done.
Message: Posted by: Scott Alexander (Sep 15, 2017 06:42PM)
I have a DVD dedicated to this very topic.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Sep 19, 2017 06:26AM)
I just returned from the 79th annual Houdini Club "convention" (note " " )

I lost count of the young--and old-- performers who started with, "Hi! How are you doing?" YUK.
Message: Posted by: alan1954 (Apr 14, 2018 08:00AM)
I use a 30 second professionally recorded introduction. Gary Owen in Oklahoma City does a great job with this. I have one that I use throughout the year and another for October with Gary sounding like Dracula. Am thinking about getting another with him as Santa. You play the intro, you come out and BOOM! You go into the magic.