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Topic: Some questions and thoughts on rules, roles, and responsibilities. Or something along those lines..
Message: Posted by: RichardAwesome (Sep 27, 2014 02:07PM)
So something has been on my mind a lot lately, and I'd love to get your thoughts on A few things. I'd like the opinion of those who would like to give it. I invite that too. I've been stuck in ground delays.

A lot of times the greats, and the near greats, that do this work will give lectures or workshops or the like (maybe you've heard of such a thing, perhaps even been). They talk about this or that (people MUCH wiser than I in 100% of the cases) and in almost all cases there is something to get out of these events. Something amazing even. Most are thought out and adaptable and practical delivered with a "if this helps you great, if not try it your way." kinda attitude. I prefer when they are more informal and feel less like instructional DVDs. Many times all involved stay longer than advertised. I am ALWAYS grateful and amazed by that part.

But sometimes, not often, you'll run across one or two folks that tend to spout these hard and fast rules (usually ones they invented, along with everything else ever devised) and claim these tennats are sacrosanct; Not to be broken or questioned lest you run the risk of failing the duties they've assigned you. Believe it or not I admire that sort of pluck in a performer/creator/thinker. I admire that attitude in anyone if they back it up. I had this mechanic that was real full of himself, but *** it if he didn't get that thing running like new.

If you're that confident as a performer I'm going to listen and guarantee I'll take something you have to say to heart and use it down the road. And I wouldn't dare say you're wrong, even if I thought so. At least I don't think I would, even in the Q&A. What about you?

All that said, something gnaws at me a bit at times with this performance philosophy. People mention these rules that have to be followed in all performance situations, things like "never ask anyone anything, you always know." I'm of course paraphrasing. Where someone is from, for instance. That's as good an example as any. If you ask where a member of the audience is from you'll look quite the fool! Who'll ever believe anything you say or do after that? The jig is up. Your found out. Ok. I can get on board with that. That's a very admirable and pure way of looking at it even. But under that logic shouldn't you hold everything you say and do during a performance up to that same standard? I'm thinking about things like:

You should always know what you're going to say next, and it's always 100% spot on. Profound even. There are no needless words (unlike this post, clearly.)

But of course you've never said any of what you are saying before, because this is the perfect and only thing to say now and here. Never been a need until now. And of course, It'll be something different somewhere else.

As a matter of fact, you've never done what you're about to do before. This effect or experiment, or the like: It's just coming to you. Just now. Just for these lucky people. You'll even use this thing that's just laying around.

It goes without saying that nothing you're doing can look or sound rehearsed or canned. You wouldn't want anyone to accidently call to mind a less than average actor, for instance.

You wouldn't be caught dead telling anything resembling a bad, or even mediocre joke. And certainly not someone else's joke. An uninteresting anecdote is out of the questions too. You know exactly what would make everyone laugh the hardest and loudest at any given moment perfectly customized to the situation. A Groucho Marx, Jonathon Winters, Dorothy Parker and Emmy Winning writers room all rolled into one miracle worker. That's you!

Name dropping would be frowned upon, unless every attendee knew who you were talking about, which, of course, they would.

I mean I could go on and on..

Am I making an even remotely valid point? Am I nuts? Am I being unreasonable?

Here's the thing: I love this stuff. I love watching it and doing it. I can't get enough of it. I spend what little free time I have combing through notes and ideas and older and newer texts. In my younger days I spent money I didn't have on things I didn't need in the hope it might get me closer to the bottom of it. Today, I'll spend money I've been lucky enough to save on things I know I'll use. And I wait like a little kid for the fed ex man to arrive.

I greatly admire anyone that's ever been able to convince strangers to sit there and watch them do this work. Even get them to hand over some of their money for the opportunity to do so. If you can do all that, and provided they don't sulk out halfway through, I think you're probably pretty good at this, and certainly deserve the stage time and all the responsibility and joy it brings.

But if you are the type to put something "unimpeachable" out there on record and collect money for doing so from other folks that are either brilliant or foolish enough to follow this one of a kind pursuit. What do you owe to those folks? The ones that take the time to listen to YOU? Is it unreasonable to expect you back it up 100% of the time always, from now until the end of time? Or at least deliver a performance that convinces me you do?

I've seen a lot of performers. Probably not as much as some of you. I've dragged friends and loved ones kicking a screaming to coffee houses and gymnasiums and broadway theaters and church basements.. If someone won't go, I'll go myself without the slightest hesitation. I've found something to love in the least of these shows. Why go looking for flaws? There's no joy in that for me. I'll always try to say a quick thank you and mention something I particularly admired if it seems appropriate and I've got the time. Or more importantly they do. I travel a great deal and a "mentalism" web search is usually the first I undertake. Sadly there aren't as many results as there were several years ago.

In all those performances, (More and more I watch virtually, what with the internet and all) I've rarely had the slightest regret or feeling that I wasted my time.

I've been fortunate to see some of the legends in person. Even driven a considerable while to get to them. Just in case another opportunity doesn't present itself. I've gone to their workshops and watched their performances.

Most are amazing, wonderful, and accessible folks who are appreciative of you taking the time to listen and participate. They aren't afraid to debate, usually win, but wouldn't dare talk down to someone expressing a relevant and valid point that was contradictory to their own. Actually it might even inspire a more interesting and relevant dialogue.

However, honestly compels me tell you, there are a few of these folks Ive seen perform over the years, the ones with all the rules. I found some don't always deliver on what they say, or even demand, everyone else must. That's a bit harder to swallow at times. That disappointment, coupled with the occasional feeling of profound sadness, can really bring down your vibe.

Thankfully it hasn't happened often. Am I thinking of anyone in particular when I bring this up? If I were It would be rude and probably sacrilegious to mention them by name on this forum? Of course! Who am I anyway? Just some guy who happens to really enjoy this. I just wonder if anyone can relate?

Now I actually do have one rule of my own: I can't imagine any of you would refute this. It is actually the only hard and fast rule I think there is. It's one that must ABSOLUTELY be followed. If you can't follow it, I think I'll go ahead and demand you go and do something else. You could stick to writing maybe, if that's your thing.. It's one that needs to be followed under any and all circumstances when you're on stage performing or giving a lecture to anyone. Especially those who actually have the bandwidth to remember who you are and believe what you have to say is of some value. It's even possilbe they have come to revere you as a titan in the industry, if that's the right term for it. And of course this apples to any performer or speaker who might find them-self presenting to more than one person. (Actors, trade show booth workers, carnival barkers, eulogists, open-mic night comics, cruise directors, wedding officiants, pharmaceutical CEOs, trail lawyers, motivational speakers, impressionists, auctioneers, on and on the lit goes) It does seem the highest percentage of those that break this rule are practitioners of magic, mentalists topping that list.

It's a kind of a long build up to a rather short rule:

And it's so simple I feel stupid even bringing it up, but here it goes...

Anytime you find yourself on a stage or in front of people, look like you want to be there! Pretty simple. That's just a little performance tip I've picked up doing shows over the years.

And just to piggy back on that, try to avoid presenting an air of palpable contempt for your audience, students, peers, clients, financiers, etc.. Whenever possible that is... It doesn't go over as well as you perhaps hope. If you were doing it as a comedic choice, you'd be getting something called laughs. And regardless of what you happen to think, I assure you no amount of "the past" does you any good in this department.

I don't have the answers. I'm not even sure I have the right questions. But trust me on that last bit.

Thanks to anyone that took the time to read this.
Message: Posted by: Galileo (Sep 27, 2014 04:02PM)
Took me a little while to read this, I don't necessarily agree with everything written but I think there are some really interesting thoughts and ideas here, thanks for taking the time to write it all out.
Message: Posted by: mastermindreader (Sep 27, 2014 04:11PM)

I think I understand the points being made, but for the life of me I can't think of any professional who sets down hard and fast rules that are supposed to be universally applicable. No "rule" is.

The only point I've ever made about so-called "rules" that are based on the professional experience of the author or lecturer, is that it is better to understand them before breaking them. The idea is to learn from someone else's experience rather than learning the hard way.

But, then again, sometimes learning the hard way can actually be beneficial as those are the lessons that aren't easily forgotten.

Good thoughts,

Message: Posted by: Syndrome (Sep 27, 2014 04:55PM)
Hey man,

Relax. Don't let the buggers get you down.

The greatest magic secret I ever learned is, "It is what YOU say it is." So, to the others in your post...Take what you need - and use what you take.

Accept the fact that others will always be, and will always do, as they will. Do as YOU will. Take charge of your own audience. Give them that which YOU desire. And all will be fine...every time.

Everyone deserves their own time to grow. Some longer than others. That's okay. Let them be.

You've seen some amazing entertainers in your time. Every one is your teacher.

Honour that. Go on entertaining and remember to learn, as you teach...every time.

Focus on YOUR best.
Message: Posted by: Galileo (Sep 28, 2014 12:00AM)
You made it onto the chicago tribune, that alone is pretty impressive
Message: Posted by: RichardAwesome (Sep 28, 2014 12:29AM)
Thanks Bob! I'm with you on that.

I honestly don't agree with everything written there either Galileo, it was essentially a brain dump of some things I discovered and noticed as I prepped for a mentalism show I put together. I regret writing most of it. But I'll leave it.

This show just closed it's theatrical run last week. So now I feel ok talking about it on a forum. I know if I don't get it out now I won't do it later.

I'm an improv comic first and foremost. Many of the things I love about that, are also found in mentalism. At least the foundation.

I would do these little things for other performers and directors and backstage and at the bar. But it was just a hobby to me. They started to say "you should do a show" and I would say "no time. not good enough. too old. too late" etc... a million excuses not to.

I finally had someone convince me to try. I was asked to put together a showcase to see what people thought and possibly fill an off night slot at the theater. I know from my time in the trenches with improv that you can practice and prepare forever but you learn by doing in real performance situations. With improvisation you really learn by failing. As Bob, says lessons not easily forgotten. I figured that's as good a strategy as any. I don't know any mentalists I could call up and ask advice.

I've gone on stage without a script and created both short and long form comedy (or something resembling it) for years and years and it wasn't even close to as terrifying as THIS undertaking. I would sweat through my clothes thinking about it.

The night of the showcase, I got on stage with the intent to get off as quickly as possible and get out the door.

I actually began with something like:. "I've never really done this before, please forgive me, this is probably all going to be terrible, and most of it isn't going to work" These people knew me or knew of me enough, and the self deprecating thing I have down, and I was getting laughs, I really meant it at the time. I I've been doing theater and comedy professionally for 14 years and I actually said that to a group of people in an audience with all sincerity. That's something a child would say. But they started laughing. I dunno why. I was sort of not really there. But hey, they think this is part of it? I'll take it.

So I went into what I had and It went very well. It actually kinda killed em. So I ended up doing a run after over a decade of obsessing and reading and watching others. Never considering it as a performance avenue.

Here is a link to a review of the show I ended up doing, a bit of a look at someone else's thoughts on it:


I'd say there is nothing in the above I would refute, and I even think it's a little generous based on my performance the opening night the reviewer attended, but it helped get some people in the door.

it opened. It closed. it was well received. Had some good nights, couple rough nights. A couple nice crowds. Did one show for 12 people. (and that was awesome) The final show was almost sold out and by far my best.

Energy, enthusiasm, and the ability to improvise around it all carried me. I think I did the best I could under the circumstances. I'm happy with it to the extent I can be. Mostly because I did it. And most people had no idea it was even a thing. Now it's time to do a better one.

Though I still don't think of, nor would I refer to myself as a mentalist. That's like a different thing to me. This was just a goof that happened to look a bit like mentalism. Having a crowd who weren't sure what they were seeing allowed me to do things with with less scrutiny.

And I still had to wiggle out of some mishaps. Once I couldn't wiggle out of it, so I just moved on. No one died.

There's a lot of points I'm probably not making as well as I'd like...but the long and short of it is in what you said Syndrome. Thanks for that.

I spent so much time doubting my abilities and thinking I had no business doing this, I forgot to enjoy it.

And as I was busting my hump I let things that weren't my concern bother me. No point.
Message: Posted by: lin (Sep 30, 2014 10:58AM)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Richard. I very much enjoyed reading your posts.