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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Comedy and Mentalism (11 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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sandsjr
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Where's Chuck Barris?
Mark_Chandaue
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The best advice I ever received on learning to be funny was from Paul Daniels about 30 years ago. He advised me to get every book on one liners I could get my hands on. Every day open one of those books to a random page and read the lines on that page. Don't try to learn them, don't even worry about trying to use them. Simply read a random page every day without trying to learn the lines, and over time you will find that your wit becomes much quicker without you having to force it or think about it. This advice really works.

Mark
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Marmen
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I think you should only be funny if you are naturally that way. There is nothing worse than someone trying to force comedy when it plain doesn't suit their personality. You will know automatically if you can make people laugh in everyday life without even trying. If you can then take it to the stage. Otherwise leave it alone. Humour is good in any type of act and that includes mentalism. Mind you, I have noticed one thing. If a mentalist makes people laugh uproariously that will be the end of the audience thinking he has real powers. It might be worth it though.
mastermindreader
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No. It would be the end of his credibility if they were laughing uproariously because his Swami got caught in his fly. But if they laugh because of things said that have nothing to do with the effect, it wouldn't hurt his credibility at all. Is there a rule that says a psychic can't be funny?

Have you never heard of a happy medium?
IAIN
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Quote:
On Jul 14, 2014, sandsjr wrote:
Where's Chuck Barris?


where's mean gene the dancin' machine?!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuJHKVQ2kLA

over here in england, when ch4 was launched, they used to show the gong show at around 4-5pm if I remember correctly...used to rush home from school to see it...
I've asked to be banned
Marmen
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A psychic can indeed be funny. Here is an example:
http://www.blogto.com/sports_play/2014/0......ic_fair/

Please note the "favourite dude" remark. Incidentally the first photograph shows old pro magician Eddie DiJohn who was in his day the king of the flea circus and was actually on the David Letterman show with it. The second photograph shows a wonderful psychic and magician of my acquaintance. He has a most remarkable gift. He shows up in the comments too particularly the last one.

However my point is that as a mentalist on stage it is a good thing to have humour in your show providing it is kept away from the climax of the effect when you don't want to dilute the astonishment. What I am saying is that there is a difference between light humour of the type Bob uses and being TOO funny. If you are too funny the audience will certainly love it but don't expect them to believe you are really psychic. I have found comedy dilutes the belief that you are the real thing even faster than magic tricks do. But I mean full blown comedy rather than humour.

In a psychic reading humour helps despite what I have read elsewhere. Not an outright bag of belly laugh humour but light humour. It relaxes the client and you get more feedback that way. I always use it if the client is sitting there stone faced and sceptical. Or even just plain worried. It helps considerably. Even a slight smile works wonders.
mastermindreader
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An occasional self-deprecating remark works well, too.

Sometimes I use humor in an intentionally jarring way in order to fire up the audience after a particularly powerful revelation. For, example, many times after a strong effect an audience will be a bit wary about what thoughts I'm going to reveal next. Having presented the entire thing seriously, I might change things up at that point by turning to someone and saying (off-mic, but loud enough for everyone to hear), "I'll bet you thought this was all bullsh!t."

That sudden break in character works well and gets a great response.
Sealegs
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From an very unpromising OP this thread has become quite interesting and (dare I say surprisingly?) it contains some good advice and worthwhile points.

As I've just been bumped from my flight and I now have eight and a half hours to kill in BA's business lounge at Heathrow terminal 5 I thought I'd throw my own thoughts into the mix if only to interrupt me helping myself to the bar and tucking into the food.

Here are a few things I picked out from the various posts so far that caught my eye.

Erik Anderson wrote;
Quote:
Being yourself on stage is a difficult thing to learn how to do. But it is absolutely essential in mentalism as you don't have the pretty painted boxes to hide behind.

Is any performer who hides behind their props, prettily painted or otherwise, going to be effective, interesting or successful? I think not. Mentalists have no intrinsic disadvantage from not having overt props in an act and magicians have no intrinsic advantage in having them either. Hiding behind anything is unlikely to create a watchable performance.
Regarding 'being yourself'; this has always seemed to me to be one of the least appropriate and most often espoused pieces of advice given on the Café. Is a person who is boring, introverted or dull off stage going to win over a crowd by being themselves? I think not. Some of the best comedy performers I know are actually very deep and introspective off stage. I have always thought that a better approach is to adopt a character and persona that works irrespective or not of whether it is close to how a person is off stage or diametrically opposite.

David Theil wrote;
Quote:
...and force of personality is really critical in mentalism where there are no props to hide behind and the performer can't rely on the "tuh-duh" moments a magician aims for.

Again the idea is reiterated, as is often the case in the mentalism sections of the Café, that magicians have an advantage by being able to hide behind their props. I can't think of a single performer who has gained any advantage from doing this. I agree that a force of personality is really critical for a mentalist but so it is for a violin act, a juggler, a magician, or anyone else if they are going to connect with and engage their audience. As for the "tah-duh" moment - if by tah-dah moment you mean the climax of the piece that is being performed, mentalists also look for a tab-duh moment i.e. A climax to the piece they are performing. If you mean a 'tah-duh' moment as a parody of a magic act then that is what it is - a parody and as such it also equally applies to mentalists.

Steve Hoffman wrote;
Quote:
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that the tiny adjustments one makes (in timing, in wording, in delivery, etc.) are like dealing with all the controls in the cockpit of a jet airplane!

Here is one of the essential and often overlooked cornerstones to constructing, not just good comedy, but any act. That is, creating a script in which every sentence, word and punctuation mark plays a part and earns it's place. A regular posting mentalist on this forum once told me I was over analysing a piece of comedy mentalism that was being discussed in a thread. (The Red Carpet) He thought that dealing with the details to make the comedy work as effectively as it could was unnecessary as he saw the routine as just, being funny. To my mind this is a terrible attitude to have regarding any material being presented (not just comedy) and it is as pervasive in mentalism as it is in magic generally.

Christian wrote;
Quote:
It is nearly impossible to develop a routine from scratch by just sitting behind a desk…. you cannot afford to show routines that are obviously just raw material. The only way to overcome this is to use audience tested routines.

Now I feel for Christian and applaud him putting into words the way most feel is the only option they have to approaching the material they perform… Creating stuff isn't easy… it's hard. It's more than hard it's incredibly hard…. but it's not an impossible task. It requires applying yourself to the matter at hand, and thinking and writing and re writing and trying stuff out, and having if fail miserably, and working out how it can be improved, and re writing again, and trying the material again in a revamped form, and seeing it fail again, and again, until eventually you either ditch it and move on to do the same again with your next routine, or it gains some traction and starts to develop legs…. This is the process. It's usually not pretty and it's tough. It's a process that many, in all branches of our field, (from magicians to mentalists) don't want to take on. I don't blame anyone for that. As I say it's hard…and tough. I also agree with Christian (to a point) that using routines that have been developed by others, maybe over many years, can help when starting out. Having the elements apparently already built into a routine seems like an obvious way to go and it can indeed give a bit of confidence to a newbie performer struggling to find and discover their own strengths. However the danger of this 'off the shelf' approach to using material, and one that most performers seem to fall into, is that the performer gets lulled into seeing this as the end of the story and they then don't look to take it any further. When this happens it is inevitable that the most interesting thing in an act becomes the material and not the performer…(now who's hiding behind their props?) and this is material not designed for the performer using it. So by all means get some Dutch courage and confidence by using the material made available by others… but remember you are not the person who it was created for and even if you wear someone else's Armani 3-piece, people might see a really great set of clothes... but they'll also recognise it as an ill-fitting suit that doesn't leave the impression that either the owner or the wearer really wants.

George hunter made the point that; ( and I'm paraphrasing him)
Quote:
...a joke should serve the act

This is a great point rarely made in the mentalism section of the Café. It amazes me that mentalism by it's nature involves loads of talking (more so than magic does usually) and yet discussions on scripting in the mentalism section are few and far between. The script for the act is one of the foundations that underpins it. But many, it seems, choose not to be not that bothered about it or even consider it important. As Steve Hoffman eludes to with the Seinfeld quote, every element of the script should serve what you are trying to achieve. Writing a script is very useful to assess how you are doing achieving that goal and it's through editing that the goal gets closer. I co-write a new show with another performer each year for the Edinburgh festival ("tricks and jokes" as the performer likes to say) and I would say a good 75% of what we write and re-write gets cut. That's not bad that good. That's the process…. that's how a lean script where every word serves the routines in play gets created. Every joke (like every sentence, word and punctuation mark) should serve the act.

Bob Cassidy wrote;
Quote:
There is a big difference between comedy mentalism and mentalism presented with humorous asides.

This is a great point and one that applies to both magicians and mentalists. Comedy sells and so there's often a desire to be seen as a comedy performer. maybe this is the reason why there is a tendency among performers to want to pitch themselves as a comedy mentalist/magician/whatever and in doing so they usually instantly make themselves less funny. Claiming to be a comedy entertainer sets up an expectation of big laughs. Not overtly setting up this expectation means that any comedy that is part of the presentation comes as a bonus. Better to exceed an audiences expectations by giving them something extra than to fall short of them by not delivering on what they feel has been promised to them.

Marmen wrote;
Quote:
You will know automatically if you can make people laugh in everyday life without even trying. If you can then take it to the stage. Otherwise leave it alone.

It's is a nice thought that if you can make your mates laugh down the pub and you are the life and soul of the party that you might be able to that on stage with you. The pertinent word here though is 'if' you can, take it on stage with you…… Unfortunately those things that make someone the life and soul of the party in everyday life are generally of little use when you are stood alone on a stage in front of a group of strangers waiting and expecting to be entertained at an appointed time. Your mates down the pub or that you encounter in everyday life have wealth of knowledge about you, your history and who you are as a person. So in everyday life, all that is brought to the table in an environment where there is no pressure or demand to deliver. Marmen also suggests that you leave comedy alone if you aren't naturally funny. I think it's certainly worth being honest with yourself about how funny you can be when standing on a stage at a specific time in front of a bunch of strangers… but you can still make the most of what you are capable of and be as funny as you can be. You might not be able to ever be a stand-up, but as a mentalist, with no expectations from you on the comedy front, even a weak line with a character based delivery might well get a good reaction. As a comedy performer the same line delivered in the same way might die a death. I have often said I could make most would be comedy performers instantly 100% funnier just by changing how they pitch their act, both overtly and covertly, to their audience so the comedy cogent comes as an unexpected bonus.

Ok, pretty stuffed and woozy from the wine… but now there's only 4 hours to kill. Smile
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
mastermindreader
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You're last point is a good one. (The others are pretty good, too!)

I know plenty "life of the party guys" who are absolutely terrible on stage. There is a certain feel for timing, takes, etc. that only comes from experience on stage and a constant analysis of exactly what you are saying and doing. (By "doing" I'm referring to the performer's body language, which is also an essential part of successful humor- and successful drama as well.)

Movement is also a strong part of it. You've got to know when to move around, when to stand stock still, when to unexpectedly break character, when to pause and how to react to the unexpected.

You learn this by watching and carefully studying successful performers. What works for them will not necessarily work for you but, nonetheless, you will learn the essential things about stagecraft and presentation that are critical to the success of an act.

You don't learn those things by sitting around in a pub telling jokes to your friends. Nor do you learn it by showing them tricks or table hopping in a restaurant or a cocktail party.

There is a vast difference when you're performing on a stage or platform.

Good thoughts,

Bob
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