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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » My thoughts on ensuring a smooth gig! (2 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

SmaltrabTheAverage
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EDIT: This topic is aimed at the close up performer.

Hi all,

I'm new to the Café, but I've been performing professionally (ish) close up for quite some time, mainly at weddings in the UK and I wanted to give my thoughts, and also hear your opinions on how to ensure a gig goes well.

Apart from the obvious, (making sure your material and routine is highly polished) there are always unexpected things that are thrown your way at gigs. But there is one thing I do, that the majority of the time, seems to ensure a gig goes well and I get a good response from the guests.

This is it....
Ask the event organiser (usually the bride for me) to mention to people that there will be a magician to entertain the guests. Whether they put it on the invite or not, but just let people know either way that they can expect some entertainment.

My reason:
If a guy just walks into your home/pub/party and just stood up and started telling jokes (even if they were good)... you'd probably just look at each other and think "what the hell?"
If you PAID to go and see someone stand up and tell jokes, you are in the mindset to laugh, as you have paid good money, you are expecting to laugh. (I've seen quite poor comedians get even a laugh where tickets have cost £40+.

If people have been told there will be a magician, when they eventually see you, (maybe months later) a lot of the time they will see you and say "hey, you're the magician, come on, show us what you can do! We've heard about you". You have to agree how nice is it for us all when this happens?!

I really appreciate that this isn't always possible, but when a bride says they want to surprise their guests, it's not always the best outcome and I usually explain my reasoning. Weddings are probably easier functions to perform at anyway, as there is alcohol, and people are usually in a good mood! But I truly believe you can almost manage the crowd before you've even met them this way. Sure, it won't stop the dirtbags being dirtbags, and it won't stop the heckling from some, but you've managed their mindset so when you appear, you can get a better outcome.

I hope this doesn't sound like an obvious statement, and I do hope it will help some newer magicians who are just getting gigs or looking to get gigs.
These are just my thoughts and what works for me, and I would love your opinions on getting good results at your performances.

Mark
Pepsi Twist
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Even if some bits are obvious, aren't those the things we kick ourselves for the most when we forget! Any thoughts are helpful, thanks for putting yours down for us!
Mike Gilbert
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I agree with Pepsi Twist! Ya know, everyone thinks differently, and what may be obvious to some won't be so obvious to others. So I say to you SmaltrabTheAverage, good information, and thank you for sharing!
-Mike Gilbert Smile

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance."- Steven Pressfield
Mortimer Graves
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It's true that your performance begins way before showtime with a gig like this. It's important to take advantage of it, and use the "pre-sell" to get people interested well before you perform.

My experience with weddings has taught me that if you're doing one set show for everyone they mostly expect you to entertain the kids, and they mostly, if they bother watching at all, tend to just want (nay, expect) to see you interact with the kids and entertain them, and any attempt at "serious" magic goes right out the window. You may as well be doing balloon animals and clowning when this is the case. Nothing against clowns and balloon animals, mind you, but we're doing close-up magic.

On the other hand, if you're working it by doing walkaround, even if they know to expect you, it helps to introduce yourself to each little clutch of them in turn and politely offer your entertainments to them. If they say they're not ready yet, remember to come back to them at some point and ask if they're ready. I do this once only for each little group. Never mind the fact that sometimes the groups switch up. When this is the case, and some have had it offered and some haven't, pick the one who seems to have the most influence in the group (and whom you've already offered it to) and ask if they're ready yet. Usually they'll say yes at this point, as it makes them look and feel good that you asked them in particular. It's like they're doing it for the others, letting you entertain them.

All of this requires the utmost in courtesy, as they're guests and you're the entertainment. It's important to stroke egos a bit, but you have to do it very subtly.

Working it cabaret style (with a table out of the way of everything but still accessible and visible), they can simply come to you when they're ready and each set you do can spawn another set, as people will come and go and eventually pretty much everyone will want to see you perform if others are talking about what you're doing. I prefer this over walkaround, as many of the guests might be seeing each other for the first time in a long time, and would rather socialize with each other than be interrupted by the entertainment. Let them come to you when they're ready.

On occasion I've had a brandy glass off to the side with a fiver and a tenner in it, but whether this happens or not depends on the crowd and what sort of people you're working for, and what other entertainments there are, if any. Most often I've left the tip glass out of the equation, but depending on the wedding, it can be considered acceptable, and you can make some really big tips. Either way, I never, ever ask for tips or even mention or acknowledge the tip glass unless somebody puts something in it. If they do, I thank them graciously without gushing or making a big deal out of it, and let it go at that, returning to the entertainment immediately.

I never eat at a wedding gig. Never ever. This doesn't stop me from accepting a plate to go before I leave, but this really depends on whether I'm friends with the wedding couple. Discretion, courtesy, and good taste are absolute musts, so whether I accept anything other than water or a soda really depends on whether either accepting or refusing will be seen as a discourtesy. It's a delicate thing, and can be very subtle in how it works.

It's perfectly fine to accept a drink, as it would be rude to turn it down, but I always make sure the bartender knows I won't be having alcohol, and they act accordingly. When someone asks them to make me a rum and coke, they fake it for me, and I drink plain cola. This helps me look like I'm as laid back as everyone else, and enjoying myself (which I usually am), but as I don't drink alcohol anyway, I don't have to worry about falling into the snare of being drunk at a paid gig, or smelling like booze when I'm talking to guests. Breath fresheners and/or mint gum are required at all times, just try not to stand around chawing on a big old hunk of gum. Use it and lose it.

One exception to the drinking rule: if they're toasting the happy couple, it is rude as all get out to turn down a glass of champagne. Accept it graciously, raise your glass at the appropriate moment, take a nice big sip, and at the nearest opportunity lose the glass.

Needless to say, being immaculately groomed and well-dressed are essentials as well.

When you consider the fact that someone's wedding, no matter who they are or how they live, is the most important day of their life in the majority of cases, it becomes quite obvious what it's going to take to work a wedding properly. I know it may be very different for each performer, depending on locale and the types of people one is entertaining, but in my experience this is how it all works.

This is an excellent subject for discussion, and thanks for bringing the topic up. I think it's one of the most important types of gig for most magicians to learn how to work successfully, and what you learn doing weddings can help with your success in pretty much every other kind of gig or venue.
'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.

Hastur, Hastur, Hastur! See? Nothing hap-

...and if we rub each other the wrong way, let's try going in another direction. - Pokey the Porcupine
SmaltrabTheAverage
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Quote:
On the other hand, if you're working it by doing walkaround, even if they know to expect you, it helps to introduce yourself to each little clutch of them in turn and politely offer your entertainments to them. If they say they're not ready yet, remember to come back to them at some point and ask if they're ready. I do this once only for each little group. Never mind the fact that sometimes the groups switch up. When this is the case, and some have had it offered and some haven't, pick the one who seems to have the most influence in the group (and whom you've already offered it to) and ask if they're ready yet. Usually they'll say yes at this point, as it makes them look and feel good that you asked them in particular. It's like they're doing it for the others, letting you entertain them.


That's a fantastic point, getting on side with the group leader definitely works. I do always try to pick my first group carefully to get the loudest or best reactions, there's nothing like starting a gig with non-responsive group. It's very disheartening.
You obviously have a lot of experience performing, I'm sure I'll be taking notes on a lot of your posts Mortimer Smile

Cabaret with a table out of the way is something I've never tried, but one of my regular wedding venues would be ideal for that so I may try it out one day.
Mortimer Graves
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Do give it a try, it can actually make your job a lot easier. Make sure the people in charge know this is what you plan to do, and whenever possible try to use it as a selling point (it's non-invasive, people can crowd around if they want without causing hassles for others, it generates a nice atmosphere in that area, etc.). Make sure you're highly visible, easily accessible, and unobtrusive (and away from the loud music and such), and it works like a charm.

You can credit my good friend and mentor, Doug Conn with it; it's how he taught me to do it. I don't know where he learned it; maybe I should ask him sometime.

To avoid too much "repeatism", it's good to have two, or ideally, three, different sets you can perform, so that those who stay to watch again get something fresh out of watching, you're not needlessly repeating effects for the same people, and it all cycles nicely.

Three fifteen-minute sets per hour with a fifteen-minute break after each cycle of three sets is ideal. Though I eventually ended up busking, and doing only three routines for most of my career, when I was starting out and had lots of fun stuff like trick decks, linking rings, etc., it really helped me to learn how to work events, doing it this way.

This approach actually works well for a variety of venues, and for a lot of different types of events. It's practical, polite, and effective, and if you sell it as an option you might be surprised how many people will agree that it's the best approach for their event.

And hey, any time! If you ever want to know anything about anything I know, feel free to drop me a PM or whatever, I'm happy to help. It's part of why I finally joined this place; I like the idea of giving something back to the magic community.
'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.

Hastur, Hastur, Hastur! See? Nothing hap-

...and if we rub each other the wrong way, let's try going in another direction. - Pokey the Porcupine
SmaltrabTheAverage
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Thank you Mortimer. I'm we started the topic as it's something I've been talking about over the weekend with my good friend who is also the local magic dealer and a few of his customers. I think I've been doing the same "safe stuff" for too long and feel I need to change it up. The parlour/cabaret is something I'm going to start working on.

Once I have a few routines ideal for the table, I might share a video to get some feedback.

Do you still perform regularly Mortimer?
Mortimer Graves
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I went out yesterday and did street shows.

My hip wasn't screaming at me, and the weather was nice, and it was a pretty awesome day.
'Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.

Hastur, Hastur, Hastur! See? Nothing hap-

...and if we rub each other the wrong way, let's try going in another direction. - Pokey the Porcupine
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