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Harlequin
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I have a question for discussion, but before I ask it, I’d like to introduce myself. I have visited the café on and off for a few years, occasionally posting here and there on various forums, but during this year I’ve found myself almost solely viewing the bizarre related posts (mostly lurking, sorry Baba Smile). It’s not surprising then that for the last couple of years I’ve been cultivating my skills in the world of the bizarre and basking in the combined knowledge of yea sages of the crypt and true arcane powers. I am but an amateur magician myself as I mainly gain my income from enlightening others on the uses of technology. However beyond the mundane studies of computers, I also have a degree in classics and archaeology, which while aquiring allowed me to pick up many interesting stories and ideas with which to craft magic.

Oh yes my question...I have found myself thinking recently about how I enjoy a bit of comedy and whether or not there is much place for it in bizarre magic. Obviously a bizarrist who tells jokes throughout his/her own performance and is clearly not taking it seriously at all is probably not really a bizarrist, but my real question would be, where is the middle ground (if there is one)? Can one combine comedy with the bizarre?
The Curator
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Dark comedy or dark humor, sure.
Bizarre is far more than scary stories and some can be very light or funny.
If you know my effect "the Christmas Gift", it illustrates what I mean.
Jim Magus
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Humor is used for contrast throughout the genre of horror. It may be used in a program as an emotional safety valve, as laughter is a release of tension. We tend to laugh harder after a suspenseful moment. Director John Carpenter calls his technique of delivering a laugh immediately following the suspenseful build-up "the downside of the rollercoaster."

When using humor, it is important to remember the purpose of your presentation. A burlesque of bizarre magick could disappoint an audience expecting thrills. Levity that begins a presentation could color the mood throughout the performance, destroying conviction, atmosphere and the overall effect. Situation comedy seems more suitable for bizarre magick than sight gags or props.
Harlequin
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Curator, I don't yet own a copy of Hauntiques, but this is another reason why I should get it. As my question implies, I'm wanting to incorporate some comedy into the bizarre effects that I do without ruining the atmosphere.

Jim, I've certainly seen some very funny horror movies in my time. And I agree with you on situation comedy over taking prat falls or a skull with bulging cartoon eyes. Smile
Prof. Pabodie
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In improvisational comedy, the actors are frequently reminded not to try being funny. The great Shelly Berman said, "Don't try to act funny. If you are funny, then funny will come out." I'm just wondering if the same applies to bizarre magick. If we are naturally funny, then wouldn't that quality emerge in our presentations? Perhaps not all the time...but at certain moments...and maybe subtly? This is just a thought.
Harlequin
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What about a specific example. The performer has just completed a couple of astounding bizarre effects to good audience reaction. He then explains that he hasn't always done this sort of thing and would like to show an effect from earlier in his career. He shows an empty tophat and explains that he's going to produce a rabbit from it. Then he hears (real or imagined) a groan from someone in the audience. "Did I just hear a groan of disapproval?", he exclaims. "This is what happened to the last person who whinged during one of my shows!" The performer then reaches into the hat and produces one of Doug Higley's shrunken heads (eg. realistic as opposed to cheap plastic rubbish).

So then, is this an example of bizarre + comedic, or is it just a corney musing from the recesses of my mind? I've never actually performed this and it just popped into my head today, so feel free to critize if that's how you feel.
airship
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One possibility might be to play an act like the old film "Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein", in which the boys meet not only the monster from the title, but Dracula, the Wolfman, and the Invisible Man, too. The director told the monsters to play it straight, while A&C hammed it up as usual. Their comedic response to realistic horror made this film a classic.
'The central secret of conjuring is a manipulation of interest.' - Henry Hay
gsidhe
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Humor is a component of everyday life, and definately has a place in the Bizarre. A good portion of people on this planet use humor as a defense mechanism when under stress or when frightened (Myself included), so it is only a natural progression to have a degree of it in a bizarre routine.
The advantages of adding humor to your bizarre show-
1- It adds levels. The more emotions you can have the audience feel, the more powerful your show will be. You need to have highs as well as lows.
2- It adds realism. People will laugh during funereals, they laugh in hospitals, they laugh when walking past a graveyard at night. It is human nature to have a nervous laugh while trying to break the tension.
3- It adds relatability. The audience will become more attached to the characters involved if they get a chance to laugh with them. When they are attached to the characters, they are now a part of the story. When they are a part of the story, then they are yours to do with as you please.
However-
I would probably stay away from most comedy magic and insert the humor into the story itself. Save the magic for the heavy stuff. Of sourse, there are exceptions to every rule, but to pull off a bizarre magic comedy trick without turning cheezy is a skill that very few possess.
I have done a "Pull a severed rabbit head out of a hat" bit before, but it was not bizarre (Nor was it supposed to be). It was gory comedy, nothing more. There was no emotional impact, just a collective eeew.
By all means, get a Higley Shrunken Head...But there are much better ways to use it.
Gwyd
Payne
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Quote:
On 2006-10-23 09:54, gsidhe wrote:

but to pull off a bizarre magic comedy trick without turning cheezy is a skill that very few possess.



Even without the comedy trying to pull off a bizarre magic presentation without turning cheezy too is a skill very few possess.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
gsidhe
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Indeed.
But that is a completely different thread...
Gwyd
Harlequin
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Great points. Gwyd, I do have the pleasure of owning a Higley shruken head and I'm pretty sure I'll never pull it from a hat. Smile Perhaps uses for one should also be another thread!
I've personally never seen anyone do a bizarre magic comedy trick and was mostly curious if it could be done and how. I guess I will have to put on my thinking cap and either create a humourous/lighter bizarre effect or incorporate some humour into a current effect and see how I go. We live and learn.
airship
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One method is to make the performer 'unaware' of the danger. If the crazed killer, monster, whatever, is constantly (and improbably) behind or hidden from the performer during most of the effect, while the audience clearly sees the threat, it can create a very comedic effect while preserving an horrific conclusion.
'The central secret of conjuring is a manipulation of interest.' - Henry Hay
Prof. Pabodie
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Have you ever seen Docc Hilford perform 'Renfield's Revenge'? Very funny...amd bizarre! In fact, Docc mixes humor with bizarre magic a lot. Eugene Burger is funny. David Parr is funny. What about Penn & Teller? I think they are very bizarre and hilarious. In fact, now that I think about it, maybe most bizarre performers are also very funny people?
ptbeast
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In my mind, there are two principle ways to bring humor into bizarre magic. The first is to make the piece itself funny. For examples of this see routines by Peter Marucci posted here or in his column at http://www.online-visions.com

The other approach is to use humors byplay with the audience during an otherwise serious set. I like this approach. It allows you to build tension, release it, then rebuild it. It does, however, require good improvisational skills.

Dave
Harlequin
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The more of these comments I read, the more I realise that I have seen others do bizarre comedy, but have separated such performances in my mind from bizarre magic in general. I've expended my perception of bizarre magic, just by asking this question. Thanks everyone!

Dave, ta for the great link as well.
David Parr
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Humor in magic -- especially bizarre magic -- should be used judiciously. It is a device for releasing audience tension, and if used consciously and with restraint, it can draw the audience into the performance and prevent laughter during portions of the performance when it would spoil the mood and the sense of mystery. If humor is entirely absent from the performance, it runs the risk of becoming unintentionally funny. (Portentous, self-serious gothiness can be particularly snicker-worthy.) If humor is misused or overused, the entire performance becomes an elaborate practical joke -- and a disappointment to people who want the feeling of awe and mystery that magic can provide.
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Mystification
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It couldn't be said any better than how David Parr just put it. Bravo!
Corona Smith
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There goes the Carmina Burana Overture! I'll stick with War of 1812 for Le Petomane.

Corona
Bill Ligon
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Even a nervous snicker can destroy the whole thing. One snickers, someone else laughs, and your carefully built atmosphere is ruined. Better it is to reduce a bit of the tension before things get out of hand.
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Harlequin
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Balance in all things is certainly important.
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