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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Boxes, tubes & bags » » Mike Caveney's Linking Coat Hangers (9 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Bill Hegbli
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Sure there are bad audiences, but when they pay $75 for a ticket, I would not think that would be the case.
Vietnam Veteran 1967, Sgt. E-5

Graduate of Chavez College of Prestidigitation and Showmanship

"Magic With A Twist Of Comedy"
Sealegs
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Quote:
On Feb 12, 2019, Bill Hegbli wrote:
I posted that because that opening is exactly the same reaction I got, silence. I don't know if people don't connect with such an every day item, or that they think they know how it done. Do they think, the magician just untwist the wire at the neck and then re-twist it for the linking? There must be something else we are not considering.

Watch Copperfield's face, he becomes timid at the lack of reaction as well.

Everyone uses coat hanger, everyone at one point has experienced tangling the hangers when dropped or piled up. That should be funny, as they should be able to relate to the experience. But No, it is total silence. Why? Coat hangers are not something so personal that don't find it funny. They can be frustrating when that happens to them, untangling some hangers and just as you get one free, pick it up and along comes another hooked to it. So are they thinking, "I have done that, and I am not a magician."

There must be something we are not "putting our finger on." They should be laughing, but are not. Why? Why? Why?


Bill makes some interesting points and indeed I have had to consider all these while creating my own routine and where necessary address these points directly...

While coat hangers are everyday objects the Caveney Hangers, while looking like coat hangers, also look very slightly 'prop-y'. I have a line that both explains why they look like they do and which gets a laugh. I also pass the hangers to the audience... not to have them examined but so they can 'feel the quality' of them. In doing this they 'inadvertently examine the Hangers and inadvertently verify their normal-ness.

I think everyone will have experienced coat hangers getting tangled up..... but this common experience and the manner of how coat hangers get tangled with each other in our own closets isn't reflected in the way the hangers are handled on stage. Again, I have addressed this and have a few different handling that simulate the exact way in which hangers tangle together. I do this so as to differentiate and make it clear that when the hangers magically link together they are not simply tangled together. This fact that the Hangers become linked needs to be crystal clear in the audience's mind for the magic to register. I wanted to be sure that they both understood and could clearly see when they linked... and that they were indeed linked and not somehow tangled in a certain way. I also address this with the scripting.

In the middle of my routine I mention that there are two ways in which I might be actually linking the Hangers together, I explain that I could be very quickly untwisting them, placing one through the other, and then quickly twisting the hanger back again... or alternatively I could be impossibly passing solid metal through solid metal.... and as I say this I link two hangers together in a way that makes it clear that the former cannot be the explanation and the latter appears to be the only solution. This certainly helps strengthen the magic element.... but it's worth noting that this moment doesn't contribute to the comedic part of the presentation.

So lets address the comedy content.... I think many who bought and/or used the Hangers thought (and think), 'Hey, this is a funny concept, so a routine with these props will automatically be funny'. But this isn't the case. Indeed it's no more the case for the Hangers than it is with; a rubber chicken or indeed the Linking Rings. Props in and of themselves aren't funny or unfunny. It's the scripting and presentation of the routine that, in the hands of the performer, makes them become something that is potentially funny. (or not)

Thankfully I am now getting laughs with my routine.The laughs though, all come from the delivery of the script as it applies, at that moment, to the situation I am creating with the Hangers. It is not coming from any intrinsic funniness from the Hangers. (There is no intrinsic funniness built into a coat hanger!) But I am not yet getting a high enough laugh per minute rate and I also feel I'm missing a really big laugh moment that a routine that's taking up a minute or so of my act, ought to have. For me it's currently a magical and lightly comedic routine. That would be fine for many a magic act but when you have set your stall out as being a full on comedy act (as well as a magic act) the comedy needs to be front and centre and at the moment it's present but peripheral rather than front and centre. So my routine is getting there but is. for me, still a work in progress and it will continue to be until I can create those big comedic moments within the routine.

Magically I think I have this routine hitting home well. I don't believe the Hangers can have the beauty or elegance that the Rings can have and these qualities can add to the strength of the magic. But the Hangers are still working out to be magically strong.

TheHangers will get another airing on my next contract which starts tomorrow so I'll report back again. I find that writing about my progress (or on occasion lack of it) helps me focus on how to improve my routine.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
Bill Hegbli
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Sealegs, just to let you know, those aluminum hangers are real, and were in every party, event hall, and restaurant here in America. Years ago, about the time Mike Caveney brought his effect to market. Just about every business that had cloakrooms or racks to hang coats had them, as they were heavy duty and would last. They even had them in some stores for sale, for a very short time. Kind of expensive at the time. I have not seen them in years, in use. If you ships had such hangers, all you had to do, is grab a handful and walk out on stage and drop them on the floor.

Now I think of an introduction, 30 years later.
Vietnam Veteran 1967, Sgt. E-5

Graduate of Chavez College of Prestidigitation and Showmanship

"Magic With A Twist Of Comedy"
drmolarmagic
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I've performed the linking coat hangers for years and it always gets a laugh and good reaction but I never tried to present it like the linking rings, it doesn't play well as Magic but works very well based on the formula (character+situation=comedy) The circumstance is usually me looking to hang up my jacket and after heading over to the coat rack and picking up the hangers it turns into me against them....they link and unlink and I can't get them straight to hang up my jacket, usually to music and silent with the only spoken script is to yell " they got me, they got me" when the hanger links to my jacket button hole. In the end the hangers win and I end up throwing jacket over top of coat rack over the bundle of hangers. This prop is not very magical but very situational and should be presented as such.
Just my experience
Bruce
Bill Hegbli
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I took a look at YouTube and found a 1981 video of Mike Caveney performing his Linking Coat Hangers routine. I notice that his humor patter is nothing like the the patter printed in the instruction booklet that came with the hangers for $75 back then.

Most of his humor that the audience laughs at is his aside comments, but his introduction did get some laughs from his remarks concerning the coat hangers.

Take a look, I think it will say a lot about what gets the laughs, it is not the magic, but "Magician in Trouble" premise. Study and enjoy this and I think we all can learn a lot from this presentation.






Wish we had video back when this came out, it would have been a benefit to those that purchased it. When I seen Mike Caveney at Abbott's Get-To-Gether back then, I recall he did a little different patter presentation, more straight forward, he was older also. I think they call it a "dry humor".
Vietnam Veteran 1967, Sgt. E-5

Graduate of Chavez College of Prestidigitation and Showmanship

"Magic With A Twist Of Comedy"
Bill Hegbli
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I just went to Mike's website, and he is not supplying a DVD of instructions on the Coat Hangers. They now cost $186.00.

He is also offering for previous owners to send you booklet number and $25.00 will get you the DVD. Nice of him to offer this to previous owners.

http://www.mcmagicwords.com/tricks_coathangers.html

Did some searching on Amazon, they have steel in silver and aluminum coat hangers in gold.
Vietnam Veteran 1967, Sgt. E-5

Graduate of Chavez College of Prestidigitation and Showmanship

"Magic With A Twist Of Comedy"
gimpy2
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Bill thanks for posting that. Been watching this thread from the beginning. have been puzzled by the comments of poor audience reactions. The reason is because I saw Mike do this in 1979 at a convention and loved it. Its the only act I remember from the convention so it must have been good. Nice to see it like I did the first time.
Sealegs
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Thanks for posting the clip Bill. That’s the first time I’ve see Mike performing this.

As with everything I’ve ever seen Mike do onstage, he has a quality about him that makes him extremely watchable. A real presence, likability and charisma.

But gievn that got his will application to anything he does and that we are not alike lets put that aside and take note of what the routine brings, As we can see the routine is noticeably quite thin on any kind of comedic response. There are some good laughs in the introduction to what’s to come and also later with the introduction of the saw. But the rest of the routine is gentle, and watchable but not belly busting comedy. Per se there’s of course nothing wrong with that. It’s certainly a watchable piece. However if I’m looking at a routine I have to feel that I can get it to earn a place in my show.

I think we also have to acknowledge that this was a different time (well of course it was a different time but hopefully you know what I mean) I believe that in the 21st Century the laughs need to be bigger than this. Especially if one is pitching oneself as a comedy act.

I think this clip shows both the prop’s and the routine’s potential as well as their potential shortcomings.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
Bill Hegbli
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Sealegs, I agree, but looking at this, will show were the strengths and weaknesses are in this prop. Now one can focus on where to find fit in the humor.

I don't know if you mingle with stand-up comedians, but another magician was in a comedy club, during the time he spent with the comedians, what he took away, is that comedians look to have laughter every 10 seconds in their monologues, it they don't, they won't be invited back. Just what that magician took away from his visit.
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Graduate of Chavez College of Prestidigitation and Showmanship

"Magic With A Twist Of Comedy"
61magic
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I'm with Gimpy on this one. I do both the hangers and rings in different venues with different acts and I don't see consistent poor reactions with the hangers. Yes there are audiences that are not very responsive but usually they are the same throughout the show.
In today's typical audience there are a lot of younger members who really don't know the etiquette of a live performance. The internet, video games, smart phones and other attention span reducing mediums have led to this. Younger audiences have mostly experienced a very passive medium of entertainment and lack the same responses older people have.
Us old timers who weren't spoon fed by a "ADD" enhancing society understand the active medium of two-way communications between a performer and the audience, or better known as "reactions".
I try to "average" responses on individual effects and individual shows when selecting material to keep long term in the act. I also do the same "core" of my act and only vary a few effects to fit the venue or type of show.
Maybe I should learn crystal ball gazing so I can see what the best material would be for each future show... but that is yet a different act...
Professor J. P. Fawkes
Sealegs
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Personally I believe that excusing a lack lustre response on the audience an unlikely way to lead to an improved performance.

A magician who pitches themselves as, a magician, can have a much lighter comedic content in their show than a comedian. For a magician, the comedy can be (and I believe generally is...) seen by the audience as an unexpected and pleasant bonus. In these circumstances comedically weak material can be enough for an audience to feel satisfied with it. It’s an extra element they weren’t necessarily expecting.... icing on a magical cake.

However, this is not the case for an act that sets it’s stall out as specifically being a comedy act. A comedy act,, such as a comedy magic act, is clearly expected to deliver a comedy content. It will be judged not just on the magic content but on the strength/effectiveness of the comedy. Does it make the audience laugh.... laugh a lot.... and laugh loudly? To be seen as having delivered the goods this is what the audience needs to feel.

So while the Hangers might be seen, by a magician, to garner a ‘good comedic response’, the same response for a comedy act (such as a comedy magic act) is likely to feel and be seen as being slightly feeble.

Slightly feeble comedy isn’t good comedy.

I have yet to see a routine with the Hangers that has really stood up as a strong comedy spot. (Bruce Gold comes as close as I’ve seen... and another performer, whose name I unfortunately don’t recall..., who got good laughs from repeatedly referring to the Hanger that he had ‘stuck down his pants’. (He did indeed wedge a Hanger in his pants/trousers as part of the routine)

I think these differences, between the audiences expectations of a magician and a comedy magician, might explain why some people regard the Hangers as going well, whereas other see routines with them falling short. Indeed Mike Caveney’s performance on that YouTube clip will be perceived differently depending on one’s expectations. However the notion of doing a magic trick with hangers and specifically a mimic of the linking rings with hangers seems to be an obvious statement of... ‘this is a funny concept so get ready for comedy’.

Talk of different types of audiences reacting differently is of course a truism but is a different subject. Unless you are working to a specific audience niche, a working comedy act’s success relies on being seen as being really funny... and to be consistent over time that means being really funny for the overwhelmingly vast majority of the people for the overwhelmingly vast majority of performances.

While I know I’m not there quite yet, the Hangers are, for me, a work in progress that is seeing a slow and gradual but promising improvement towards that goal.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
JNeal
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SeaLegs, you have accurately described the situation: there is a greater expectation of comedy from someone billed as a comedy magician, rather than a regular magician who occasionally does or says amusing things.

Furthermore, there is a yet a different expectation from a magic themed act presented to 'disinterested ' spectators, as opposed to an audience that is primed to see magic: i.e.; as at a magic convention. What kills at a convention, can leave a regular audience ... amused or only mildly entertained.

As you know,( being a professional entertainer), you build or scale your entertainment so that it connects even under the worst conditions and blasé' of audiences... in order to be hired back.
visit me @ JNealShow.com
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